Opinion: Influencer Marketing – it’s a case of PR evolving

Last month, Good Relations’ Joe Friel revealed his top tips for PRs when approaching influencers for brand partnerships. Hannah Lynch, senior account director at Alfred, now argues that it isn’t just the approach that PRs should be thinking about – its the ideas and concepts, the core of what PR has to offer, that will lead to influencer marketing success.

Hannah Lynch Alfred

Hannah Lynch

The recent Gorkana News opinion piece, Seven deadly ways to approach an influencer, was a very interesting read for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, every point was absolutely valid and extremely important, when approaching influencers we need to be personal, relevant, honest and negotiate fairly, so that both our client and the influencer themselves get something out of the partnership.

It was interesting for a second reason too, there’s nothing radical about making sure pitches are relevant, the content of an email is correct and that we’re not offering something that we might then take a u-turn on. Aren’t these the same principles all good PRs are already applying to straight forward media relations?

The real skill behind influencer marketing isn’t in the way we approach the content creators. That should be a given based on our experience with all manner of tricky journalist. As agencies, our value is behind ideas and concepts we present to the influencers.

It’s about taking time to really understand their channels and working collaboratively to develop content which, yes, fits the client’s brief or hits it’s key messaging objective, but importantly feels natural and organic to the individual style of the influencer. That’s when we’ll reap the benefits of strong, genuine engagement.

The true expertise lies is developing a full influencer strategy, with multiple threads of content and themes that can be executed in different ways to fit within individual styles, but also come together as a cohesive campaign. It’s about working back from the desired outcome and finding the right influencers who can broadcast the right messaging to the right audience we need to reach.

But wait a minute, doesn’t this sound all too familiar again? This is the same approach as an integrated PR campaign, just shifting focus from media outlets to influencer channels. To make a truly successful campaign, influencer marketing should be viewed as one of those threads running through a wider comms campaign.

There’s a clear industry trend of agencies opening up influencer divisions and specific teams dedicated to the art of influencer marketing, but is there really a need for this? It’s clever agency PR and business strategy, but influencer marketing shouldn’t be seen a separate role or skill, it’s simply that our definition of ‘PR’ is evolving.

It’s the equivalent of the online and social agencies of 10 years ago, cropping up to fill in the elusive knowledge gap, when traditional PR agencies didn’t really know what to do with this thing called the internet. We’ve since seen many of those agencies wrapped back up into integrated teams or broadened out to PR and comms shops.

So what happens to these new influencer divisions and companies in a few years’ time, when influencer marketing is as ‘go to’ for PR people, as online coverage is to us now?

Perhaps as an industry, we should be more nimble and less worried about name tags, by all means selling influencer expertise to clients as a skill and capitalising on this is an exciting time of campaign testing and development, but all PRs, from interns to MDs, should be able to swiftly turn their hands to influencer marketing.

Whether it be on the basic level of treating your approach emails with the same thought and respect as a journalist pitch, through to the strategic thinking behind influencer activity and how it can support, or even lead a PR campaign, everyone should keep it front of mind.

Successful influencer marketing is at our finger-tips. All PRs have the ability and the knowledge to hand, but real skill is required to put the spin on the PR approach and change the way campaigns are executed.

  • Hannah Lynch is a senior account director at integrated comms agency Alfred.

Gorkana launched a Guide to Influencer Marketing White Paper last month, whGorksWP alertich seeks to find out how an “influencer” is defined, what impact they have on PR, whether an influencer campaign can really be determined as earned media and what PRs need to think about before trying to find the right person who can positively impact their brand.
Download your free copy here.

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