Why PR Agencies Are the Best Partners for Influencer Marketing Programs
Marc Pritchard, head of brand for Proctor & Gamble, once sent a message to agencies that has really stuck with me, “your business model is not my problem.” I’m paraphrasing there a bit, but his intention was pretty clear – P&G was looking to shrink their agency roster while gaining greater efficiency, transparency, effectiveness, and expertise. He was no longer interested in supporting a vast, complex, disconnected and costly network of specialist agencies with mixed results. Message received.
For the last year or so at March we have been very focused on building out additional capabilities and areas of expertise that directly map to our client’s business interests and needs. We’re an integrated comms agency – so capabilities such as media relations and content are absolute givens, but in layering on select additional pieces we can serve our clients with a more holistic approach that ultimately delivers greater value and impact.
It’s not that we are a one-stop-shop. We are not – we’ll never offer traditional advertising for example. But, we will offer those communications programs that we are excellent and efficient at. As a result, we’ve invested heavily in a few key areas: brand strategy, digital and influencer marketing.
You’ve already heard from us about how important authentic brand storytelling is. We strongly believe that a brand should invest in understanding and articulating its true essence and how and why that should matter to its customers. Consumers are clamoring for brands that are honest, authentic, transparent. People want to buy and follow brands that reflect their personal beliefs and aspirations and that help them be their best self.
This quest for brand experiences delivered authentically has given rise to thousands of micro and celebrity influencers who hold enormous sway with consumers. Their loyal followers are that because there is a level of belief and trust that brands and media simply do not have today. Brands, marketers and communicators understand this phenomenon, which is why they’re increasingly looking for ways to partner with influencers who can connect their story to a mass audience while making it feel one-to-one, or like you’re getting advice, recommendations and inspiration from a good friend.
Not long ago, brands thought you had to go to a specialist agency to understand and activate influencer programs. My, how times have changed. The importance of brand authenticity, storytelling, and technology have dramatically changed this landscape – and now, PR agencies are the place for influencer marketing chops. Here are three reasons why that is true:
1. We are the shapers and shepherds of your brand story
A good PR agency knows your business inside and out – meaning, we have one eye on the internal compass of the brand and the other eye on the external world’s perception of your brand. We know the “for better and worse” of a brand, its dream, vision and reality. Our brand communications approach does the heavy lifting of synthesizing all these elements, and aligning that with the needs, interests, and challenges of buyers in order to shape a story that gives people a reason to love your brand – reasons that are grounded in the truth.
That storyline is the soul of a good communications program – so us PR folk know its every twist and turn and how and who can give it flight. And, we wouldn’t trust that to just anyone.
2. Relationships and conversations matter
While the strategies and experiences we create are designed for scale, as communicators PR people are most effective in a one-on-one environment. We like nothing more than meeting, talking, sharing, exchanging ideas and information up close and personal. We are relationship people.
This is extremely important when thinking about influencer marketing, where establishing trust, transparency, credibility, and mutual value are the keys to successful partnership. The initial step of influencer marketing may begin as a transactional arrangement, but for people skilled at and inclined toward building relationships – the trajectory toward higher-order partnerships and relationships that will advance and build brand advocacy – bringing influencers inside the brand and providing them a seat at the table is where we set our sights.
3. Technology: the great equalizer
Influencer marketing truly is at the intersection of humanity and technology – equal parts art and science. Establishing valuable, trusted relationships is a big part of influencer marketing, but so is technology. It’s a basic truth that technology makes knowledge, services, capabilities, and opportunities more accessible to more people. In much the same way it’s made shopping easier for consumers or software from companies like Drift makes it easier for companies to engage with B2B buyers, technology is also making it easier for agencies to run influencer marketing campaigns.
Our tech tools and approach help us identify, target, vet, and measure the effectiveness of influencers campaigns faster, more efficiently and effectively. Today, we can use software to speed up influencer identification and reduce by more than half the time it takes to implement, activate and measure influencer programs.
For clients, this means programs are more integrated, storytelling consistent, comprehensive and pervasive, programs are more creative and engaging, brand experiences are richer and more robust, and the brand is enjoying relationships that enable it to engage with audiences via a channel that audiences feel is more authentic and valuable.
For example, March client Ladder is a start-up in the fitness technology space, and they want to reach a very specific type of consumer: someone who is interested in fitness, but not obsessed with it. She doesn’t work out 3 hours a day – but might for 3 hours a week, tops. She wants to stay in shape, but has to do it around a busy schedule that probably includes work and family. Or maybe she used to exercise but stopped, and now wants to get back into it.
Finding an influencer who can reach this type of buyer isn’t as simple as looking up “fitness bloggers.” Some of those influencers might be hardcore workout fanatics, and their content and voice won’t get through to the audience Ladder wants. Instead, March determined that micro influencers were the way to go for their high-loyalty followers, willingness to test and learn, and affinity for convenience and affordable workout options.
The process of identifying 400 of those people, reaching out to them, vetting them, engaging with them, brainstorming and collaborating on content is a massively labor-intensive process that would normally take an army of marketers to locate, which is why brands used to go to specialist agencies to find them.
Thankfully, technology has made the entire identification process much faster and easier. There are simple-to-use and relatively affordable tools that rely on data and analytics to speed up influencer identification, which makes it much more accessible to any marketer, including your PR agency.
In short: authentic storytelling, relationship-first, technology enabled. That’s the social influencer trifecta.