Brands come to PR and comms professionals to help with any number of issues they don't have the expertise or bandwidth to tackle on their own. We're covering several of them- we started with customer complaints, then covered crisis communications and the newer phenomenon of brands taking a stand on social issues- and now we're discussing the booming industry of influencer marketing.
How can you as a comms professional help a brand find the right influencer to work with? Is an influencer even right for the project they have in mind? What kind of influencers should you help a brand consider outside of the ubiquitous social influencer? Influence is more than influencers, after all.
We'll tackle those questions, and more.
Is an influencer right for this project?
First and most importantly, you need to help a brand understand if an influencer is even right for the project or campaign they're planning. Sometimes an influencer can help give a project a boost and sometimes it's a waste of resources for both the brand and the influencer.
Brands might also be stuck on the idea of a social influencer when it might make more sense to tap a journalist or someone else influential in their industry.
Once you've put the work in to determine that an influencer is right for a specific project, then you need to find the right influencer and pitch them the right way.
Influencer relationship building
But before we discuss the types of influencers a brand would consider working with, we want to note that it can be an intensive process to find the right influencer, pitch them and put together an agreement that both sides are happy with (more on this later). Because of this, we recommend PR and comms pros work with brands and influencers to build lasting relationships rather than pursue a one-and-done campaign.
This protects the investment of resources on both sides, as well as building trust with the target audience; if they're turning to an influencer for recommendations and see that an influencer is working with a brand consistently over time, the audience is more likely to look into the brand and consider it.
Journalists should also be considered influencers in their own right, often having spent years building expertise on specific beats with an industry or industries.
Here's how we define journalists and bloggers at Cision:
- Journalist: A journalist publishes consistent and/or relevant earned media content through traditional news sources (newspapers/magazines/news websites/broadcast/radio). Included are also the teams surrounding a published journalist who help determine/prepare news for distribution (i.e. editors or producers).
- Blogger: Individuals who have material reach and resonance via a blog and produces content that is usually concentrated within a specific expertise or knowledge area, and often reflects a personal opinion/slant on the subject matter based on the author’s personal experience.
And a final note: In our database, we don’t define whether or not a journalist or reporter is famous (i.e. Gayle King or Ronan Farrow).
Everything else to keep in mind
Before launching a campaign or partnership with any kind of influencer, you need to be sure you've hammered out all relevant details between the brand and the influencer ahead of time.
The first step is vetting the influencer as completely as possible. Ask questions like:
- Have they worked with a brand before?
- If so, which one(s)? Any competitors? (This could compromise their trustworthiness with their audience, if it appears they'll work with any brand in a space for some kind of return.)
- Is there anything in their past that could cause a crisis comms situation for the brand?
Be very thorough with the last item; one old tweet can snowball out of control into bad situation for the influencer and any brand associated with them. Also pay attention to any other influencers they regularly interact with and what their reputations are.
As for the partnership or campaign itself, be sure everyone is on the same page about:
- What the brand is providing to the influencer, and vice versa
- The work they influencer is expected to do (number of deliverables and what kind of deliverables those are)
- Who is responsible for reporting on metrics— one or both parties?
- What those metrics are (what does success look like?)
- What is the timeframe for reporting (ideally throughout the campaign so it can be adjusted if the numbers aren’t as expected)
- What does each party owe the other at the end of the campaign— a postmortem, final analytics, planning for another project or part of the campaign?
- Payment, when and based on what actions
Also be absolutely sure that both parties are adhering to all disclosure guidelines from the FTC; they recently came out saying that they plan to enforce violations more strictly.Many social platforms now have built-in methods for disclosing brand partnerships; for an example, scroll up to the Half Baked Harvest Instagram post in the Building Influencer Relationships section.
The bottom line? When in doubt, disclose.
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