PR News Q&A: Keys to Effective Influencer Measurement

Natasha Fogel

In leading the measurement and research initiatives for clients such as Starbucks, eBay and Kia, Natasha Fogel, executive VP of global measurement and media analytics at Edelman’s StrategyOne, is keenly aware of the importance of identifying an organization’s key influencers. What’s even more important, says Fogel, is aligning influencer efforts with business outcomes and goals. In this Q&A, Fogel touches on this strategy, picking the right tools and more.

PR News: What is the first step in identifying and measuring influencers?

Natasha Fogel:
As the definition of influencers broadens, organizations need to look at them through a 360 degree prism—traditional and social, online and offline, and also primary research. You then have visibility into a clear composite picture of who are your key influencers. Text analytics can further the approach by making the connections between influencers with the organization and industry or topic.

You can then supplement this through primary research by identifying both general and specific sources of information all the way from a specific individual or stakeholder to channels and media outlets that are relied on. But it is no longer enough just to say The New York Times is a key influencer outlet. Instead, you need to know whether it is columnist Paul Krugman or  journalist Adam Nagourney, and who each might quote as influencers within their stories.

Reach out to your stakeholders through primary research and have them tell you who or what influences them. Map these influencers back to how they impact the brand strategy or goals or the issue at hand to help you prioritize where to emphasize your outreach. Once you’ve decided how these influencers impact your organization, then consider how they interact with your stakeholders and what you would like them to do—your goal. At this point you have some direction and can measure their influence over time and your influence in reaching and persuading them.

PR News:
What considerations should you make in picking the right tool(s)?

Fogel: Golden rule for tool choice:  Begin by defining your business objectives first and then create your communications objectives based on those business objectives. For example, if your goal is awareness or education, you need a survey; if your goal is to evaluate the landscape or communicate messages, you need media analysis and ongoing measurement. Determine what you want the tool to accomplish and then conduct the due diligence to identify a short list of tools. Rank order your priority  (e.g. meets requirements, price, timeliness of data, flexibility to add features and run reports, customer service, innovation) to help you decide which is the best for you.

PR News: When should you put your energy toward a negative influencer? How can you turn one into a positive?

You need to understand and define the influencer’s problem. How does or could this influencer impact your brand? In my opinion you should always put some amount of energy into a negative influencer. They have just as much—if not more—influence on the conversation. Fear and negativity captures attention more easily than hope and positivity. Communicate the facts or address their issue so that at the very least you did what you could to keep the brand honorable.

Through company crises—specifically, consumer product recalls—the work with these influencers sometimes develops them into advocates and can help mitigate an increase in negative influencers and impact on your overall corporate reputation and revenues. I’ve witnessed an insurance and financial services company comment on blogs to provide facts to those who have commented negatively on the company. The site community applauded the proactive and transparent nature of this outreach and care. Bottom line: People do change opinions, and neutralizing an opponent can be a huge victory for an organization.

PR News: Is there a different approach for B2B companies versus B2Cs in identifying and mapping influencers?

B2Bs may have to rely a little more heavily on in-depth interviews and primary research to identify and map influencers, whereas a B2C has the likely benefit of a digital community. A CFO of a Fortune 1000 company and a mommy blogger are influencing through very different channels. It’s not only different channels, but also how they use them. Is a CFO going to tweet about how successful their recent audit was? I doubt it. But a mommy blogger might tweet about a car she is test-driving. Using a combination of on- and offline research techniques—surveys, market research online communities, analytics tools—and savvy analysts who are studying the impact on the brand or issue are a winning combination. 

PR News:
What's one key tip you'll give to our audience at the PR Measurement Conference?

Fogel: I'll heavily emphasize the need to focus PR on business outcomes and goals. In my experience the perception of PR is mixed. Some executive teams are challenging PR to become more strategic. Others are satisfied with a focus on PR outputs as opposed to outcomes. In either scenario PR has to have a solution for how we solve problems, create solutions and increase revenue or stakeholder engagement for the organization. Once we understand where PR impacts the organization, we can develop metrics and use language that will appeal to our internal stakeholders.