The Age of Influencers: How to Engage Influencers to Amplify Your PR Program

By Serena Ehrlich, Director, Social & Evolving Media, Business Wire

Twenty years ago, a PR professional looking to increase awareness of their company among key constituents might write up a press release, pitch journalists, share the subsequent articles with company management, clients and colleagues and consider his or her day a success. Unfortunately, those days are over.

With so much more informative content created and distributed every day, it takes more and more third party support for a message to cut through the clutter and resonate with key constituents. To reach this goal, many PR professionals are enlisting influencers to bring the message directly to their loyal fan base.

Here are a few great reasons to use influencers to increase your PR program:

  1. Influencers provide trusted recommendations, increasing highly valuable word of mouth referrals
  2. Influencers generate engagement and conversation across social networks, broadening the impact of your message
  3. Influencers can generate high authoritative links which positively affect SEO
  4. Influencers generate action and conversion (including sales!)

Who can be an influencer for media programs?

Anyone! Celebrities, industry thought leaders, bloggers, customers, brand fans, prospects, coworkers, colleagues, family and more.  Your company and goals as well as the potential impact and ROI they can provide determine the influencers you select.

Influencers fall into two core categories: 

High Trust (smaller group of people) influencers such as brand advocates including friends, clients, family and colleagues; those who are writing reviews on Walmart or Amazon, creating YouTube videos or discussing you on Facebook or Reddit. These high trust influencers will share your information with little or no incentive but tend to have a smaller reach, including more one-on-one interaction. Asking your sales teams for brand fans, reading industry product reviews, utilizing Google Alerts and even your mentions on Twitter can help you identify your high trust influencers.

High Reach (larger group of people) influencers are often paid influencers, such as celebrities, journalists, and high impact bloggers engaged for a short-term project. These influencers do not represent the same amount of trust in the brand as a socially active brand fan, but provide great exposure for your organization, reaching many people at one time. Tweetbinder and Topsy are excellent tools for finding brand fans who write on a particular topic on a regular basis.

What you need to know to create an influencer program

It is NOT sharing out your existing advertising but rather creating new experiences specifically for the influencer and their fans.  You must:

  1. Know your brand objectives—are you trying to drive sales, downloads, awareness, or message permeation?
  2. Understand context is king. Humans act upon information based on the source of the news; the more influential the source, the more likely the action taken.
  3. Lead with the value proposition. Clearly understand you must provide influencers both educational and valuable brand experiences that allow them to join in and share their own experience, authentically and naturally.  After all, as The New York Times notes, people share for 6 core reasons, including to bring valuable and/or entertaining content to others or to help people.

Once you launch an influencer program, how do you scale it?

You must mobilize your key influencers with a central and relevant task for their audience to do (share a link, try a product, watch a video, or go to a location).  Then provide compelling content in a wide range of formats such as text, video, images, infographics and more to support this action. Your program must make it easy for influencers to share with friends and followers. Give them messaging, and even consider hosting the sharing tools for them. Do not forget to provide long form and short form FTC disclosure language to ensure compliance, and include call to action links such as a discount or sample code. Give them something enticing, driving immediate action.

Influencer programs are part of a larger integrated program, not a one-off campaign. You want to build long-term relationships. You do not have to keep sending free samples. You should create an ongoing engagement strategy. Consider giving them access to proprietary data, sneak peeks on advertising creative, product samples, and even opportunities to participate in product brainstorms and focus groups.

Of course, monitor your influencer programs frequently to determine ROI and compliance. Program measurements include:

  1. Social shares (sharetally.com is a great free tool to see shares by URLs)
  2. Inbound links
  3. Increased adoption of and discussions on key message points
  4. Actions taken by audience
  5. Increased mailing list subscriptions
  6. Increased reviews on influential platforms (Amazon, Walmart and more)

PR professionals and marketers alike are amplifying their programs and products within key demographics, with incredible success, with value-based influencer programs.  Looking to start one of your own and have questions?  Let us know!  Are you doing an influencer program now?  We’d love to hear more about it.

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