Last summer, Marquette University law professor Kali N. Murray wrote a post on the school’s blog entitled, “‘Rah-Rah-Ah-Ah-Ah, Roma-Roma-Ma-Ma, Gaga, Ooh-La-La’: Persona, Authenticity and the Right of Publicity Now.”
Murray discussed the different personas of Lady Gaga, Madonna and other pop singers, in the context of identity and the right of publicity.
A few months later, Marquette law professor David R. Papke, in his post “Oprah v. Judge Judy,” observed the latter had overtaken the former in daytime ratings. Papke expressed concern that the viewing public seems so captivated by justice meted out to pro se litigants, sans procedural rules and often accompanied by moralizing tirades.
These two legal scholars might not know it, but they’re “famejackers.”
Piggybacking topics on a celebrity reference is a time-tested means of gaining exposure, said Joan Stewart, a Port-Washington-based consultant who helps clients get free publicity to establish credibility and enhance reputations. The logic is simple, Stewart said: “Celebrity news sells. People love celebrities.”
“You use the celebrity angle as your hook,” she said. “Then, once you’ve got the reader, you share your tips or expertise.”
Florida-based child safety expert and attorney Debra S. Holtzman regularly used the technique with overall positive results, Stewart said.
Holtzman began by drafting press releases that often mention celebrities, and posted them on ExpertClick.com, a website for journalists looking for expert sources. Top-tier news organizations frequently contacted Holtzman for follow-up as a result.
Holtzman wrote about safety in the nursery before Shiloh Jolie-Pitt was born. She later critiqued Brad Pitt’s use of a papoose-type carrier for toddler Zahara while bicycling, and spoke of safer ways to transport children via bicycle. Both examples of famejacking used big celebrity names, such as Pitt, to promote a chosen topic.
Attorney Lisa Solomon of Ardsley, N.Y. recently famejacked when she posted a video on the website Vimeo, spoofing an earlier video posted on YouTube by celebrated U.S. Supreme Court jurist Tom Goldstein. In Goldstein’s 2008 video, he asks clients to hire him for their Supreme Court cases and heralds his accomplishments, while humorous captions pop up.
In her video, Solomon, who concentrates on legal research and writing on a contract basis, asked Goldstein to hire her for behind-the-scenes help while he transitions into a new, smaller law firm; again with the humorous captions popping up.
Solomon wrote the script and used her video camera and wireless microphone to shoot it. The video, although homemade (read: free), is of professional sound quality. It’s comparable to the quality of Goldstein’s.
She posted the video about a month ago and also shared it on Twitter.
Although Goldstein hasn’t hired her, Solomon has received a great deal of positive feedback from people within her network as a result of the video.
Solomon got the attention of another person of interest through a caption at the end of the video, which read “Bryan Garner, I love you!” It’s an allusion only “other legal writing nerds” will get, she said, but it caught the attention of Garner, the co-author of “Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.” Garner sent her a direct reply thanking her for the mention.
“It’s good to be on his radar screen,” Solomon said.
To conclude, here are some Dos and Dont’s of famejacking:
Do check celebrity news websites. Stewart said TMZ.com or Perezhilton.com always have great fodder to spark the imagination. Lindsay Lohan’s ongoing brushes with the law might be a great start for a criminal defense attorney and family-law attorneys will find no shortage of divorcing celebrities to start a discussion about prenuptial agreements. Tax lawyers might comment about Barbra Streisand transferring Las Vegas properties to husband James Brolin to lower her tax liability.
Do hop on it while it’s still news. Timing is critical. Solomon made her video immediately following the announcement that Goldstein would be leaving his prestigious Washington D.C. firm, Akin Gump. Had she waited, the joke might’ve fallen flat. You don’t want to appear to be behind the times.
Don’t forget the analysis. Don’t just gossip. You have to leave readers with lessons to be learned from the celebrity’s situation, Solomon said.
Don’t overdo it. Endlessly famejacking can backfire, Holtzman said. “You don’t want to become perceived as a celebrity basher,” she said. As an example, Holtzman recalled writing a press release about Britney Spears loosely strapping her infant son in a forward-facing child restraint in the backseat of her convertible a few years ago. As a result, Holtzman was deluged by calls from reporters every time the paparazzi caught a celebrity doing something questionable regarding the safety of his or her children. She advises using the technique sparingly, and primarily as teaching moments, rather than just opportunities to criticize others. You want your online persona to be positively perceived.