4 PR Tips to Demystify Influencer Outreach
Trust + Reach = Influence
Influencers have earned their audience’s loyalty. Their communities consider them trusted authorities. And PR pros have caught on to the fact that they provide a great conduit for their messages. According to a recent article in Inc., influencer marketing delivers 11x ROI over all other forms of digital media. So, if you’re trying to increase engagement, reaching out to a few key influencers (whether paid or unpaid) to help you spread the word is a smart strategy.
The first step in finding the right influencers is to make sure you understand the audience you are ultimately trying to reach. For example, if you have a demographic that is primarily on Instagram, they won’t be swayed by an article in Slate. For one, they might never see it. And even if they do, it’s not where they connect with their community. The first step in finding the right influencer is to go where your audience is. Once you’re there, look for signs of two-way engagement, including compelling content and followers who re-share it.
Influencers include journalists, analysts, social celebrities, bloggers, and spokespeople. The lines are increasingly getting blurred between all of these categories. Journalists expand their reach on social, while social media personalities find themselves being taken more and more seriously by traditional media. But for the sake of simplicity, we explain how to assess trust and reach in two categories::
Journalists—They are trusted based on how respected their publication is, as well as for their individual work. Often, their reach is dependent entirely on the publication. For example, an NY Times staff journalist has substantial reach (based on subscriptions and pass-thru) and is presumably well respected. Otherwise, he/she would not be writing for the NY Times. Influence is, therefore, based on the credentials of the publication.
Social Influencer—Online influencers don’t have the reputations of their publications to rely on. They are trusted based on the quality of their content and the enthusiasm with which their readers back them up and amplify their message. Their reach is determined by a network, usually made up of well-trafficked social media platforms or owned media channels, such as blogs.
So, how does a PR pro decide which influencer is more important? That answer depends on your brand’s goals, your company, product, or campaign.
Keep These in Mind When Strategizing for Influence Marketing
- Research, research, research. If you’re reaching out to journalists, look beyond their prescribed “beat.” Instead, see what type of stories they’ve written over the last six months to a year, an arts and culture writer might cover science and technology when discussing their impact on artists; a business writer might cover the field of architecture and design when discussing their role in driving economic change. Access a journalist database to begin your research and use that knowledge to consider how you’d craft a pitch. On social channels, you’ll also want to search for keywords and see who’s posting on those topics and generating engagement. Publications and organizations also have social accounts, so you’ll want to find ones related to you and see who is active on their channels.
- Know your platform. Look at how engagement happens on the media platform where you want to promote your brand or grow your following. Ask yourself, are you looking for comments on Instagram? For your hashtag to trend on Twitter? Click-thrus to your site? Make sure you know how you’d like the community to engage, before you contact prospective influencers. By focusing in on specific behavior, you’ll more easily see how a given influencer could be effective at provoking the response you’re looking for.
- Know your intended audience. Make sure you know the audience you’re hoping to influence. Don’t approach an influencer without knowing the same information that they possess about the demographic of the community. Sketch a persona of a community member whom you’re hoping to promote to: How old are they? Where do they generally live? What are their buying and engagement habits? Drill down as deep as possible to their wants, so that you know why your brand aligns with their community and can provide an influencer with guidance and clear targets.
- Craft relevant and original pitches. When approaching influencers, you may be tempted to save yourself time by sending out a form letter to both bloggers and journalists, alike. Don’t put the onus on them for how they might want to cover your brand or topic. Make sure you understand how you’d like to work with each influencer and craft a pitch that makes sense for them and their community. In the current information saturated landscape, a PR pitch that is relevant shows the influencer that you understand their position in a community and it will have a bigger chance of convincing them.
By considering these tips when researching influencers for your campaign, your outreach will be both more relevant and much more diverse. The playing field of the influencer is messy and includes the classically trained journalists, citizen journalists, online influencers, and everything in between. So, before you dive in, think about how to research and approach influencers for maximum success–for both your brand and the community.
Read about fine tuning your PR and marketing messages to win over influencers and better engage your audience in our Jeff Bullas penned ebook, 11 Lessons that PR Professionals Need to Learn in a Digital World.
*The concepts in this article are based on a previous article published on this site in December 2013 by Marc Cowlin.