PR Strategies that Sell Magazines: The Celebrity Pictorial

Vogue, Elle, Out, Playboy… they all have something in common. Every month, their covers feature some of the hottest celebrities of the moment, in an attempt to attract a larger audience. And every month, the strategy works: it generates headlines for the offline publications on various offline and online publications, and it basically “pre-sells” a number of magazines even before these see the printing press. This September gets hotter with Rihanna in Vogue Italy, Victoria Beckham in Elle (October issue), Lady Gaga in OUT and Heidi Montag in Playboy.

Rihanna almost topless in Vogue Italy.The strategy is bullet proof and is as old as the first gossip magazine. Photographers show a lot of creativity, placing these gorgeous divas in the most unexpected sets, but the celebrity pictorial approach is somehow… I don’t know…old fashioned?

Victoria Beckham on the cover of Elle.

Lady Gaga on the cover of OUT

Heidi Montag on the cover of Playboy.

Well, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it – every time a celebrity appears on the cover of such a magazine the event is celebrated by the public and even by other media outlets, particularly online, where the publishers attract visitors with incendiary titles.

If Vogue Italy sells more issue for showing a pictorial of Rihanna, online publications get more visitors by promising photos of the star on their pages.

If Elle puts Victoria Beckham on the cover, the online media “pre-sells” the magazine on the Internet…

OUT knows that Gaga is hot and it straps her of her clothes… and Playboy attempts to make September hotter with a Heidi Montag pictorial.

This is what the public wants and it is also a win-win for both celebrity and magazine. A talented publicist negotiates such appearances in detail, a skilled publisher knows who will sell more magazines ahead of time and capitalizes on public preferences.

What else would sell better than a Rihanna almost topless in a gorgeous pictorial by Steven Klein? The September edition of Vogue Italy will probably attract men and women equally – and online, “Rihanna vogue italia” is one of top Google trends of the day.

Offline, the strategy that announces with all the hype of breaking news some new pictures of a celebrity usually does sell. However, online, the impact of such announcements is usually low. You don’t see many online publications shouting about some new pictures… (I am not referring here to publications that relate the news, but to actual publishers, the ones who pay the celebrity and the photographer for the pictorials).

The world of the Internet is somehow coarser. The searchers prefer “hotter” topics, they are most likely to be interested in nude pictures than new pictures.

We note an obvious difference between what sells online and what sells offline and I cannot imagine any serious publication like the ones mentioned here starting to lure their readers with such pictures. Fortunately what sells offline is still tasteful and, judging by Rihanna’s latest pictorial, still has artistic value.

Traditional media still has a trick or two to teach us. As online publishers we depend on hot trends that are actually inspired but what we label as “old-fashioned.” This is the truth.