Influencer relations is a key component of most PR programmes today. Sitting alongside tactics like media relations and speaker programmes, using influencers is increasingly recognised as a valuable and impactful activity, with the potential to significantly improve brand reputation. But, even though the discipline is reaching maturity, measuring the impact of influencer relations remains tricky. To address this subject, and to mark AMEC’S Measurement Month, I spoke with marketing guru Scott Guthrie, about all things influencer.
In a lively webinar, we covered topics like:
What is an influencer? And how do they differ from an ‘advocate’ or a ‘celebrity’?
Scott explained that the terms ‘influencer‘ and ‘advocate’ are often used interchangeably, but there’s an important difference. While an advocate is a brand supporter, an influencer is someone who is able to change an audience’s sentiment towards a brand – and not always positively.
Indeed, just because you’re not actively working with influencers doesn’t mean they’re not talking about you anyway. Scott reminded us about the hundreds of thousands of TikTok users who gathered behind a small group of influencers to buy tickets for (and then not attend) a Donald Trump rally recently – significantly impacting on the way Trump’s event panned out, but certainly not employed by the outgoing president.
Celebrities, explained Scott, are different again. They can lend their name and fame to a campaign, but won’t necessarily have an affinity with it or expertise about it. Instead, an influencer is likely to have a community of followers interested specifically in their opinions – and will engage in a two way conversation with their audience (rather than a celebrity’s one way broadcast.)
How do I measure influencer campaigns?
Like any other PR discipline, the measurement of influencer relations can be tricky, says Scott. But the key to success is in a steady and robust process/workflow, with strategic objectives at the core. That way, you can move beyond meaningless metrics – like impressions, followers, mentions and more – towards something more important.
Crucial to setting objectives is considering what you want your audience to do as a result of your campaign. Only when you work out what you want to achieve, can you begin to track progress. Scott reminds us that it’s not always about outcomes or end goals, though, but steps along the journey towards solid brand engagement.
When it comes to setting KPIs, for many, engagement is the most important metric – determining how many people are actually paying attention to your campaign.These people are likely to convert if given the proper care and nurturing.
And questions are an especially valuable form of engagement. Are the influencer’s followers asking questions about your products or campaign? This can reveal sticking points about your offering, or how you can better communicate about your brand in the future. You’ll also want to hop into the conversation from time to time to provide answers that the influencer may not be able to.
Who owns influencer relations?
Scott reported that one tricky question comes up time and again: who is responsible for influencers? It is PR? Marketing? A mixture of both? And why does it matter?
As influencer relations matures as a discipline, Scott believes it needs better leadership, not more concrete ownership. Ownership, he says, conjures images of silos and walls, and as comms disciplines become more blurred, the practice of influencer relations needs someone to lead a collaborative approach, not to ‘own’ it.
He tells us that while marketing and PR might want different things out of influencer relations, marketing is traditionally more aligned with a straightforward sales funnel, while PR goals might be more nebulous. Success is more likely to be found when the two work in tandem, on collaborative approaches to meet their objectives.
What can influencer relations do for a brand?
Seeing influencers just as a way to shift products is short-sighted, says Scott – influencer relations is much more nuanced than that.
He referenced some cases of big brands using influencers to curate opinions, inspire action and to increase positive sentiment. From reducing casualties on a Dutch railway system, and increasing stem cell donations in Germany, to influencer engagements by WHO and the United Nations that communicate messages around COVID-19, the case studies are plentiful – and diverse.
Crucially, says Scott, using influencers can help us to tap into a hard to reach element of society – like a large and growing section of the population that no longer reads a newspaper, watches live tv or engages with brands.
Has there been an influencer backlash?
In the Q&A section, one audience member asked whether there has been a backlash against influencers. Some, said Scott – but this just means that we’re becoming more selective over which influencers we trust. Just as we do with our newspapers, we know who we like, who shares our world view – and importantly, who we believe.
Of course, choosing influencers wisely for a campaign limits the possibility of any negative feeling towards a brand. Scott reminded the audience that choosing who to engage with shouldn’t just be about reach or follower count, but on synergies with the brand, relevance to the campaign and domain expertise.
Scott ended by acknowledging that mainstream media has ‘a downer on influencers’, and this might be in part because newspapers are vying for the same ad spend as influencers are. But, he reminded us, even media moguls use influencers to promote their own messages, and so – despite any protests – the power of the influencer is recognised by all.
Catch the webinar on-demand over on the Resource Hub.
Orla is an Account Director at CARMA, with 13 years of experience in media analysis and insights. She has a particular interest in the not-for-profit sector, having contributed a chapter on evaluation of ‘Communicating Causes: Strategic Public Relations for the Non-profit Sector’ (2018, ed Garsten & Bruce), and is a member of the AMEC Not-for-Profit group, and its Young Leaders group. Aside from her passion for the measurement industry, Orla can often be found singing her heart out with London mega choir Some Voices, or staring longingly at dogs in the park across from her flat.