When Celebrities Meet Politics

A popular rule-of-thumb suggests that one should avoid discussing politics, religion or money with others. People are likely to disagree to some extent or another, and the sensitive nature of these topics can create tense atmospheres in conversation. Those in the public eye need to be especially careful about statements they make regarding these issues. Time and time again has proven that a slip of the tongue or misunderstanding of a situation has costed some people their careers.

A prime example is Iggy Azalea, who previously headlined at No. 1 on the nation’s Billboard Top 40 with the hit song, “Fancy.” However, within less than a year her popularity plummeted due to offensive actions and comments she made. With homophobic and racially insensitive tweets, Azalea unintentionally self-sabotaged her own career. She made politically incorrect statements about Black, Latino and Asian communities that ignited a storm of retaliation against her. Her social media presence tarnished her image of a fun hip-hop meets pop-star, and framed her into seeming like a rude and racist snob.

Retrieved from: http://bossip.com/

Fans reexamined their feelings about her, publics who originally did not like her now had more reasons against her and the hip-hop community of which she was a part of disowned her. Due to the backlash she consistently received thereafter, Azalea was forced to cancel her summer 2015 tour. Ultimately, Azalea dug her own career’s grave through offensive and insensitive comments on her social media. If she had made the effort to educate herself about the politics she was brashly speaking upon, or at the very least kept quiet on social media, Azalea potentially could have saved her once booming music career.

On the other hand, political statements can also catapult a celebrity’s career. Take a look at Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson. Both women are A-list actresses, but have distinguished themselves as advocates for important causes. As a result, their individual reputations and brand images have been bolstered considerably due the praise and support they have received for their activist work. Watson in particular has established her own campaign called “HeForShe,” which aims to fight for the social, political and economical equity between genders. The campaign has generated over 1.3 million gender equality actions across the world since being established. Her project has earned headlines on Time, Huffington Post and MTV.

Retrieved from: http://www.saatchisynergize.co.za

HeForShe has been significantly successful in its mission to internationally raise awareness and engage publics in fighting for gender equality. As a result, Watson has fortified her position in the public sphere as not just Hermoine from Harry Potter, but as a reputable social influence that will likely stand the test of time.


Those in the public eye have major influence on their publics and industries, and at the same time are in positions for great scrutiny. It’s essential for celebrities to be aware of the impact their words may have, as even just a tweet goes a long way and lasts forever. People in high-profile positions shouldn’t take the power of their voices for granted. Political statements carry a lot of weight and deserve to be taken seriously by those who make them, considering not only the influence they may have on others but also the impact on one’s career.


HeForShe: Stand Together. (2016). Retrieved January 29, 2016, from http://www.heforshe.org/en
Russoniello, M. (2015, June 10). Inside Iggy Azalea’s Rapid Fall From Fame | Celebuzz. Retrieved January 29, 2016, from http://www.celebuzz.com/2015-06-10/iggy-azalea-downfall-flop-controversy-timeline/

Examining “Politically Correct”

In our age of widespread social unrest with simultaneously advanced mass communication, a demand has grown for media and people to use more inclusive, appropriate and sensitive language. We’ve called this active choice being “politically correct,” which is defined as: “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people” (Merriam-Webster, 2015).

Our society has never been completely sympathetic to the experiences of minority populations, and our media reflects that. Stereotypes, prejudices and the marginalization of under-privileged demographics have been so integrated into our culture and media that these harmful practices have become normalized (Trotta, 2013). This ultimately further oppresses targeted populations and contributes to institutionalized racism, sexism, classism and ableism. As more people are able to raise their voices through social media and mass communication channels, we’re now hearing more that people will no longer tolerate this for the harm it causes.


Retrieved from: http://cozyblanketsnowflakerepetitioncompulsion.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/politicallycorrect.jpg


On the other hand, many challenge this notion because they suggest that those supporting being politically correct are being too sensitive to the issues (Debate, 2016). Some claim that jokes and comments about certain populations are entertaining and are thus conducive to more comfortable social atmospheres. Being held consistently accountable for particularities about one’s dialogue could potentially encourage senses of “fear” and “paranoia” in people (Srivastava, 2016). However, the unease of being conscientious of one’s language is marginal compared to the suffering minorities endure daily. The need for safety and recognition of oppressed groups trumps the need for comfortable conversation.

