How Influencers Can Elevate Your PR Campaign

As digital content consumption continues to grow, PR pros are always looking for ways to target specific audiences through social media. We know the power that social media campaigns can wield – from amplifying earned media that PR generates to marketing products. And adding influencers to the mix can boost those PR efforts exponentially. 

Influencers who resonate with a specific segment help brands stay relevant by cutting through the digital noise. The blend of social media reach and trust in specific personalities can really amplify a campaign. Read on to find out how to craft the best collaboration.

Don’t count out influencers for B2B PR

The splashiest influencer marketing campaigns tend to be in beauty, fashion, and other lifestyle sectors, but don’t count it out for B2B PR. Many B2B categories, like software, have long selling cycles where customers spend significant time learning about products and services. Educational or service-oriented content that shares expertise is typically a big part of a B2B PR program, and that’s where expert influencers come in. A business leader or subject-matter expert (SME) who posts content in the form of bylined pieces, white papers, blog posts, or explainer videos can help differentiate a company and add personality to its brand.

Influencer marketing creates trust

In nearly any category peer recommendations can play a pivotal role in a buying decision. Ninety percent of people are more likely to trust others they see when scrolling through their feed versus a traditional marketing post by a brand that’s clearly pushing a product or service. 

Influencers typically spend a significant amount of time – in most cases, years – building a relationship with a base of fans or followers. Their credibility (or lack of it) stems from how they show expertise while remaining relatable. The most successful will leverage their emotional connections with audiences to create brand loyalty and inspire people to try something new.

Micro-Influencers help manage risk 

As engagement with traditional media channels like TV, radio, and print has declined, marketing with influencers offers a natural and low-pressure way to get brand-related information in front of a targeted audience. 

Micro-influencers have between 5,000 to 100,000 followers and may operate in niche markets. Some will even have higher engagement and conversion rates compared to mega influencers with millions of followers, due to their perceived authenticity. These smaller-scale influencers can also be powerful for B2B PR efforts, where they offer the advantages of lower costs and the ability to generate social engagement that is more tightly focused in vertical sectors like financial services or business technology, for example. 

Working with micro-influencers is also a way to manage risk and stretch a marketing or PR budget. A group of micro-influencers with small, but highly engaged audiences might be a wiser investment than partnering with a single, more expensive mega- influencer, and there’s always the flexibility to ramp up or down as things progress.  

Finding the right influencer

The right fit is essential to a successful influencer campaign. Brands and their PR teams should look for the right partner based on a highly engaged following rather than a dazzling follower count. Here are other factors to keep in mind:

Relevance 

Look through the influencer’s content to see how it aligns with your messaging. The content and the audience of the influencer far outweigh the amount of traffic they receive. 

Engagement 

Engagement is indicative of how frequently an influencer’s audience engages with their content. Frequency of fan engagement is a key sign of meaningful relationships.

Reach

Though it can actually be overrated, reach is a valid metric, and the trend line of an influencer’s reach is an important factor in planning a future relationship. It’s also vital to keep in mind the platforms prioritized by the target audience, of course. B2B brands will want to reach industry decision-makers who are typically more engaged on Twitter and LinkedIn, while consumer marketers may want to focus on Instagram or Snap. 

Frequency

High-quality content posted on a consistent basis correlates with the traffic and a higher rate of returning visitors, which, in turn, this increases audience engagement and reach.

Authenticity 

Influencers with a smaller ratio of sponsored content appear more authentic and are more trusted by their audiences. Personal anecdotes with natural mention of a brand are also a good idea, as they often hold more weight than a review.

It’s also a good idea to see if a potential influencer has strong relationships with other influencers, and if so, how their respective audiences overlap. The overlap between their audience and yours is a key indicator of whether a campaign or long-term partnership will offer a high return-on-investment.

Influencer content and measurement goals 

Explore the type of content that potential influencers publish and compare it with your audience’s preferences and behaviors.  

