When we think about the future we think about words and terms like innovation, integrated, technology and data. Increasingly we see a faster moving world where lines are blurred between disciplines, structures, and ownership of information and content. Into that future mix, we should add influencer marketing. In the same way that digital and social have upended the traditional activities and results in the PR industry, so too has influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing is the fastest-growing part of the industry, and agencies shouldn’t miss out on growth opportunity. In some cases, agencies think of influencer marketing as a discipline that does not belong to PR; we tend to think of media as the influencer relationship we own. But an influencer is just a channel for reaching an audience.
Sometimes agencies are slow to understand this. For example, media isn’t an influencer, people are influencers — the analysts, bloggers, reporters, etc. are the influencers. What PR owns is the brand’s story and our job is to find the right channel(s) to reach the brand’s audience. This is our domain and the area where we sell.
What is important to remember is that influencers and influencer marketing are just tools to do the same job we have always done. It is our job to represent a brand, and to help our clients’ brands tell the story they want to tell, and to measure the effectiveness of our efforts in that area.
The danger with influencer marketing is the temptation to see influencers as a shiny new gadget that magically spreads awareness and drives sales. The truth is that we as practitioners have to guide our clients to remain focused on strategy and authenticity. What is the soul of the brand, what is the narrative, and how do we stay true to that?
The rise of AI influencer marketing provides an illustration. For a company whose product is in deep tech innovation, AI influencer marketing may be a cool way to advance the narrative and showcase the brand, but for a more traditional consumer lifestyle product, a traditional influencer is probably a more strategic and authentic choice.
Measurement in the influencer space, likewise, is both conventional and not conventional. The first question that must be asked is what is the client trying to achieve? Is it driving sales, driving downloads, or driving traffic? Whatever it is the client needs, we have to set metrics against that and craft an influencer campaign that will accomplish that. What we don’t want to end up with is a campaign that drives only short-term transactional gains, while trapping the narrative in a space where its position quickly erodes.
To create a successful influencer campaign, we have to know what is being measured, and how it is being measured. But we also need to know why we are measuring what we’re measuring! Be authentic to the brand. It’s not good enough to just want coverage, or just want influencers, or to just have Instagram. The decisions have to be logical and critical for the brand. How does the story work and move forward and how does the influencer campaign fit into the story?
This advice translates to young practitioners in the PR space. Listening and learning will always be your best first steps. Hear what the client has to say, understand what it is they need, and take the time to truly understand the brand, and its story. Importantly, be authentic.
To hear more, listen to Jennefer Witter’s episode on the Agencies of the Future podcast.