Under The Influence: PR And Third-Party Endorsers

As most PR experts know, word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family are still powerful: 84% of respondents in a recent survey claim this source is the most trustworthy. As more of our time is dominated by social media, the definition of “friends” in particular has spread to include celebrities, authors, companies and the ubiquitous brand ambassador.
PR has always known the power of these influencers. Here are three smart tips to harness their power for good.

Only “swipe right” for the best possible match. As part of our recent work on behalf of a popular new beer, we sought out hot local chefs to create recipes that would showcase the product. We began by researching chefs with the right kind of restaurant to match our brand attributes, very specifically, ones specializing in all-American, unpretentious, comfort food. We struck gold with a chef who understood the brand right away and developed a perfect holiday recipe that was snatched up by influential publications like InStyle.

Act fast, but act smart.  Remember James Blunt or Fountains of Wayne? In the mid-2000s they were uber-popular but have now faded into “one-hit-wonder” obscurity. If you want your campaign to benefit from a top influencer, strike while the iron is hot, or even better, become a professional prognosticator and tap someone one on the rise. Timing is everything, smartly evidenced by MasterCard’s signing of the very funny SNL star Kate McKinnon  before she does a star turn in the hotly anticipated all-female “Ghostbusters” remake due out in summer 2016.

Make the deal as watertight as you can. Even low-level influencers are getting savvy to pricing what they peddle, six figures for a single tweet, seven for a broadcast interview. It helps to be very strategic in structuring a contract with an influencer that maximizes the outreach you need the most to benefit the campaign. We also find that adding success benchmarks, as you would with any outside vendor, keeps the campaign rooted in measurable results. Many in the influencer biz can claim thousands of followers on Twitter, or Instagram but do these followers just follow or take action as well?

Just as anyone can be a journalist today as demonstrated by the proliferation of UGC, soon anyone will be an influencer as well. Just this week, I was asked by my favorite fitness class app, MindBody to be one!

5 Steps To A PR Influencer Strategy

Tapping the power of influencers can be a PR agency‘s not-so-secret weapon. It’s also an indispensable tool of good marketing.

Whether it was your best friend in middle school talking up the new boy band or curiosity about the champagne Kim Kardashian, ahem, poured in her ubiquitous photo, there are definitely personalities who can affect decisions. (Although in the case of the Kardashian image, the answer is none, since no champagne wanted that notoriety).

Influential figures who have sway because of their real or perceived authority, knowledge, or position, are of strategic significance when launching or re-launching a product or service. The rules of outreach have changed over the years, but there are some nearly surefire ways to use the power of influence effectively. And not all influencers are celebrities.

Don’t overlook the ones you already have

The most efficient way to start to build a list of potential influencers is by looking at who already likes, follows and tweets about your brand. Examining each individual in your brand or business’s existing sphere of influence will unlock potential additional contacts with a likely chance of sharing some affinity with it. Often you can cement the relationship with special treatment, swag, or insider access.

Don’t be too exclusive to start

Gauge influencer strength by who becomes a passionate and authentic advocate, not just by one’s Klout score or other analytic. Just because someone has a large following or has achieved certain success with content -haring doesn’t guarantee that voice will be the best one for your brand.

Be in it for the long haul

Of course there is pressure to line up influencers quickly and get a campaign off the ground, but true advocacy builds over time. Ensure that your initiative has short-term and long-term goals to maximize the brand/influencer relationships.

Be prepared to invest

For a health technology interested in securing athlete and broadcast figures, we struck up a relationship early on with a respected TV personality who allowed us to use photos and quotes liberally – and gratis. But that was a rarity, and it was important to prepare the company leadership for the reality that most other media or sports personality relationships would come with more of a price tag. The key is to determine in advance how much you are willing to invest and how you will measure the return on that investment.

Let influencers truly influence

The best don’t have to be sold on your product or service. They’ve already organically gotten to know features and attributes and can speak from the heart (not a script) when advocating, so let them. Invite them to give opinions on brand extensions or other ideas on the drawing board that only the privileged few are privy to, and let them know how much they are valued.