Influencer 101: A guideline for influencer marketing campaigns

Social media post example of influencer marketing

By Corie Fiebiger –  Communications Coordinator

More often than not, businesses and brands are turning to social media influencers to help spread their messages, gain awareness, and win over the masses. These pay-for-play personalities make it their jobs (literally) to make you happy and can change the way your business engages and interacts with potential customers. Successful social media campaigns must be a comprehensive mix of your personalized voice, authentic engagement, worthy visualsbranded and topical posts, and now influencer content. 

Relevant influencer content is great, but not all influencers create equal content. Here are some tips and tactics on what to look for when selecting the right influencer to meet your marketing goals.  

Create Campaign Goals & Targets  

Having a clear idea of your must-haves, required stats, and overall influencer objectives will help you understand the type of influencer you need and can keep you on track if you get overwhelmedNot everyone will be a fit, and it’s important to be particular.  

It will help to have campaign “must-haves” in place to help narrow down the sea of options at your fingertips. Are you looking for influencers in a particular geographic location? Do they meet your minimum follower counts and data markers? This could even be something as specific as what university they attend. 

If your campaign plans to use both paid and unpaid influencers, what are your musthave stats for both categories? Creating a list of influencer and campaign goals at the very beginning of your search will save you invaluable time.  

Find Your Influencers 

Though there might be a plethora of “perfect” people to choose from, finding the right influencer for your brand can be harder than you expect. There are numerous online tools and databases that can help you plug in requirements to find potential influencers. However, depending on the size of your company, brand or campaign, and therefore your budget, paying for influencer vetting software might not be an option. 

Even if you opt for one of these services, you may find yourself having to do additional vetting, as there is no software that can tell you that an influencer’s vibe and esthetic matches what you are looking for.  

If you are trying to build brand loyalty, then you will want to focus on influencers in the same genre as your brand. However, if you are trying to expand your brand awareness and build your audience, then trying out influencers within different categories will be important. For instance, a travel brand might seek out a lifestyle influencer to expand brand awareness by targeting yoga enthusiasts. Or a clothing brand might target a high-end fashion influencer to cement their brand’s reputation as trend setters in the fashion industry. 

One free yet timeconsuming way to find the right influencers for your campaign is by doing a simple search. Google is your best friend. A search for “top lifestyle influencers” delivers almost 24 million search results; each writer has a different opinion and has decided on the best influencers by looking through their own individual vetting lensesEach blog or article will have its best choices represented, so look at a few on a couple of lists to see which writer’s vision you most identify with. You may even find that there are influencers that are represented on multiple lists!  

There is a blog for every topic and an excess of writers to choose from. Another search that is helpful will be “top ____ blogs.” You will be hard pressed to find a blog that isn’t also tied to that blog’s specific social world. Depending on what you are looking for, and if you have the budget to support it, securing an influencer with a blog has its own benefits.  

Create Your Wish List 

You may feel overwhelmed by the large number of influencers to choose from. Staying organized and listing your favorites will be helpful, because this is where the real work and in-depth research begins. An easy place to start is with your must-haves and data dealbreakers. Look at their social sites and review their follower counts. This is an easy way to shorten your list.  

With that said, if you feel there is an influencer with amazing pictures, great content, and good engagement, but who doesn’t meet your minimum numbers, don’t discount them yet. You may find you have to readjust or re-evaluate your goals as you go along, especially if you have a very specific demographic. At the very least, these particular influencers might be a great way to get some free user-generated content that you can share on your own social channels.  

Vet Your Targets Against Your Criteria 

Another easy way to cut down your list is to consider the demographics and psychographics of the influencers you are vetting. Now that you have your list, it comes down to whether they represent who you are. 

Are they the right age, gender, geographic location, or does that matter? What are their interests and motivations and do those align with your product or brand values? Do they have previous sponsored content on their page?  

By looking through various influencer’s platforms, you will eventually get an idea of what you are looking for, whether that is a certain esthetic or something that will resonate with your already loyal following. Read their posts and study their digital habits; a simple “vibe check” can go a long way.  