Consequentially, public relations practitioners should be actively aware and respectful of the need for political correctness for many audiences. Our messages should be shaped to be inclusive for all, to not only the benefit of our society, but also the organizations public relations practitioners represent. Being politically correct matters to a considerable amount of people, and thus should be validated and implemented in messages our publics receive. As representatives of organizations, the feelings and impressions we inspire in our audiences matter to our success as well. Organizations hold significant impact in the power of their words and messages due to their mass outreach. Being considerate of the potential negative reactions publics could have is a major strategy practitioners can take to improve relationships. This could furthermore improve an organization’s brand image by suggesting one is sensitive to the personal needs of its audiences. We have the ability to shape our conversations in the media, and so they should reflect the needs of all groups in our society.


Do people worry too much about being politically correct? (2016). Retrieved January 22, 2016, from http://www.debate.org/opinions/do-people-worry-too-much-about-being-politically-correct
Politically Correct Definition. (2015). Retrieved January 22, 2016, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politically correct
Srivastava, N. (2016, January 11). Why We Should Not Be So Politically Correct. | Nipun Srivastava. Retrieved January 22, 2016, from https://campusdiaries.com/stories/why-we-should-not-be-so-politically-correct
Trotta, S. O. (2013, April 29). Why I Stand Up to Politically Incorrect Jokes. Retrieved January 22, 2016, from http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/04/why-i-stand-up-to-politically-incorrect-jokes/

Know Your Audience

Skilled public relations, advertising and marketing practitioners know by heart how essential it is to frame an organization’s message to its target audience. A public isn’t going to actively listen unless a message tugs at some point of interest for them; something that affects or intrigues them one way or another. Communications experts put themselves in the shoes of their target audience members and ask, “Why should they care?”

While this is a standard step in any communications strategy, the process can definitely go further. I challenge public relations practitioners to take the extra time to engage in empathy with their audiences. By fully understanding the demographic details of a target audience, including what they want from organizations in which capacities, one can expand his or her message to better engage publics.

Photo taken by Claire Johnson

A case to examine is how presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, reached out to the Latino demographic in an attempt to connect with them by comparing herself to their “abuelas,” which means “grandmother” in Spanish (Luisi, 2015). Her public relations team must have assumed that by relating Clinton to the Latino family dynamic would essentially get her platform’s message across to that population. However, this strategy backfired because Clinton’s team did not conduct enough research to better predict how their target audience would react. Citing cultural notions to a group she does not belong to is widely interpreted as offensive. In fact, some labeled this half-hearted attempt to connect with a Latino audience as, “Hispandering,” a term used to describe the fake interest politicians often make in Hispanic issues for self-serving purposes (Meraji, 2015). Social media erupted with the hashtag, “#NotMyAbuela,” in response (Sanders, 2015). Audiences turned the platform strategy into an opportunity to challenge Clinton’s sincerity and knowledge about the Latino-American experience. Clinton comes from a much more privileged family upbringing than many Latino families, and thus the comparison felt more self-serving for Clinton’s political gain, rather than actually to represent Latinos. If her communications team had empathized with the societal and emotional triggers that Latino individuals may have on such a message, they likely would have reconsidered their tactics. It’s essential in any campaign that communicators fully understand their audiences’ perspectives, including their personal emotional responses.

The average American is bombarded by 3,000 advertisements a day (Kocina, 2006). Surrounded by so much noise, consumers are seeking an organization that they feel like they can trust. Brand loyalty can be established by a sense that an organization actually understands what a patron wants and needs. Focus groups and interviews are effective ways that public relations practitioners can research exactly what that might mean for their target audiences.


Kocina, L. (2006, February 23). The average American is exposed to … – Media Relations, Inc. Retrieved January 21, 2016, from http://www.publicity.com/advicetips/the-average-american-is-exposed-to/
Meraji, S. M. (2015, December 10). A Politician Walks Into King Taco … A Look At The Political Term ‘Hispandering’ Retrieved January 21, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/12/08/458461200/a-politician-walks-into-king-taco-a-look-at-the-political-term-hispandering
Sanders, S. (2015, December 26). #MemeOfTheWeek: Hillary Clinton, Not Quite An Abuela. Retrieved January 21, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/2015/12/26/461116160/-memeoftheweek-hillary-clinton-not-quite-an-abuela
Luisi, P. (2015, December 21). 7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela. Retrieved January 21, 2016, from https://www.hillaryclinton.com/feed/8-ways-hillary-clinton-just-your-abuela/