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The best tools and techniques for connecting with influencers

Getting the right people to shout about your brand is a PR technique that is as old as the hills. As Cairbre Sugrue, founder and principal at agency Sugrue Communications, says: "Working out who your influencers are has always been fundamental to being successful in PR, especially when it comes to planning campaigns”. He adds: “In ye olden times it used to be called a media list and maintaining it was a tedious, time-consuming job that every junior account executive cherished… NOT”.

Thank goodness that technology has moved on. “Today’s analytical tools have dramatically sped up the process and given us a range of metrics to choose from to justify our choice of influencer. However, whilst the software can provide smart analysis of influence it should be incumbent on the PR to dig into that data.” This highlights that influencer strategy is not just about technology, PR expertise is vital. Sugrue points out the value that skilled PROs bring: “I believe it is an essential part of the expertise we offer to demonstrate we know the audiences we’re seeking to engage with, especially when they’re sophisticated influencers who are well aware of their social capital in digital channels. The tools simplify ranking, qualify what they are interested in, who they’re connected with and influencing, but the PRO needs to use his or her experience and expertise to translate that information into actionable insights."  

Another PRO skill that is required is navigating any red tape that may entangle brands when they want to reach out to so many people, but so far the regulations are not too restictive. Jim Hawker, co-founder of PR agency Threepipe, says: “I have often called influencer marketing the ‘new wild west’ because until recently there seemed to be little in the way of laws and regulation! That seems to be changing fast though as the channel matures and brands and regulators begin to get more of a grip.”

As influencer marketing is such a broad field and there are so many tools available, we asked influencer experts to share their top tips.

Insider secrets of influencer marketing

Kate Matlock, associate digital director at PR firm Ketchum London: “At Ketchum, we use a blend of tools, know-how and experience to identify, vet and select the most appropriate influencer for our clients’ campaigns.

“Before we begin, we first ask how an influencer strategy will directly align to the client’s business objectives. From there, we define the role they will play, the benefit they add to the brand, the channel to play on (audience-based), and the KPIs. Knowing these sets the framework for an influencer identification brief.

“Using social media monitoring tools, we are able to map out the conversation online and identify those who are influential in this discussion. As well as ensuring relevance, we look at a range of measures including reach, engagement and audience to ensure that we select the most appropriate influencers for the campaign.

“After creating a shortlist, we then manually screen these individuals. We review a sample of the influencer’s content to see whether s/he is the right fit for our client in terms of values, tone of voice, adherence to disclosure rules, ability to consistently create compelling content and any previous tie-ins with competitors.

“We can then present a shortlist to the client along with our recommendation.”

Lucy Hart, head of influence at PR agency Mischief: “Good influencer strategy starts with insight. Getting under the skin of the audience is essential in order to map the most relevant influencers and channels to market to a brand’s target consumer.

“Once channels are clear, we combine analytics and human interpretation. Toolscan search out relevancy, reach and engagement – all important metrics. But a human touch is the vital element. Only client knowledge allows you to ensure that an influencer is the right brand fit, suits the tone of voice and creates quality content.

“With many audiences becoming less trusting in both brands and the media, independent voices play a significant – and growing – role in reaching consumers.”

Jim Hawker, co- founder of PR agency Threepipe:

“We use a variety of tools to identify the right influencers as part of our campaigns, many of which are free and many of which are subscription based. Our approach varies from channel to channel depending on the ad tech that is available to us in each of the channels. We have been experimenting with automation platforms recently to deliver influencer campaigns at scale as well as working with handpicked influencers for others. Which path we take depends entirely on the objectives of the campaign, eg, awareness versus sales. We are seeing a trend of influencer marketing being funded by media buying budgets rather than from PR and so the objectives are tending to be harder metrics than purely just awareness.

"What is clear though is that the investment in influencer marketing is rising fast and so the selection as well as the measurement of the influencers is crucial to understanding ROI."

Adam Parker, head data chef at agency Lissted: "Most influencer analysis tools start by seeking out content producers – articles, blog posts, tweets – that match a keyword string. The results are then ranked against metrics such as reach, relevance and resonance.

"This approach creates a real danger of what I think of as the content fallacy of influence. Just because I produce content about a topic, or engage in related conversations, doesn’t mean I’m influencing the relevant people to your business objective.

"A search for UK 'public relations' in a leading content based influencer platform brought up @talktokemi (ranked 3rd) and @adbdul_ent (4th). I assume this is because they’ve produced content that referenced the term. Neither of them is followed by a single member of this list of UK PR influencers. A quick look through their profiles suggests this irrelevance would have been spotted quickly, but not every flawed result will be as obvious. Many may appear sufficiently relevant that they end up in a final list, but their true influence potential may be very limited.

"PR planning should start by identifying who you’re seeking to influence. Once you’ve identified these groups, try and understand who is mostly likely to be influential in relation to them – who do they follow and interact with. Only then should you seek to analyse the content and conversations these individuals produce."

Sophie Chadwick, account director at pr agency Peppermint Soda"we believe that choosing which influencers you wish to work with before thinking about your audience is a bit like putting the cart before the horse. Why? Because if you don’t know what your audience looks like, how they think or where they ‘hang out’, then how can you define their ideal influencer set?

"Only when you truly know your target audience can you select the right people to help you take your campaigns to the next level. After you’ve researched who they are, you then need to investigate the type of content they post. That’s because having good audience knowledge and a clear understanding of your influencers means that you are two-thirds of the way to influencer-marketing perfection.

"So, what’s the missing piece to form the Holy Trinity of influencer marketing? Content creation. The content you create needs to speak to your audience. be true to your influecer's tone and deliver your brand's message in a way that resonates.

"When you overlap these three spheres you have struck the influencer-marketing jackpot."

 As with many 'new' forms of marketing, influencer marketing has spawned a vast array of tools, not to mention plenty of jargon, that can be confusing. But the principles are the same as with any other PR: do your research in order to communicate to the right people in the right way.

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