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Public Relations has undergone a massive shift in the past two years with the digital landscape opening up far more opportunities for brand exposure. Everything and everyone is online, and media (in the traditional sense) are no longer the primary conveyors of information.
Bloggers and influencers have become an important publicity channel for brands to tap into to amplify brand messages and gain credibility and authenticity from third parties. However, the key to successful influencer engagement is finding the right fit for your brand. As we enter 2016, here are a few tips for getting the relationship right with influencers:
1. Research, research, research
When identifying influencers do your homework. Check their social media accounts to gauge their audience, reach, number of followers, engagement and interests and see what topics they’re talking about. Have they been involved with competing brands or do they engage in any controversial topics that go against your client’s brand and values? Make sure you know the answers before taking things further.
2. Build relationships
Developing good influencer relationships takes time. The secret is to engage with them via their social media platforms on an on-going basis. Get involved in their conversations, show interest and enthusiasm and get to know them personally. That way, should you approach them to be part of a brand campaign in the future, you’re already half way to securing their involvement.
3.Have an informal agreement in place
Once you’ve got their buy-in, put everything in writing – no matter how good you think your relationship is. It’s not as formal as a contract but it’s vital to outline specific details of the campaign and establish a clear understanding of what the expectations are – for both sides.
It’s also important to state clearly upfront whether there will be any remuneration or reward for their involvement. Have clear terms in place should the influencer decide to pull out at the last minute or during the campaign (these things happen).
4. To pay or not to pay – that is the question?
A few years ago, bloggers and online influencers were happy to receive products and services from brands and would often reciprocate with coverage. But as they’ve gained credibility and become increasingly influential, they’ve rightfully realised their worth.
This means simply sending free product and hoping for coverage can actually do more harm than good – especially if your product has absolutely nothing to do with anything the blogger is interested in. Treat bloggers and influencers as creative partners rather than just another channel. Involve them in your thinking – let them add their insights at the conceptual stage to get optimal value from the relationship.
Find some form of reward, trade-exchange or remuneration that works for both the brand and the influencer. Obviously, it goes without saying that celebrity endorsement is a different kettle of fish and if this approach is taken, it almost always involves a monetary compensation and should be budgeted for upfront.
Respect the influencer’s opinions or decisions as you would a journalist. Remember they’re an influencer for a reason and the amplification of your brand message will only have gravitas if it aligns with the voice and personality of the influencer. For example, a sarcastic post might be their way of engaging their audience and will still extend reach – if it fits with your brand.
6. Don’t forget about them
Once your campaign is over don’t just forget about them, you never know when you might need them again. Relationships have become more important than ever in this digital environment where there is such a lack of personal interaction.
Nurturing your influencer network is key to building long-term partnerships – pick up the phone and chat to them once your campaign is over, ask them what they did and didn’t like, take them for a coffee and continue to chat with them on their social channels. A little bit of care can go a long way.