The proliferation of social media, the flood of emails in our inbox each day, and the fact that PR pros now outnumber journalists in the U.S. by a 5 to 1 ratio means that it can be harder and harder for brands to command attention. Long gone are the days of public relations being heavily skewed towards press releases and traditional media outreach. Instead, it’s about driving more comprehensive influencer relationships that support both marketing and business objectives. And influencers today can include not only journalists and analysts, but also industry advocates, academics, celebrities, and other people who are highly regarded in their respective communities or industries.
While the terms “influencer relations” or “influencer marketing” are now in common parlance, PR has always been about building the right relationships to influence decisions and positively advance a brand’s reputation. So for most PR pros, influencer relations should be viewed as a clear extension of traditional PR programs to support a company’s goals – whether that be around increasing brand awareness, sales or customer satisfaction.
Glenn Oclassen, senior vice president of customer success at Traackr stated it well in a recent blog post noting that “influencer engagement is similar to the tried-and-true engagement methods and goals for PR, AR, and Communications (earned influence), rather than pay-to-play methods often deployed in advertising Traackr, which provides the software to help brands such as Intel, United Airlines, and Forbes build and improve their influencer marketing efforts, has a strong approach to ranking influencers.
The company also offers an Academy of Influencer Marketing to help marketers and communicators become influencer marketing experts. For businesses that are looking to take their brand to the next level, here are the five fundamentals for a strong influencer marketing program.
Historically, the PR industry has struggled with measurement. In today’s data-hungry business world where everything is measurable, PR metrics like advertising value equivalent (when will AVE disappear for good – I still encounter it?!) or share of voice, tonality and circulation are not enough. CMOs and other C-level executives in a company are looking for a clear picture of how influencer marketing can help support their goals and growth. Strategic PR pros will know how to address these objectives by delving into the right questions to help develop their programs.
Sure, it’s a well-known fact that most of your prospects will conduct research online before chatting to a salesperson about your product. But not all buyer journeys are the same – for example, a recent Forrester study found that the salesperson is the fifth most influential channel after peers, media, analysts and forums. But when assessing only one stakeholder, the CIO, the salesperson doesn’t even make it into the top 10. Truly knowing the buyer’s journey and personas and understanding that they can be more complex – particularly in the B2B world – makes a comprehensive influencer marketing approach all the more important.
You probably know of at least one person (hopefully not too many!) who will only contact you whenever they want something from you. Not a great relationship, right? So why only activate your influencer relationships in the same way? Start by really getting to know each person, but paying attention to their articles, posts, and updates, and being sincere in your interactions with them.
Most clients are more inclined to trust influencers over branded content. Done effectively, an influencer can support a company by educating customers about your products, counteracting negative feedback, boosting sales, and helping with content. Building these influencer relationships mean that you’re always thinking about ways to invest, contribute and share interesting ideas and content with the right people, and analyzing the types of content you’ll make available.
Relationships are a two-way street, and engaging influencers only when you have content ready to share is not ideal. It’s about sparking a conversation, creating value, and providing access to relevant content in advance. Whether it’s raw data being shared with a journalist or academic that could be carved into further storylines or analysis (something I’ve done with data-focused reporters at business publications, for example), insights into your product roadmap with an analyst, or any other compelling snippets, thinking about the different ways to share information is the key. Like any relationship or partnership, influencer relations programs take time and effort. But done right, the impact of a strong and comprehensive influencer relations strategy will drive real connections with your brand and have a ripple effect across your business goals.