Like millions of other Americans, I tune in each February to the Academy Awards - arguably our country's biggest soiree to celebrate art and culture. Rarely have I seen the movies that are nominated, but I enjoy watching ostentatious fashion come to life and pop culture's biggest stars walk the red carpet.
What I didn't expect this year, though, was the many ways celebrities used public relations best practices to raise awareness for inequality, suicide, debilitating diseases and other social issues.
Before stepping out of a limo and onto the red carpet, Reese Witherspoon shared posts on Twitter and Instagram encouraging reporters to #AskHerMore. The social media campaign prompts journalists to ask women substantive questions - and encourages fans to share suggestions for interview topics in real time. At the end of just the red carpet parade, the hashtag was trending in the U.S. with more than 27,000 tweets.
Speeches by prominent actors, directors and screenwriters also thrust causes onto the national stage. Many opted to apportion part of their allotted 60 seconds to raise awareness. While none can dig deep into the intricacies of these causes in under a minute, a captive audience is one way to ensure your message is heard.
Of course, the art can speak volumes for causes, too. Some of the year's most celebrated films addressed social issues of veterans' affairs, racial equality, early-onset Alzheimer's and ALS. In today's age of 140-character messages, a two- to three-hour movie dedicates infinitely more time to the intricacies and complicated facets of these causes. When it comes to awareness, you just can't replace in-depth explanation.
So, what are the measurable results for these causes in the days, weeks and months following the Oscars buzz? Only time will tell. But the Academy Awards as a social megaphone? I think PR-savvy celebrities will be sure that's a trend that continues.