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Home > Haunter's Lbrary > Marketing, Revenue & Ticket Sales > Using Celebrities

Using Celebrities at Your Event
By Cathy Warlock

 

A well-run Halloween event with a smart businessperson at the helm, who provides a nice working environment and a nicely thought out itinerary, creates happy celebrities. This can easily mean the difference between a successful money-making promotion and a financial "Nightmare!" The difference between these two outcomes can be as minor as a signed agreement. Respect goes a long way with anyone, and a celebrity is no exception. "Please" and "Thank you" work well in getting cooperation with a smile instead of obstinate behavior with a scowl. Lack of respect equals low morale and can make profits go south! The best attractions find a balance between business and "fandom." The fans have come to enjoy the attraction and see the celebrities, who in turn should be at their very best.

It is imperative that you have a clear-cut agreement between the event and the celebrity. Terms, times and fees should be written into an agreement and signed by both parties. Appearance hours, special events and breaks should be ironed out during this phase of negotiations. Extra events such as costume contests, cocktail parties, special movie presentations, and question and answer sessions are all wonderful and entertaining, unless, you have not told your celebrity that he or she is expected to appear and maybe even participate. Discuss which type of transportation is desired. Clearly describe the area that the celebrity will be signing autographs early in the appearance negotiations. Can the celebrity bring in merchandise to sell? If so, what is the financial agreement for the sales? Is this space outside in a tent or in a building? Is the table provided in a noisy area near one of the attractions? Even the surface of the signing area will make a difference to the celebrity who is expected to stay in this area for a prolonged period of time. A diagram of the room setup should be available. Once the celebrity sees where he/she is scheduled to work, he/she can formulate how to proceed from there. An unheated, dimly lit space will not be well received by your patrons or the celebrity. Security and privacy will be a major concern. Make sure that these items are discussed and ironed out to the satisfaction of the celebrity.

Celebrities will have personal requests that should be respected, no matter how silly they seem. There is always a sad story behind these requests and they may not be inclined to discuss them openly. Make sure that the requests are understood and prepared for before the celebrity arrives on site. Celebrities make money from selling autographs and photos. Do not expect them to provide you with free autographed photos for all of your employees and volunteers. Do not advertise free autographs on your promotional information unless this is agreed to ahead of time. If you have your celebrity scheduled to work late into the night, do not expect them to be available for a "last minute promotional opportunity" as a guest speaker on a morning radio or television program. Discuss in advance how to handle the candid photos of the celebrity taken by your staff or "sneaky" fans. Some celebrities do not allow this. Can a celebrity leave for an hour to eat without notifying anyone? There is nothing worse for a fan than to pay to get into an event and find their favorite actor is not there! Without a full understanding of the appearance, written down and signed by both parties, serious misunderstandings can start your business relationship down a rocky road. When changes are made, amendments to the agreement should be sent out and signed as well. All too often celebrities are informed of changes in the appearance expectations after their arrival for the event. Appearing at an event is a dynamic venture, and changes will always come up. The celebrity understands this, and as long as you provide them with some notice, then they are more likely to take the change in stride. At minimum a brief phone call followed up with a written note can do wonders for the performance of your celebrity.

You should treat each celebrity as you would like to be treated if the situation were reversed. Use common sense when making arrangements for your "guest." Upon arrival, the celebrity will want to first get situated in their hotel room. There should be someone available to assist them to prepare for the event. If you cannot be available during this time, have an informed representative there to aid in this process. A volunteer who is a fan of the celebrity usually works out very well, as long as they are informed about the event! Have an itinerary prepared with appearance and media times in an easy-to-understand format. Include contact names and phone numbers for you and your staff. The representative should at least know the location of the event and how the celebrity is supposed to get there. Your representative should also know how to reach you at all times for questions or emergencies. They should know what hours you will be on the premises and when money matters will be settled. When you are not on site, you should check frequently for messages and any problems that arise. Your representative or the facility contact should be able to answer questions about special supplies (display easels, extra lighting, etc.) and pertinent information, e.g. the location of electrical outlets, whether posters can be hung on the walls, or a copy machine is available for use. Also, are there economical restaurants close by? Be sure to treat your celebrities equally. If you cater to one guest and do not have time for another because that person is less famous, you will get minimal effort and a poor attitude. Lack of respect equals an unhappy celebrity, which can destroy profits! Send out press releases prior to the appearance and set up a time before the event for the media to interview the celebrities. Call the radio and TV morning shows to inquire about their interest in having your celebrity interviewed on the air.

When the celebrity arrives at the attraction, realize that they may need assistance to get through the crowds to and from the signing table. Train your staff or volunteers to be firm and safe, but not a "S.W.A.T. Team." Each autograph table should be set with two chairs and a tablecloth. A colored tablecloth holds up better than a white one, which shows ink marks, drink smudges, and general dirt from the many hands and souvenirs that move across them. An ironed tablecloth presents an atmosphere of care and elegance. A small trashcan under each autograph table is a must. It should be emptied regularly and not allowed to overflow and trash up your hard-planned event. Trashcans should be arranged throughout the area as well. A simple stand-up sign displaying the actor's name is a very nice touch. Correct spelling is a must! Autograph tables should have wide isles for fans and plenty of room behind each table for your celebrity's safety and comfort. Do not expect two celebrities to share a table; always provide one full banquet size table for each actor. Any extra "space needs" should be discussed during the appearance negotiations and written into the agreement.

When a celebrity is scheduled for several hours, it is important to instruct them about your preferences for what they should do when they need to leave the table. Everyone gets hungry and everyone needs restroom breaks. Provide a designated person on your staff to "sit in" when the celebrity is away to handle the crowds and protect the celebrity's inventory. The celebrity will be talking a great deal so water and cups are a must. Providing drinks and snacks for your celebrities is an easy way to keep their energy level up, and keep them "in the booth" signing autographs. It does not have to be a fancy spread, but let the celebrity know what you plan to have available so that he/she can make adjustments.

When working with celebrities, the most successful events find a balance between business and "fandom." The fans have come to enjoy the attraction and see the celebrities, who in turn should be at their very best. A well-run event with a thoughtful businessperson at the helm, will keep the celebrities happy and enjoying the event. Remember that the celebrities in the horror field are a small group, and they get to know each other through the various appearances that they attend. If you mistreat or expect too much of a celebrity, the word will get around quickly. Your reputation in the industry may have preceded you. If you are a lousy host and/or fail to "pay as agreed," rest assured that it has been discussed between convention participants.

At the end of the event, evaluate how you handled your celebrity appearances, and look for ways that you can improve next year. Did you have a good time? Was it worth the time and expense involved? Were you able to employ your preferred celebrities? Did they behave and provide autographs for a reasonable price? Did your celebrity enjoy their appearance? Did they tell you that they wanted to come back next year? The answer to these questions will tell you a great deal about how your patrons perceived the event as well. It is important for everyone involved to enjoy the event, to leave with a generous amount of satisfaction, and to feel that a need has been met or exceeded.

 

Cathy Warlock is the wife of Dick Warlock who played the Michael Myers character in Halloween II. You may have seen her assisting Dick at his many celebrity appearances, setting up the table and answering questions. You can contact her through Dick at DickWarlock@chartertn.net or check out Dick's website at www.dickwarlock.com.

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