Celebrities are amongst the savviest social responsibility activists. And if celebrity is seen as a corporate enterprise, the rationale for cause alignment and CSR in Hollywood makes a lot of sense. It can enhance reputation, drive sales, establish stakeholder loyalty and offer the opportunity to give back and make a difference in the world. And scores of celebrities are seizing the opportunity to do just that; in fact, for some, like Bono, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Audrey Hepburn, their community work has become a critical part of their public persona.
But just as is the case in the corporate world, celebrities have to be careful about the authenticity of their philanthropic and community work. We have written a great deal about the importance of transparency and genuineness when companies begin to develop strategic corporate social responsibility platforms, and when this piece is missing in the celebrity world, the results can be catastrophic.
Take, for instance, Lindsay Lohan. In the past, Lohan has partnered with Angelwear in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and she has been involved with Save the Children. Today, Lohan just completed a jail sentence after she violated the terms of her probation in a 2007 drug case. Clearly, she herself is troubled, and while her instincts about the charities that she supported may have been genuine, from a corporate PR point of view, the cause associations probably no longer pack the same punch.
On the heels of Al Gore’s green expose, An Inconvenient Truth, the former Vice President was heralded as a hypocrite, given his own unimpressive carbon footprint. He responded with a redoubling of his commitment to carbon neutrality (along with several ‘explanations’ for his ridiculous rate of energy consumption and use of private jets). Today this sense of disingenuousness still plagues Gore’s reputation.
Australian singer and actress Sophie Monk has been an outspoken PETA activist and has posed naked for the organization on a poster that urges people to “Spice up your life….go vegetarian”. Several months later, Monk was photographed with a very non-vegetarian box of KFC in hand (picture below). It is a bit of a leap to accept that her cause alignment was truly from the heart.
Which brings this discussion full circle, since it was only a few months ago that KFC’s partnership with Susan B. Komen was characterized as insincere. Celebrities and companies should look to one another for best practice examples of authentic, sincere and genuine cause partnerships.