As the landscape of public relations evolves, it's important to not avoid but rather adapt and incorporate the newest practices into your PR strategies. Any PR pro knows the impact an "influencer" in a particular industry can have on a brand's product or service. Influencers have established themselves as an authority in their field and have a loyal following that values their opinion. These followers are quick to visit the social media pages, blogs, websites, etc. of their favorite influencers to see what they are doing, what products they endorse and what services they recommend. The value in having a positive relationship with an influencer in your client's industry can make all the difference for their brand. Not only will you be able to drive awareness for the brand by enlisting the assistance of influential individuals as spokespeople, but you will build a network of highly influential connections. As public relations professionals, we are relationship builders. It's our duty to cultivate positive, lasting relationships with media contacts. By extending our expertise into engaging with influencers, it allows us to dig deeper into the conversation and get our clients' products and services into the hands of individuals whom our audience deems trustworthy. With an influencer's support, we can better reach and connect with our consumer. How we cultivate our relationships with influencers from first identifying the right individuals and opening up a conversation, to nurturing the relationship and building a mutually beneficial one are the keys to any successful PR campaign.
Identify the Platform
When looking to incorporate influencers into a public relations campaign, it's important to first know your audience and which platforms they frequent. For example:
- YouTube: If your client is a beauty brand, perhaps their customers often visit YouTube to check out their favorite vloggers tutorials and product reviews
- Instagram: Known for its visual appeal, Instagram is home to many lifestyle influencers often providing inspiration for color palettes, fashion and style, and food and leisure
- Facebook: Consumer product brands tend to have large followings on all platforms, including Facebook, where posts can include photos and a large amount of text
- Twitter: If your client is a travel brand, their audience may be plugged into Twitter for instant access to travel industry news
- Blogs: Bloggers offer multiple opportunities and advantages, as they not only have a website with dedicated visitors and room for more lengthy content pieces, but often a hefty presence on social media as well
Find your Influencers
Once you've identified the platform(s) that make the most sense, it's time to find your influencers and evaluate their authority. It will be equally as important to learn about the influencer's audience to ensure the partnership makes sense. There are several resources available to make this task easier, such as FollowerWonk and Traackr. You can also simply search "beauty blogger" on Twitter for example, and then click "Accounts" to see relevant accounts deemed as most popular by Twitter. When you believe you have found an appropriate influencer, be sure to check that their followers are actually engaged with the content they share. This can be done by checking the amount of likes, comments, shares, etc. on their individual posts.
Start the Conversation
You'll want to start building a relationship with the influencer before you pitch them. You should have an interest in what the influencer does and the content they share. Liking, sharing, and commenting on their posts to show your interest can form a connection and have an influencer remember you. Opening up a dialogue with an industry influencer must be done with tact. Ask yourself, how will working together benefit the influencer as well as my clients' brand? You should familiarize yourself with the influencer's work and really have an understanding of why they in particular are the right fit. Start out by sending the influencer a message on the social platform that makes the most sense. If they have their e-mail listed in their bios, you can use that as well, or choose to send your follow up message via e-mail. It's important to let the influencer know key information upfront, including:
- Who you are
- What the brand does
- Why the influencer (specific to individual) will have a meaningful presence when attached to your brand
- How you see yourselves working together
If you are able to offer incentives like brand ambassadorship, free products, memberships, etc. now is your chance to make that known and grab their attention. Oftentimes, influencers feel as though they are working for free, so you'll want to make the partnership meaningful and built for the long-term. Having several influencers with the right following that you invest your time in will be much more valuable than spreading yourself thin by trying to build a rapport with a large amount of influencers.
So the influencer is interested in working together. Now what? This part can be the most challenging, as you've got them on board, but how do you keep them engaged and continue the relationship to meet both of your needs? Be sure you know what you want out of the relationship so expectations and goals are defined upfront. Do you intend to send product samples for review? Or perhaps you'd like to invite the influencer to an event for exposure on their blog. Influencers can be involved in many different sectors of your PR campaign, so you'll want to figure out what makes the most sense before proposing the opportunity to them. Keep in mind the influencer doesn't work for you or your client. They have their own brand to tend to and will have their own thoughts and ideas on how your product or service will fit into their platforms. Be collaborative and open-minded, as this will build a mutually beneficial partnership.
Nurture the Relationship
In order to build a lasting relationship and continue communication, you should show an interest in the influencer's work, whether it's relevant to your client or not. Engage with them on social media, share articles and industry-related news that show you are interested in their trade, and send an e-mail every so often checking to see how they are (sound familiar? Media Relations 101). In the digital age, it's easy to forget how important face-to-face communication can be, so don't shy away from asking them to meet for coffee. You may be surprised at how much insight and collaboration can come out of an in-person conversation.