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Eight tips on working with influencers from Andrew Bloch, founder of Frank PR

There has been a lot of chat recently about the new growth area of PR - influencer relations. Whether this really a new frontier for public relations or just another example of digital marketing moving towards the centre ground of public relations is arguable but here Frank PR founder and all round nice guy Andrew Bloch outlines eight questions to ask when working with influencers.

1. How frequently are influencers used by your agency now, and how has this changed in the past two years? How would you explain the change?

Influencer engagement is a big part of what Frank does. We've always believed that there are few things that drive sales more effectively than word-of-mouth recommendation – we call it Talkability® and it’s a registered trademark of the agency. Influencer marketing presents a great opportunity for brands to leverage the power of word-of-mouth at scale through personalities that consumers already follow and admire. Influencer marketing is not new – For years brands have sought out commentators they can engage with. Reliable people they can brief to act as informal, credible, talking heads on their behalf. The difference now is you can purchase that influence from people who have emerged in the past few years and now command audiences larger than most print publications, and more viewers than primetime TV programmes. As the world has shifted online, consumers look at fellow consumers to inform their purchasing decisions. Instead of looking at companies, as they did in the past, they now look at each other and at their favourite personalities, who are consolidating massive followings on You Tube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms. The rise of the social media influencer creates a world of possibilities. It opens up a new channel for brands to connect with consumers more directly, more organically, and at scale. 

2. What are the advantages of using ‘influencers’ over more traditional celebrities to promote products and/or causes?

When working with influencers it is important is to ensure relevance and authenticity. Using influencers only works when the endorsement is well targeted, believable and credible. The right influencers can provide access to their social media network of engaged followers. Most influencers will want to input in the creation and production of the content they put out, often demanding full creative control, in order to ensure the authenticity of the content they publish. In addition to gaining reach, what we are actually buying is their ability to film, edit and create engaging content. We're benefiting from the relationship they've spent years building with their audience. In addition to brand building and the potential to impact sales, influencer marketing can also help your search engine ranking. 

3. What are the disadvantages?

As the popularity of influencers has grown, so too has the commercialisation of the space. When financially remunerating influencers it is important to be able to value the return on investment that can be achieved, the same way in which you would with a 'traditional' celebrity.

4. How do you measure the effectiveness of influencers?

One of the big advantages of working with influencers is that it is relatively straight forward to measure the effectiveness of campaigns. Effectiveness can be measured via a whole host of metrics including reach, engagement and, providing the right metrics are put in place, direct link to sales. There are five key ways, you can measure the effectiveness of an influencer campaign:

a) Total Investment. You need to determine how much you are actually investing in influencer marketing before figuring out return on investment. 

b) Reach and Ratio. It is easy to make the mistake of focusing on the number of followers that an influencer has. Whilst a high number of followers could be advantageous, it does not necessarily guarantee the results you want if their followers are not engaged. An influencer with a smaller, but much more involved and interactive following, could drive far better results. 

c) Sentiment. The right influencers have the ability to obtain buy-in from the audience. Consequently, it is important to measure the sentiment of your marketing message throughout the campaign, and adjust messages according to the response and reactions they receive. . 

d) Brand Effect. Ultimately, you need to determine what effect the message has on your brand. You need to evaluate such metrics as the amount of traffic generated to your landing page or website, the number of times your product or brand is mentioned online, the number of new subscribers received, or the number of new followers or fans added on social networks.

e) New Sales. For most businesses, the ultimate goal of any influencer campaign will be the number of new sales directly attributed to a marketing message or campaign.

5. Can influencer marketing be effective at targeting older (post-millennial) audiences, and if so, what forms would this take and how is it different?

Influencer marketing isn't just effective for reaching the young generation, there are a whole host of influencers out there who have sizeable post-millennial audiences

6. What proportion of influencers who you work with are paid, and how important is earned-media in influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing done well converts paid media to earned media.

The vast majority of influencers with a significant reach are now paid for their endorsement. As the whole influencer sphere has become more established, with it has come the commercialisation of the industry. As is the case with 'traditional' celebrities, there is no issue in paying for endorsement, so long as the influencer is a believable, credible and authentic voice for the brand. What the influencer puts out is also key – the content and tone of voice needs to engaging and shareable if it is to be effective and generate earned media. It is increasingly rare to find influencers with a significant reach, willing to do stuff for free. There are always exceptions, however, and well targeted content, and a good pitch, can still lead to valuable earned media endorsement. 

7. What impact does the regulatory environment have on influencer-brand ties-ins/campaigns, and how much will this impact on collaborations in the future?

Regulations placed on the influencer industry ensure that any endorsements made are not misleading. Influencer marketing is a creative art that relies heavily on technology and governance to sustain credibility. This translates to full and transparent disclosures.

Consumers accept that the influencers they trust are paid for their work. As long as the content is authentic, useful, and in the influencer’s voice, it’s impact is as strong as editorial content. When brands try to manipulate it into veiled commercial messaging, consumers reject it. 

8. What will influencer marketing look like in five years’ time? (e.g. how common will it be, how would the relationships have changed, etc).

Influencer marketing shows no sign of slowing down. There will be a rise in the number of people cashing in on the industry, be they agents representing influencer talent, or technology platforms enabling easier access to reaching influencers. Influencer marketing will become more costly. Influencers will become more selective in what companies they choose to work with and increase their costs to maintain their earnings. Engagement will grow in significance. 

Article written by Andrew Bloch, founder of agency Frank PR

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