World Intellectual Property Organization

Outreach - Using Spokespersons

Spokespersons, or figure-heads, can be particularly effective in communicating IP issues by putting a face on what can sometimes be difficult concepts to grasp. The visible and known characteristics of a spokesperson, and the way in which the target audience perceives these, provide tangible cues for understanding the issues being communicated.

In selecting a spokesperson for a particular campaign, three factors should be considered. First, the spokesperson must appeal to the target audience. Second, in order to be credible, the spokesperson should have relevant experience and/or expertise. Finally, even if the spokesperson is not famous, he/she must have some sort of media appeal, such as an interesting story to tell, excellent communications skills, etc.

The relevance of IP in all economic sectors and professions can be used to identify a variety of potential spokespersons for delivering different messages to different media and target audiences. Potential IP spokespersons can be found among artists (actors, directors, musicians, singers, songwriters, writers, photographers, painters, sculptors, etc.), scientists, engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs and business tycoons.

There are a variety of ways in which spokespersons can form part of a campaign to raise awareness of IP issues. They may appear in campaign public service announcements (PSAs), make personal appearances and speeches at press conferences and other events (such as awards, symposiums, exhibitions, etc.), give media interviews, and even be part of a prize (the spokesperson could, for example provide singing lessons or patenting advice to the winner of a specific competition). The more spokespersons do for a campaign, the clearer their connection will be to the issue and therefore the more effective their participation will be.

 

Celebrities

Celebrities are the most sought after spokespersons. Instant recognition attracts the attention of the target audience and makes whatever they are promoting more visible. Target audiences tend to have a higher recall and be more persuaded by advertisements containing celebrities. Some even believe that the positive attitudes and feelings that the target audience has for the celebrity may be transferred to whatever that celebrity sponsors. As well as om their effectiveness at increasing awareness, celebrities can also use their talents to raise funds for a cause they believe in.

In the past few years, several famous musicians and actors have joined forces with IP offices and industry groups to raise awareness against piracy. These celebrity spokespersons provide proof that famous people are interested and willing to promote IP issues. However, the use of celebrity spokespersons for the promotion of other IP issues, such as creativity and the effective use of the IP system, is much less common..

In choosing celebrity spokespersons for an IP campaign, the following points should be considered:

Appeal to the target audience. The chosen celebrity should have high appeal and credibility with the target audience. For example, a music star may be a good celebrity choice when raising piracy awareness among young people. Whereas a successful entrepreneur may be better suited to communicate the benefits of IP protection to SMEs.

Personal interest, knowledge, and experience in the issue. The chosen celebrities should be interested in, and ideally have a certain level of knowledge or a personal experience related to the issue addressed by the IP campaign. This combined interest, knowledge and experience will make a spokesperson more credible, convincing and therefore more effective in communicating with the target audience. Furthermore, the celebrity's personal interest/experience in the issue is key to ensuring that enough attention is drawn to the issue so that the celebrity does not eclipse it. (The importance of this has been highlighted in studies where the target audiences recalled seeing the celebrity in an advertisement but not the cause/product/service that the celebrity was promoting).

Commitment to the campaign. A celebrity may command the necessary attention and have a personal interest in the subject being promoted, but to be effective, the celebrity must also be willing to commit a specific amount of time to the campaign. To avoid any misunderstandings, the celebrity must know (and agree) from the start the amount of time, duties, and responsibilities that the campaign will demand. An early commitment to the campaign’s demands can lead to a long and fruitful cooperation between the celebrity and the campaign organizers.

Other sponsorship commitments. Celebrities are in high demand as spokespersons so it may be difficult to find a very famous celebrity who is not already sponsoring another cause, product or service. Obviously, these other sponsorships should not be in any way contradictory to the message of the IP campaign. Furthermore, if a celebrity is already sponsoring more than three other causes, products and/or services, additional assignments as a spokesperson may not be very effective. Not only will the celebrity be unlikely to give a substantial time commitment to the new cause, but also his/her image may be overexposed and the target audience may question his/her real interest in the new cause.

Potential risks. The positive attention generated by affiliating a celebrity with a campaign may turn sour if the celebrity becomes involved in a scandal. Though not fool proof, it is wise to look at celebrities as a whole (not merely their interest in IP) to try to weight the chances of scandal ruining the potential relationship between the celebrities and the campaign. Diversification is another way to reduce the scandal risk. The more celebrity spokespersons are involved in a campaign, the less impact a scandal for any one of them is likely to affect it. In addition, using multiple celebrities in a campaign would increase its appeal to more than one target audience. Opting for spokescharacters is another way to avoid the risks of celebrity scandals.

 

"Spokescharacters"

Cartoon characters can be created to fit the message perfectly and attract the target audience of a specific outreach campaign. Unlike spokepersons, they can be controlled completely by campaign managers. Specially created spokescharacters have the added advantage of being exclusive to the campaign. Cartoon characters can be particularly effective when communicating to children as is demonstrated by the following examples:

  • The IP detective created by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore serves as a spokescharacter for the office's activities targeting children. The spokescharacter is the key interlocutor on the Iperkidz website and the Detective IP CD ROM, encouraging kids to "Be curious, investigate IP today!" The detective also makes "personal" appearances at special outreach events for children.
  • The Business Software Alliance uses a cartoon ferret to attract the attention of kids to its www.playitcybersafe.com site and classroom anti-piracy campaign. Through games and a class curriculum, the ferret teaches kids the importance of protecting and respecting the copyright of software, games, music and movies.

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