Getting your brand covered fairly or favorably by a respected journalist in a respected media outlet—that's what perceived authenticity used to be. It was the brass ring for communicators. Then the pool of full-time journalists and the outlets that employed them began evaporating as the internet hacked away at b2b and b2c media brands' business models.
Yet the very same technology that put that old brass ring of authenticity out of reach also put brands in direct contact with their intended audiences. In the early years of social media, brands and individuals experimented freely, unrestrained by standards and expectations. In time, individuals resented having their social media feeds crowded by obvious marketing ploys. Smart brands on social media now try to offer fun experiences that upstage their marketing messages, and/or invest in influencer marketing. The hopefully authentic word-of-mouth value of influencer marketing is particularly enticing to brands right now.
Brands that haven't yet tried investing resources in digital-based influencer marketing face a host of unknowns, the first one being whether it's suitable for a particular brand or nonprofit organization. Tony Balasandiran, managing account supervisor for Ketchum and a speaker at PR News' June 23 Digital How-To Conference in Chicago, shares some of the advice he offers clients that have yet to make the leap to influencer marketing.
When trying to determine if influencer marketing is right for your organization you must first understand the motivating factors that drive your core and prospective consumers. "If your target audience behavior is not motivated by influencer endorsements of a product or brand, then influencer marketing is likely not the most effective strategy for your organization," Balasandiran says. "If your brand’s key audience behavior is influenced in this way, identify who those particular experts and influencers are, and also why, along with associated costs and ROI to determine the value."
Research the common mistakes made by other organizations. First among those common mistakes is not ensuring that the influencer aligns with the organization's culture, and also with the culture of the target audience. "Impactful influencers are not always celebrities—they are also experts and thought leaders within their industries," Balasandiran says. "Brands and organizations must properly source, vet and assess influencers before including them in marketing campaigns. Alignment and authenticity are key, and the biggest mistake an organization can make is not vetting the influencer and strategy before initiating it, which is why organizations always need to have diverse voices at the table."
Learn more from Tony Balansandiran of Ketchum and communicators from the Chicago Cubs, Michelin, Google, Abbott, Motorola Solutions, Food Lion, Starwood Retails Partners, Southwest Airlines, GE Digital, CBS, the College of American Pathologists, Weber Shandwick, Discover Financial Services and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at PR News’ Digital How-To Conference and Visual Storytelling Boot Camp in Chicago June 22-23.
The best way to find the right influencers is to have a pulse on the culture of your industry, from the organization to the key audiences. "Brands that are doing influencer strategy right remain in the know when it comes to identifying the leading voices in their field of focus. Relationships are invaluable when it comes to influencer engagement. Identify who they are, make a connection with them, foster the relationship and then utilize the partnership to maximize ROI for your brand."
Determine how much to spend on an influencer campaign by evaluating the priority, opportunity and potential engagement the influencer can bring to your campaign. "With celebrity influencers, the price tag is always going to be higher because your brand is leveraging the influencer’s brand name and network. With a more niche influencer campaign, the associated fees may be more manageable and you may be able to engage a collective versus one influencer if it makes more sense. The reach, resonance and engagement of the influencer should determine how you prioritize your overall marketing budget."
When attempting initial contact with a potential influencer, remember that you miss every shot you don't take. "Influencers and brands provide a mutual benefit to elevate both profiles with key audiences. The most credible influencer marketing campaigns are built around influential figures who make the most sense for the brand, its consumers and media targets. The best way to make contact is to be where the influencers are, whether it’s on Twitter or at the SXSW or CES shows. Engage with their tweets or send them a direct message. Attend their panel and follow up afterward to directly connect. Invite them to your organization or activations to experience your brand. Developing relationships with influencers is the foundation of impactful engagement."
—Steve Goldstein, editorial director, PR News @SGoldsteinAI