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The New PR and IR Influencers: Are They On Your Side?

The New PR and IR Influencers: Are They On Your Side?

[By Sanjay Kulkarni, Marketwired Vice President, Product & Marketing]

If you’re in public relations, investor relations or marketing, you know that the way people find, consume and share information today is vastly different from the way they did just a few years ago. Although the focus is still on establishing and fostering relationships, it’s no longer solely directed to a finite group of members of the media or analysts who control the news and content that consumers, shareholders and other stakeholders see.

Now, influencing how people think is anyone’s game. A new breed of PR and IR influencers – e.g., bloggers, subject matter experts, social media mavens, key customers – has risen to the top in virtually every industry and they’re holding sway on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, news sites and on dozens of other online venues. When one of these pundits says something, his or her followers pay close attention and regularly share the information with their own networks. Companies are increasingly embracing this new paradigm with their wallets as shown in the 2015 Tomoson survey of marketing professionals:

  • More than half of the survey respondents believe they acquire better customers through influencer marketing.
  • Businesses are making $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing.
  • Approximately 59% of marketers are planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next 12 months.

In a webinar Marketwired recently hosted on influencer relationship management, panelists (all influencers themselves) Shonali Burke (@Shonali), Gini Dietrich (@GiniDietrich), Jeff Domansky (@ThePRCoach) and Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge) helped attendees understand how to tap into their influencer networks, turn influencers into advocates, and generate insights and leads. Following are few of their tips.

You Can Never Do Enough Research

Step one is to find the people who sway opinions in your industry, and for your type of company, products or services. The time you spend putting keywords together, testing them to see what influencer-generated content matches turn up, and digging into an influencer’s online profile and social footprint – these activities are key to identifying the right influencers. Time spent on that research is critical – give it the respect it deserves.

And look beyond the expected. You may find influencers on Twitter, but they might also be on SlideShare, Instagram, Vimeo or YouTube – and on many other platforms. Don’t limit yourself to journalists, bloggers or known analysts. Consider anyone who is active in the conversations going on in your industry, such as content curators or blog editors.

Think Quality over Quantity

Influence is about how trusted and respected someone is by his or her network of followers and the level of engagement between them – it’s not about how many followers someone has. Sure, you can find a celebrity to endorse your product or service and you’ll get a lot of attention. But unless that celebrity also happens to be a respected influencer in your industry for your type of product, he or she won’t carry much weight as a credible resource. A tip is to look for micro influencers who are trusted in their niches. Find out who’s already talking about your industry and look for their visibility and engagement scores. Then assess the content these people are sharing and get familiar with what they’re talking about.

Relationship-building comes First

Once you find the influencers you want as your brand advocates, make them aware of your brand: what you do and how you excel, and why they should get to know you and recommend your products or services. So before you go for the ‘ask’ it’s critical that you establish solid relationships. A couple of good ideas: Hold expert roundups. Choose six influencers in your field, feature them on a weekly blog post and share their content. Conduct weekly ‘inquisitions’: interview up-and-comers as well as known influencers, and then write and share regular recaps of those interviews.

Craft Your Hook

What content do you have that an influencer – and his or her followers – will find valuable? Why would someone need it, care about it and want to share it? Before you reach out, determine what assets you have and how you can make them appealing to the conversations that your influencers are engaging in. Offer real solutions, relevant research, case studies, quality information – anything super easy for them to share and use. Include photos, charts, graphs, infographics, slide presentations, videos – don’t just think about the printed word. Consider developing a menu of assets that are easy to share on different platforms.

Nurture and Maintain

Don’t forget to thank your influencers. Get in the habit of going through the mentions you received during the past week, and on Friday send those influencers a tweet and say ‘thanks for the share’. Whenever possible, talk up your influencers in your posts, and link to them on your blog and other social media platforms. These are great way to strengthen your relationships.

Bottom Line: Cultivating Influencer Relationships is a Must

Building and managing relationships with key influencers is essential for virtually any business today. Although the traditional press is still influential and must not be discounted, the playing field has widened dramatically. So much so, in fact, that ignoring all those other individuals out there who shape opinions about brands and their products and services is a huge mistake. In essence, the public relations – and investor relations – functions have evolved into influencer relations functions.

Sanjay KulkarniAbout the Author: Sanjay Kulkarni leads Marketwired’s product and marketing teams in driving the success of the Marketwired brand and its flagship product Marketwired Resonate, an integrated news release and social communication platform that features leading-edge tools to identify, connect and engage with influencers. Sanjay hails from Deloitte and ADP Canada where he was responsible for product strategy, pricing, product management and marketing, and product P&L.

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