When developing PR program recommendations, savvy PR pros consider a 360 degree approach of how to ultimately reach the target demographic- from traditional media targets and bloggers to the analyst and thought leader community to the more general “influencer” group.
There is a lot of gray area when it comes to defining influencers, and it’s important to develop a set criteria and specific objectives before identifying and settling upon your “influencer” pool. In the complicated journey of getting an “influencer” to become a brand advocate or a "super fan" of your brand, focused strategy and planning are essential. Here are a few tips, in sequential order that our consumer technology team at PAN recommends to help you manage a successful influencer engagement strategy.
Image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhancock/ used under CC license.
Determine your influencer end-game
The “call to action” or message that you hope your influencer will share with their audiences can vary greatly. For instance, in a celebrity gifting program, , the objective might be for that person to Instagram a photo of the gift and a caption highlighting your client, while for an app developer the goal might be for the influencer to endorse the app heavily and encourage friends and followers to download the app themselves. For a jewelry or fashion client, influencers will be encouraged to wear (and be photographed in) your client’s finery. The sky is the limit with “WHAT” your influencers can do for you, so best practice is to think about your goal and then work backwards to figure out how to get there.
Identify specific criteria to identify and tier influencers
The easiest place to start is by listing what you already know about the brand you are representing, such as target demographic, regional criteria and sensitive areas to be avoided. Then, with your objective in laser focus, determine the best way for your influencers to engage with their followers. Today, for instance, influencers with large social followings on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are logical candidates, but, face to face social or community “power” may be more important- meaning socialites, politicians or local athletes. For mommy marketing, your influencers might be the presidents of relevant PTOs in target communities. Open brainstorming to help uncover different spheres of influence takes time, but done strategically and intelligently it is a highly worthwhile exercise.
Choose authentic and credible influencers
Being famous and/or having a huge Twitter following alone does not make an influencer. Rather, it’s most important to choose your influencer list based on authentic connections. For instance, for the influencer program that PAN created for our client Clearview Audio, we gift the Clio speaker to influencers in the music and interior design space who have a demonstrated interest in consumer technology. Why music and design? Clio has an amazing sound for a personal speaker, and musicians and audiophiles agree that their favorite music sounds somehow even richer and clearer with Clio. Because of the almost invisible design of the transducer, Clio appeals to designers who are tired of “black boxes” marring the aesthetic of the spaces they curate. Though we might be tempted to gift Clio to folks solely based on their massive Twitter followings in hopes they’ll tweet about it, that approach is not strategic, and could actually harm the brand through inaccurate or inauthentic messaging.
Determine your “offer”
No one works for free, so determine what exactly will inspire your target influencer to work on your behalf. You can always offer payment or a share in equity, but there are other incentives to consider. If you’ve researched and selected your target list properly, there is an authentic connection between them and your brand already, so inviting them for a VIP brand experience or seat on the board might make more sense than a cash payment. Or, they might just love your product, because it’s perfect for them (if you’ve done your homework this latter scenario might just be the case).
Engage with humility and focus
As a PR agency, we tell our clients that like media relationships, influencer relationships need to be cultivated over time. Before you ask your target to “do” anything, consider how you want to introduce yourself and how you can help them understand the value of your proposal. For celebrity programs, I always start by introducing myself to the agent or manager, and work from there. For regional influencers, I will go in through their office or executive assistant. Pay attention to protocol and don’t be a nuisance. Slow and steady wins the race and forging a respectful and appropriate connection before asking for their support is critical.
Have a Plan B
It’s easy to get excited about the potential of your (well thought out) influencer program, but if you find your initial offer isn’t getting traction, don’t despair. Having a second list in place or different strategy or ask ready to go (and approved by the client) will allow you to change direction seamlessly without losing momentum. We recommend focusing approximately 30% of your time on your “dream team” list, 50% on your strategic and realistic list and 20% on lower hanging fruit.
When you’re working with different people on different asks, it’s easy to get confused. Keep files and spreadsheets of activities updated in real time so that you always know where you are with each of your contacts.
Mind your manners
Influencer engagement is ultimately asking high profile individuals or organizations to speak on your behalf- which is a huge favor! Say thank you early, and often, and repay the favor by endorsing your influencers on their personal agendas
As a leading PR agency, we are constantly putting influencer programs together and making recommendations for our clients. We would love to hear from you—how do you engage influencers? What are some of your best practices?