Creating content with an influencer is a great way to build a relationship. Here are some ideas:

– Host a live Q&A 

– Hold a webinar with an influencer as the host

– Write a series or blog together

– Record a podcast episode

Match metrics like reach and share of voice with your overall PR goals to examine the impact of your influencer.

Engage with your community and build relationships

Once the collaboration begins, it’s time to focus on building and strengthening relationships with your followers. Offering valuable content on a regular basis will lay a foundation, while aligning with an expert or influencer will deepen the engagement and build trust over time.

How To Make A Killer Content Calendar

In PR, a content calendar is a key part of any public relations plan. For B2B clients like those we represent, it can include the topics and suggested resources for bylined articles, blog posts, social media posts, digital video, and longer-form content like white papers, among other elements. A good content calendar is like a roadmap that helps a brand tell its story. Here are some ways to construct a killer content calendar and get the most out of it.

Start with tentpole events and initiatives

Winging it is not an effective strategy, and taking the time to create a full content calendar will save time and alleviate stress in the long run. When building your calendar, start with upcoming company tentpole events and announcements, then fill in the rest according to seasonal marketing activities and anything else you find relevant. After, you can build out the corresponding content. 

For example, you may plan for a company’s product launch to generate a press release, a social post linking to the press release across social channels, a social post with a top media placement across social channels, and an in-depth blog post for the company website. For social media specifically, quality and quantity combined make for the highest engagement. Companies that publish more than 16 posts a month typically generate three and a half times more traffic than those which publish less than four. Meaning, there should be frequent posts, varying in topics from article promotions to National Cookie Day, if you could think of a way that it’s relevant to your brand. Looking into lesser known holidays that may be relevant to brands in advance can make for fun social media posts!

Be sure to space out announcements

Content calendars are a visual way of seeing what’s in store for the future, making them effective for planning. Seeing all of a brand’s initiatives on paper makes it more obvious if announcements are scheduled too close together, or whether messages compete or overlap. Ideally, you want your messaging to be a progression; for example, a funding announcement, followed by senior-level hires, after which an ambitious new company initiative is unveiled. If news items aren’t planned carefully, the company’s announcements may not get the attention they deserve. Of course, a good plan will take into consideration major news-generating events like Election Day, for example, which should be avoided. Yet most external happenings are unpredictable, so it’s best to build in flexibility but not stress over unexpected events. 

Refresh with formal creative sessions

You may be surprised by the new ideas you can generate when you schedule the time to sit down and think. Throughout the day, projects and deadlines may keep us busy, but forcing a focus on new ways to tell a brand’s story for the next month or quarter can give way to a productive brainstorming session, particularly if you have it with other team members. However, make sure that your meeting is a productive use of time for everyone (a recent study from the Harvard Business Review found that 71% of senior managers said meetings in general are unproductive and inefficient.) During the brainstorm session, do not shut down any ideas, no matter how far-fetched they may seem, as you never know which remark can plant the seed for a great idea. Other tips for a productive brainstorm include coming prepared, creating a time cap, and taking thorough notes.

Measure performance daily

You can actually keep track internally of how many stories a particular company announcement garnered, or how well a social media post performed, right in your content calendar. Of course, every content calendar is different, but tracking the numbers right in the doc may work as a way to stay organized. You can even set goals, and if you fall short, adjust accordingly for the next quarter. Besides Excel and Google Sheets, some other tools for creating content calendars include monday.com, Smartsheet, and Wrike.

Park future ideas so nothing is lost

You can make the most out of your content calendar by using it as a live document and keeping it constantly updated. It’s best to do a formal update once per quarter, according to the business or marketing plan, but you may choose to refresh it far more often. In addition to planned content, you can establish a “parking lot” for ideas and potential topics that may not fit in at the moment but can be useful later. It’s also effective to list social keywords for each piece of content to all creators are on track.

