New wave of pub­lic­ity

For Hol­ly­wood’s so­cial me­dia man­agers, tweet­ing is a liv­ing.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By Amy KAuf­mAn

She knew they were wait­ing to hear from her – Chan­ning Ta­tum’s mil­lions of fans. It had been more than an hour since LaQuishe Wright had posted a photo of the ac­tor on his Twit­ter ac­count, dressed in a suit “headed to the Zeigfield.” Now she and Ta­tum had ar­rived at the White House Down pre­miere, and Wright needed to give his fol­low­ers another up­date.

So as he be­gan walk­ing down the red car­pet, pos­ing for photographs and greet­ing re­porters, she stayed close by. Glued to her iPhone, she was barely no­tice­able among the melee, a diminu­tive 38-year-old in an airy hal­ter dress flanked by hulk­ing body­guards, pub­li­cists, stu­dio han­dlers.

But Wright was one of the most im­por­tant mem­bers of Ta­tum’s en­tourage that evening: she was his so­cial me­dia man­ager, paid to make sure his fans (8.2 mil­lion on Face­book, 5.3 mil­lion on Twit­ter and 2.6 mil­lion on In­sta­gram) are aware of what he’s up to on a some­times near-hourly ba­sis.

As stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives and cast­ing di­rec­tors in­creas­ingly fac­tor in a celebrity’s dig­i­tal fan base, main­tain­ing a healthy online pres­ence has be­come vi­tal for hol­ly­wood stars. That’s where Wright and a gen­er­a­tion of her tech-savvy peers come in, help­ing to am­plify and con­trol the rep­u­ta­tions of pub­lic fig­ures via so­cial me­dia.

For so­cial me­dia buffs, it sounds like a dream job: Tweet­ing for a liv­ing. But Wright – whose client ros­ter in­cludes Zac efron, Ni­cholas Sparks and movie stu­dios like Sony Pic­tures and 20th Cen­tury Fox – is con­stantly on-guard, mak­ing sure her clients sus­tain an ap­pro­pri­ate tone and share the right con­tent.

“A lot of celebri­ties have an aver­sion to Twit­ter, and I get it – they’re sched­uled ev­ery four min­utes of their life, and they don’t want to have to worry about it,” said Wright, who goes by “Q.” “But if you have a great so­cial pres­ence, that is a 100% ben­e­fit. Fans are more prone to go see Chan­ning Ta­tum’s movie if he’s telling them about it – not a stu­dio. And hol­ly­wood is pay­ing at­ten­tion to that now.”

That’s partly be­cause any tool that tracks online sen­ti­ment about a movie is im­por­tant to stu­dios. In re­cent months, tra­di­tional pre-re­lease au­di­ence sur­veys in­tended to help pre­dict a film’s box of­fice open­ing have of­ten proved to be un­re­li­able. When one of Wright’s client’s projects is gen­er­at­ing a lot of buzz online – as was the case for Ta­tum’s Dear John and Magic Mike, she clues stu­dios in.

“As a stu­dio, if we see a fan­base tweet­ing about our movies lead­ing up to a re­lease, we get ex­cited – and of­ten that’s the re­sult of some­one like Q help­ing to en­gage peo­ple online by giv­ing them an in­side view,” said Liz Jones, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing at Rel­a­tiv­ity Me­dia, which hired Wright to run the so­cial me­dia cam­paign for its re­lease Safe Haven.

Many stu­dios have their own in-house dig­i­tal teams but will hire con­sul­tants like Wright to work on spe­cific projects. The mes­sages she sends out are con­ver­sa­tional in tone – en­cour­ag­ing fans to check out a be­hind-thescenes photo or send­ing out good wishes on cer­tain hol­i­days.

even if there’s an an­o­dyne way to ap­proach so­cial me­dia, there are plenty of Twit­ter hold­outs – mostly high-pro­file stars like Ge­orge Clooney, Ryan Gosling and Jen­nifer Lawrence who for rea­sons of pri­vacy or mys­tery have cho­sen to stay out of the dig­i­tal lime­light. That can prove frus­trat­ing to ex­ec­u­tives like Jones, who says “it’d be a dream for all of our ac­tors to have a big so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing.”

“hon­estly, though, I do think it’s re­ally hard for a celebrity to run all of their ac­counts by them­selves,” she added. “The smart ones un­der­stand they need some­one to help.”

That was the re­al­i­sa­tion that Ta­tum had early on af­ter his mother, Kay, stum­bled across “Chan­ning Ta­tum Un­wrapped,” a fan site Wright had cre­ated.

It was 2006, and Wright was deal­ing with per­sonal strug­gles. her son had been di­ag­nosed with Type 1 di­a­betes, and one day, af­ter months of stress­ful doc­tor’s ap­point­ments, she de­cided to take an af­ter­noon for her­self.

She headed to a lo­cal mul­ti­plex near her home in Katy, Texas, in the United States and bought a ticket to Step Up, Ta­tum’s light­hearted dance flick. At the time, she had never heard of the then-fledg­ling ac­tor. But she was taken with his per­for­mance and rushed home to scour the In­ter­net to learn more about him.

“he had a re­ally great spirit, and I thought, ‘ What other movies is he go­ing to be in?’” she said.

So when she was un­able to find much in­for­ma­tion about Ta­tum online, she de­cided to put her Web de­sign skills to use and founded “Chan­ning Ta­tum Un­wrapped.” Within a month, 30,000 visi­tors had vis­ited the fan site – one of them was Ta­tum’s mum.

“As a mother, you’re in­ter­ested in what’s be­ing said about your son, so I started notic­ing her site,” re­called Kay Ta­tum. “She had up­dates and news that oth­ers didn’t, and I thought it was well done, so I men­tioned it to Chan.”

Soon, Chan­ning Ta­tum sent an email to Wright say­ing how ap­pre­cia­tive he was of the site, even at­tach­ing a pic­ture of him­self sit­ting at his home com­puter to prove his iden­tity. he asked if Wright’s fan page could be­come his of­fi­cial site, and two months later he in­vited her to the set of his movie Fight­ing to hash out the de­tails.

“I couldn’t be­lieve it – ob­vi­ously, I could have just been a crazed fan. But he has a good gut,” Wright said. “Be­ing on that set in New York, wait­ing to meet some­one I’d been writ­ing about for­ever. But he walked up to me and tick­led me in the ribs and broke the ice right away.”

Six years af­ter found­ing Ta­tum’s site, Wright’s pas­sion project has turned into a full-blown busi­ness, Q So­cial Me­dia, Ltd. She has five em­ploy­ees who mostly work re­motely, re­port­ing to her at her home base in Texas, though Wright makes at least a dozen trips to Los An­ge­les a year.

For celebrity clients, her rates vary from US$500 (RM1,500) to US$6,000 (RM19,000) per month – but stu­dios typ­i­cally pony up at least dou­ble that, ac­cord­ing to a source close to one dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany. – Los An­ge­les Times/ McClatchy-Tri­bune In­ter­na­tional Ser­vices

fame game in the dig­i­tal age: LaQuishe Wright is a so­cial me­dia man­ager for a hand­ful of young celebri­ties in­clud­ing Chan­ning Ta­tum (inset), Jenna De­wan and Zac Efron. She ad­vises them on what to, and what not to, post to so­cial me­dia sites.

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