The most successful PR programs include support of influencers to build reach and credibility, Serena Ehrlich asserts in The Age of Influencers: How to Engage Influencers to Amplify Your PR Program.
Ehrlich, of Business Wire, acknowledges that while press releases generate links and brand awareness, they’re not enough to elevate corporate and brand messages above the competition. Influencers boost PR programs by delivering trusted recommendations and valuable word-of-mouth referrals to consumers.
Influencers also generate authoritative links, which positively affect your brand’s SEO.
Lists like CyberAlert’s 30 Most Influential Bloggers in Public Relations assist PR specialists in locating the influencers for their industry, but Ehrlich also notes an influencer is defined by more than just his or her Klout score and social media reach.
Influencers fall into two categories: high trust and high reach.
High trust influencers carry great credibility among friends, clients, family, colleagues, and other personal contacts. They may have smaller reach, but are willing to share their enthusiasm for a brand with little or no incentive. PR managers can identify these brand fans by monitoring online news and social networks, and by coordinating with sales teams.
High reach influencers are often paid influencers like celebrities, journalists and high-impact bloggers who agree to engage with your brand for short-term projects. While they don’t guarantee the same trust or brand advocacy, they offer great exposure.
Ehrlich shares a 5-step process for creating, launching and measuring an influencer program:
Step 1: Know your brand objectives.
Does the brand want to drive sales, increase downloads, or spread awareness? Objectives define the type of influencers you reach out to, the message and the channels to deliver that message.
Step 2: Focus on your target audience.
Influencers should be chosen based on the brand’s target audience, not by the influencer’s number of followers. In Blogger Influence: How Brands Measure It, and How Bloggers Wish They Would, Cindy Meltzer explains how a blogger with a small, loyal readership can have just as much influence on their readers as top-tier blogs.
Step 3: Lead with the value proposition.
Brands must provide influencers with educational and valuable materials, but also allow the influencer to join and share their own experience. PR managers may also want to consider payment options, as most influencers now expect to be paid for their efforts — with nearly 80 percent preferring cash compensation.
Step 4: Launch the program.
Mobilize influencers with a central, relevant task for their audience to do (share a link, try a service, watch a video, go to an event, etc.) and provide compelling content to support this action. Ehrlich suggests delivering a wide range of content formats, including text, video, images and infographics. Brands may also consider offering influencers sneak peeks, free samples, and opportunities to participate in events or surveys.
Step 5: Measure the program.
As always, PR must monitor and measure efforts to determine ROI and compliance. Influencer program measurements should include:
- Social shares
- Inbound links
- Increased mentions and discussions of key message points
- Actions taken by audience
- Increased mailing list subscriptions
- Increased reviews on platforms
Bottom line: brands should integrate influencer outreach into their PR program to broaden the impact and credibility of their messages.