Include client quotes or thoughts

If you plan to newsjack an upcoming event, it can be helpful to get quotes or thoughts from the brand in advance, to be used for a future blog post or even reactive commentary. This can be stored right in your content calendar. By keeping all relevant materials together in one doc, you can prevent these thoughts from getting buried in your inbox. The nature of newsjacking is such that most often you won’t know the news in advance and you’ll have to act swiftly for your brand to be included in media coverage. Yet if you do happen to know of any events that may be relevant, then it’s great to be prepared.

Include competitive messaging

It may make sense to keep track of competitive content or even media coverage in your content calendar, in a separate tab. This makes for easy visualization for how your brand’s messaging and tone should stack up compared to competitors. After all, what we do is all about differentiation. 

Planning and time management are very important in PR, so any system to help stay on track and on schedule is useful. Don’t be discouraged if some ideas are scrapped as things move around – you may even be able to use that content later on! 

What are LinkedIn Stories and How Can PR Pros Use Them?

Since LinkedIn launched its Stories feature last month, it has won mixed reviews. But PR professionals shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it!

Of course, with over 706 million global users, LinkedIn is the go-to social platform for B2B professionals, and it’s probably still the best way to build a network with colleagues, classmates and industry professionals. It’s also a great place to have conversations around hot topics in tech, leadership and current events. 

LinkedIn Stories is similar to Instagram or Facebook stories, allowing users to post an update that will stay live for 24 hours. The story feature makes sense for Instagram and Facebook where you can share real-time updates, but why did LinkedIn feel they needed this feature? 

According to LinkedIn, “LinkedIn Stories enable members and organizations to share images and short videos of their everyday professional moments.” In a pre-COVID world, this feature would have been great to use during industry conferences and events. While the timing of launch may be odd, this is definitely a feature PR pros should convince executives to include in their social strategy. Here are five ways to incorporate LinkedIn stories into yours.

Share professional tips

Instagram and Facebook stories are a great place to share real time pictures, videos and updates, so why not try this out on LinkedIn Stories? Create a social schedule of quotable tips from executives that can be shared a few times a week. The goal here is to share comments or quotes that are short but impactful. You want to grab your audience’s attention very quickly. Make sure content is easy to digest and you’re not cramming everything into one story. If you want to share five tips, create five slides and space out the updates to make a bigger impact.

Highlight ‘events’ in real time

One of the big trends of 2020 was a shift to virtual events, primarily on Zoom. In PR, we believe that securing speaking events for executives is a strong way to promote thought leadership and position clients as industry leaders. Share clips from virtual conferences with short soundbites of high-impact statements from business leaders. When the event is over, if you have access to a full recording, you can tease it in stories as well encouraging connections to watch the full talk if they missed it. 

Host a Q&A

A fun feature on stories is opening a question on your story and asking for followers and connections to weigh in. Consider hosting a weekly or monthly Q&A around current events in a given industry, — maybe on new tech launches or reactive comments around breaking news. Create a two-way conversation between business leaders and their connections. If you’re looking for a way to spread out content, ask connections to submit questions in advance and answer them a few days later. 

Preview company announcements and launches

One of the benefits of LinkedIn Stories is that when users log on, the stories will be featured at the top of the page before they start scrolling. Sometimes user posts can be lost in endless scrolling, but if you have a story, you have a better chance of higher engagement. Did your company just acquire funding or are launching a new tech offering? Tease this announcement in your story. Perhaps preview the headline of a press release to gauge attention and direct users to your company’s page or your own – wherever the press release link is live. Continue this momentum by posting any coverage you generate from the announcement.   

Highlight personal and company achievements

LinkedIn is the perfect place to share job promotions and personal achievements. Use LinkedIn Stories to highlight these wins. On an executive’s LinkedIn Stories, you can also share personnel changes and moves highlighting achievements and accolades. Connections will see how proud a business leader is of their staff, for example, and positive encouragement motivates and inspires any team to exceed expectations. 

How will you use LinkedIn stories? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr.