Influencer relations is a sector of the PR industry that has grown in stature in recent years due to the proliferation of digital and social media. In the old days, PR practitioners had only two real choices if they wanted to get a message out: find a spokesperson within the company who can speak to the topic, or pray that a journalist would pick the topic up via a pitch or press release.
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Those days are now far behind us. Social media has given a voice to thousands of thoughtful, highly influential individuals who have the power to sway the public needle in favor of a brand or business. In the biz we call them influencers, and brands everywhere are falling over themselves to develop relationships with these folks.
On the internet you will find many articles detailing intricate, multi-step strategies to help brands develop influencer relationships, but I am going to eschew that trend and give you one singular tip that is almost certainly more important than anything else I can explain to you about the topic: be authentic.
Far too often in the world of integrated marketing and PR, influencers, journalists and other individuals that PR practitioners chase down to help tell their brand story are placed on a pedestal, to such a degree that these elusive thought leaders are viewed as a trophy that should be won. This is a dangerous and unproductive mindset.
The core idea behind developing an influencer relationship is that the influencer in question will advocate on behalf of the brand. This is intuitively obvious, but there’s another component to this idea that is often lost: they advocate on behalf of the brand because both have similar visions, values and interests.
As such, the best way to develop an influencer relationship of this ilk is to find common ground. Figure out what they like, and find out how it matches you, your brand and your interests, and then cultivate that relationship much in the same way that you would build a friendship in real life. Social media is perfect for cultivating these kinds of relationships. Platforms like Twitter allow brand representatives to engage in direct conversation with the trend-setters in the industry. You can add insight, build on their discussions, create discussions and help provide them with the information they need to accomplish their goals. If you want someone to speak positively about you (or your brand), the most effective way to do so is build an authentic relationship with them in this manner. Check out 7 steps to Authentic Influencer Marketing from Genuinely which will help guide you in the right direction towards this type of relationship.
What does good influencer relations look like in action?
It is difficult at times to put into words what good relationship-building consists of, so I will use a visual example to show what this looks like in action. For background, Michael Mulvihill is the SVP of Global Content Development for 21st Century FOX, and a large part of his job consists of analyzing television ratings for FOX’s sports properties such as the NFL, MLB and others. FOX and the NFL have faced intense scrutiny over the past month over falling TV ratings for NFL games, and in response to this, Mulvihill has made brilliant use of influencer relations on Twitter to make sure that FOX and the NFL are being represented correctly and fairly by key influencers in the sports media industry.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how Mulvihill does influencer relations the right way.
Sports media and TV ratings jargon aside here, the important takeaway from these two screenshots is that Mulvihill engages with a key influencer in the sports media industry, @SportsTVRatings, to engage in a mutual discussion about topics in the sports media space that both Michael and @SportsTVRatings find interesting and relevant to each of their respective jobs. There’s no agenda here; it is simply an example of two individuals engaging in a discussion around topics they share a mutual interest in.
The next exchange demonstrates why having these types of relationships is important. In response to another week of declining NFL ratings, Mulvihill engages directly with @SportsTVRatings to offer insight and answer questions about the ratings decline. This allows @SportsTVRatings to get the insight he needs, and allows Mulvihill to get the fair and accurate story behind the ratings decline out and into the open.
As a result of these kinds of exchanges, @SportsTVRatings always speaks about FOX and the NFL in a fair and accurate manner, and even frequently corrects other Twitter users who make inaccurate or disparaging claims about the NFL’s ratings declines in an effort to promote topical accuracy.
I feel that this is an excellent example of how influencer relations should be practiced. It is about developing authentic relationships, and then benefitting from the fruits of those relationships in the form of accurate and fair analysis.
Ultimately, there is no magic bullet. If you want influential individuals to speak about you or your brand in a positive, fair and accurate manner, you must develop an authentic relationship with that individual borne out of mutual interests and mutual respect.
For more on influencer relations and the power of listening and engaging, check out our sit down with Ted Rubin here.