More important questions to ask yourself: 

  • Are they relevant to your topics or brand? 
  • What is their credibility to products in your category? 
  • What is their sponsored engagement rate vs overall engagement rate? The only one that matters is sponsored engagement. 

There are currently over 570 million blogs out there and 86% of content makers use them, so it is more likely than not that your influencer will have this additional platform for you to utilize. With blogs I suggest looking at the esthetic and vibe. Does it look like someone threw together pictures of their family vacation on a WordPress template, or are there nicely organized sections and tabs to filter their content?  

Many blogs will offer media kits with extra information about their audience, previous branding sponsorships or partnerships, or how many subscribers they have to their newsletters. It is worth noting that previous sponsorships are great, but it will be important to ask what the success rate of that partnership was. Did they just make pretty pictures, or did they increase followers and sell product? 

It will also be helpful to know the blog’s unique visitors per month (UVPM) and domain authority (DA). These could also be featured on the blog. The DA is a search engine ranking score that is a measure of the site’s relevance to a subject area or industry and shows how successful a site is based upon search engine results. Generally anything over 50 is considered good. You can get this free overview of search engine performance from a software development company called Moz 

Budget and Negotiations 

You have your list, yay! Now it is actually time to reach out to your chosen influencers. After all of that time you spent on finding and vetting them, you want them to be a right fit and they want to be a right fit too.  

Just like your own “deal-breakers,” your budget may narrow down your list even further. Determining which one will offer the right results to fit your campaign will come down to feel and your marketing budget.  

Price tends to go up with the number of followers. If a blog post and newsletter mailing is part of your deal, the price can go even further. You may want to use paid influencers, unpaid influencers or both, depending on your budget and size of your campaign.  

Do some research online to find an example of the approximate influencer pricing for various types of campaigns. Many influencers who are trying to gain followers and popularity will work in exchange for product/experience, or whatever it is you are promoting. You can always ask them to do it for tradethe worst they can say is no.   

Online research should reveal the approximate influencer pricing for various types of campaign participation.

You’ve signed a contractnow what? 

Many times, companies will want a firm list of deliverables from their influencer. It is definitely okay to have a must-have shot list. If there is something you would like to feature, a certain product demonstrated, or event highlightedtell them. You are paying and they want you to be successful because it helps them to have successful content. 

Do nothowever, script their entire campaign. Give them creative prompts but not exact messages. Provide the message and vibe you are trying to communicate, but also give them some control and let them play to their strengths. They know their audience and what they will respond to, so work with them to decide the look of the posts and then let them do what they do best. Together, you may even go viral! 

Influencer marketing may not be right for every brand, but we find it to be an influential tool for brand awareness on specific campaigns. With a little time, clear idea of what you are looking for, the right tools for searching, vetting criteria and a contract in place, hiring the right influencers combined with unique and relevant curated content will help create a fully integrated marketing campaign.  

Four Reasons Publicist is a Dirty Word

 

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


Has your mom ever used your childhood nickname in front of your adult friends? That’s how I feel when someone uses the term publicist or publicity to describe my work.

Generating positive media coverage is definitely among the many functions performed by a public relations professional. But the word “publicist” says nothing of the research, strategy, messaging and many other thoughtful, and even artful, activities that go into a successful public relations program. The word, in my opinion, minimizes my work.

For that reason, I would like to see “publicist” buried next to “flack” and “spin doctor.”

Public relations professionals are strategic communicators.

Two years ago, PRSA’s 2017 Chair, Jane Dvorak, addressed the PRSA Western District Conference in Riverside, Calif. urging attendees to see themselves as leaders, strategists and analysts. To my ear, “publicist” is a label that says none of those things. Two years later, I continue to hear this term applied to describe work that is only about 10-20 percent producing media coverage.

If you’re not convinced that “publicist” needs to go, give these four points careful consideration, and let me know if they help change your thinking. (If you already agree, these may help you convert or at least educate others.)

1. Publicists Produce Transactions. PR Pros Build Relationships.

We work in a very transactional environment today. Marketing and communications outcomes are boiled down to clicks, likes, links and conversions, but the stakeholders who need to receive your messages are not clicks and conversions—they’re real human beings who crave meaningful emotional connections with other real human beings.

This absolutely includes journalists.

Media databases like Cision and Meltwater make it much easier to build a big list than a targeted one. Journalists become email addresses and not people. Instead of building a relationship with the media, this transactional approach plays a numbers game. Ultimately, when the media gripes about getting a PR pitch addressed to the wrong name or that’s a country mile off the mark, it’s because they’re not being communicated to as human beings.

Public relations requires building understanding, changing perceptions and motivating behaviors and beliefs. Those kinds of outcomes need a relational versus transactional approach, which requires understanding your audiences and treating them as humans. This can be accomplished through surveys, interviews and focus groups and using that information to create personas.

Publicity is just too limiting a term to encompass these approaches.

2. Publicity is a Tactic. Public Relations Requires Strategy.

As public relations professionals, we can’t fulfill our role and responsibilities with a tactical mindset. We must think strategically.

From research to message development and testing to creative—strategy drives the choices we make, and those choices drive our campaign results. Did we communicate in a manner that earned our audience’s attention and resonated with them so that their perceptions, beliefs and behaviors were impacted?

I equate publicity with none of the above. Instead, I picture someone producing a bunch of press clippings which is useful if stroking your client’s ego is the only goal of your campaign.

3. A Publicist’s Communication is One-Way. PR Requires Listening.

There is far more pitching, posting and publishing than listening on social media and the web these days. I like the term coined by Mark Schaefer five years ago, Content Shock, to sum up the impact of content marketing run rampant. Schaefer pointed out then how the pace and volume of content being produced far exceeded the pace and volume of content being consumed.

Anyone today who is pushing content or a message without creating a way for the recipient to engage, respond and be heard is missing a huge opportunity to build relationships.

Communicators who create space for their stakeholders to be heard are the ones doing it right. When a crisis hits, they’ll be able to engage in conversations with their customers or investors rather than an avalanche of angry or outraged Tweets and Facebook posts.

The brands that weather crises more easily than others are those that have built relationships and goodwill with their stakeholders. And those are the brands being stewarded by strategic communicators and not publicists.

4. Publicity is About Earned Media. Public Relations Crosses All Media.

A decade ago, traditional media outlets underwent an implosion, while podcasts, online videos, blogs and social media storytelling platforms exploded. In the aftermath of these two trends, traditional media gatekeepers like the daily newspaper or evening newscast have lost their ability to influence public perception at scale.

Earned media was once the bread and butter of the public relations function, but today, it is just one of several communication platforms our profession employs to reach and engage with its stakeholders.

The contemporary integrated approach, sometimes referred to as the PESO Model, combines paid, earned, shared and owned media. Paid media can include social media ads and boosting or Google AdWords. Earned media includes press coverage but can include analyst relations, awards and speaking opportunities that imply and/or impart third-party validation. Shared media refers to social networks like Facebook but also review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Owned media describes all of the creative assets at your disposal to engage your audiences and to interact with them directly including print, digital and multimedia content.

Publicity is a component of only one of those four platforms, making it an inadequate label for describing what today’s strategic communicators do.

So, Let’s Retire the Term Publicist and Champion the Role of Strategic Communicator.

It’s time to toss this transactional, tactical, and out-of-touch term. It’s old school and perpetuates a narrow stereotype of what public relations today actually is. Publicity is about as apropos to what my team and I do every day at (W)right On Communications as my childhood nickname is to my adult identity. Now, if only I could get my mom to stop calling me Oobies.

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Hiring a PR Firm

Hiring a PR Firm

Take it from the team at (W)right On Communications, people often think about hiring a PR firm for the wrong reasons. But how can you gauge whether you’re doing it for the right ones?

If you recognize yourself in any of these five reasons for not hiring a PR firm, that’s a sign you need to take a step back and reconsider whether (W)right On Communications, or any good PR firm, is right for you. Now, that said, if you’ve reviewed the aforementioned list and feel that you’re ready to get serious about strategy, storytelling, scope and budgets–and an integrated strategic communications partner sounds like just the ticket; let’s get down to business.

Want to Talk?

We’re communicators, so we love to listen as much as we love to talk. Get in touch so we can feel each other out.

We want to know what your business objectives are so we can share with you how we’ll help meet them. Knowing what your time frame and budget are for reaching them gives us everything we need to turn around a proposal for you. Email us at info@wrightoncomm.com or call (213) 633-7575 to start the ball rolling.

Not Convinced? Check Out Our Client Testimonials

We’ve compiled a few recent client testimonials on our website, plus over 20 case studies on our award-winning programs.

Three Surprising B2B PR Tips to Secure Media Attention

By Chancelor Shay —Director, B2B & Infrastructure Development
Twitter: @chanceshay

If you’re not on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence-controlled robotics or have the fastest supercomputer in the world, it’s probably hard to get journalists and media outlets charged up to talk about your B2B brand. Brands that struggle with this typically fall into the trap of believing every editor is interested in their niche position in the B2B world and talk (or type) ad nauseam about what it is they do.

Nobody cares.

Even if it’s a trade publication and the writer covers your vertical, they still don’t care.

What they do care about is writing cool stories their readers will dig and doing their job well. Your PR success depends on your ability to help them achieve that goal.

Here are three counterintuitive steps to secure more coverage while wasting less time.

The best stories aren’t about your brand

Most media outlets don’t like to dedicate an entire piece to one vendor. They’re job is to tell stories that will be as interesting as possible to the greatest number of readers. Unless your brand is already a household name, this means that the most impactful story pitch will tell your customer’s story. The outlet’s readers can relate to your customer because they are just like them. A story about how your customer did something awesome (and how you played a role in it) stands a better chance at being picked up than raving about how innovative your product/service is or its features and benefits.

Don’t talk about your product/service

If you’re proud or excited about what your company does, go tell your mother. If a journalist was already interested in your brand, they’d already have reached out to you instead of being on the receiving end of your pitch. Instead, develop a pitch to address what your customers (a.k.a. the outlet’s readers) are dealing with. Speak in terms of their pain points. The odds are that that your company isn’t nearly as cool as the ecosystem in which you operate. So, bring in as many different perspectives and folds to the story as you can so that the reporter or writer can envision an engaging story with a story arc that shares real-world challenges and not just free publicity for your brand.

Be the oil can, not a squeaky wheel

Any PR pro will tell you that if you ask 10 different journalists how they like to be pitched, you’ll get 10 different answers. However, one thing is for sure – PR pros’ jobs are to make the journalist’s job easier. This means helping the journalist write about something they’re interested in covering rather than trying to convince them that they should write about something interesting to your brand. Do you want to be the kid crying on the playground for attention or do you want to be the kid who brought the Pokémon cards to recess? When you approach pitching the media from a service mindset and ask yourself, “how can what I or my client know help them reach their goals” (see tip #1), you’ll become a resource to reporters. You’ll have to start by reaching out to the writer and in two sentences summarizing their recent coverage and writing style (to validate you know who they are and what they do) and then offer up a C-Suite executive in your company who has a reputation and can help the writer make sense of topics they’re interested in. After they use your spokesperson for the first time, then you can start pitching them your own story ideas.

If you think you’re ready for the big leagues, check out our post on How to Earn Media Coverage in Major News Outlets.

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(W)right On Communications won a Silver Bulldog Award for Best B2B Product Launch for our work on this campaign. Read the full case study written by the Bulldog Reporter for in-depth tips.

PR Best Practices Can Restore Public Trust in the Post-Truth Era

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


It is not business as usual in the media industry.

Some say we’re in a post-truth era. One thing is for sure: the role and honesty of spokespeople, the press and state-sponsored fake news has us all talking. And, it turns out, this controversy has had an enormous impact on public trust.

Trust levels in the U.S. and around the world are measured by the Edelman Trust Barometer. This annual report provides an in-depth analysis of trust in the U.S. breaking it down by trust in the media, CEOs, businesses, experts, NGOs and more. This year, the Edelman Trust Barometer showed a crisis in trust in America. The deep plunge recorded year over year was akin to a stock market crash.

It found that  63 percent of the U.S. general population struggles to distinguish between what is real news and what is fake. Trust in U.S.-based companies dropped from 55 to 50 percent continuing a decline that began in 2014. Trust in NGOs fell from 58 to 49 percent.

This is the environment in which public relations professionals, their employers and clients are communicating. Information from most sources is greeted with skepticism or outright disbelief by the public.

So, here we are. The scarcest commodity in the U.S. today is trust.

Last week, I interviewed Lynn Walsh, project manager of the Trusting News project to find out how the media is working to restore trust with its readers, viewers and listeners. This week, I’m asking how PR pros can work to restore trust with the public?

The answer is to stick to PR best practices and good media relations fundamentals and to recommit ourselves to the crucial role that public relations best practices play in building and restoring trust.

Let’s Refresh on Media Relations’ Primary Goals

Media relations strategies typically start with two high-level goals in mind.

The first is to raise awareness of a brand’s story and messages with its target audiences through well-placed articles, features and other media mentions.

Since earned media cannot be bought, unlike paid media (advertising), it is more credible—with the public and with Google too. Have you noticed that news articles in major media outlets have a much higher search engine ranking? That’s because the websites that they’re published on have a much higher search engine authority, so Google ranks them higher. (This can cut both ways: it’s awesome when the news in such links is great, and terrible when it’s bad.)

The second goal is to influence perceptions and preserve or build an organization’s reputation.

This starts with ensuring media coverage is accurate and fair. It continues with proactive strategies to communicate a brand’s excellent financial performance, corporate social responsibility program, product innovation or corporate culture.

As brand storytellers, the PR team is approaching these communications as an ongoing process or narrative and not as a one-off event or announcement.

When both of these goals are achieved, the news stories topping your brand’s Google search results are the stories you’re most proud of and not the cringe-worthy ones. Plus, you maintain your organization’s trust with its stakeholders (customers, employees, constituents, vendors, partners, patients, donors—whoever you need to keep onside in order to operate effectively).

In short, PR’s first goal is to get you into the media spotlight and its second goal is to ensure, once you’re there, that you’re lit to show your best side so that your audience applauds, or at least understands, your behaviors and decisions versus throwing tomatoes at you.

Along the way, we apply media relations best practices: knowing what’s newsworthy, building good media relationships and being authentic, timely, accurate and transparent.

Truth and Accuracy are PR Best Practices

We are also ethical. Most PR professionals are members of the Public Relations Society of America. As such, we are expected to uphold the society’s professional code of ethics (PDF). This means that we are advocates for our clients and respect their confidential or privileged information, while also being honest, accurate and truthful in our representations to the public. We take responsibility for the authenticity of the information we represent in our communications and outreach.

It’s not an easy task. Public relations is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most stressful jobs in America, and it’s not a thankful task to be the media spokesperson when the chips are down or the heat is on. (That’s one big reason why so many of us appreciate our thankful clients and employers so much.)

But, here’s the point of this refresher. Ethical PR that follows PR best practices like transparency, accuracy, authenticity and timely communication is what builds trust.

And trust matters. It has an ROI. There’s even a name for it: brand equity. When brands and people are trusted, they’re valued. When things go wrong, trusted people and brands get the benefit of the doubt. When you look these benefits, an investment in PR best practices makes incredibly good sense.

If this resonates with you as either a PR pro or someone who can influence a company’s PR strategy, I encourage you to fight for PR best practices, to remember that PR is not happy talk and spin. It is also tough talk and the hard work and soul searching that sometimes come when tough conversations are required with your stakeholders.

Remind your colleagues in the C-suite and at the board room table that when they hold strategic communications to the same high standard as you do, the public will hold your brand in higher regard. And when your brand consistently communicates with transparency and truthfulness, you’ll earn the public’s trust. Trusted brands have higher valuations because trust is a precious commodity. So, stand up for standards and stand up for trust.

 

5 Questions for Journalism Expert Lynn Walsh on Trusting News

Lynn Walsh Trusting News project

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


The public’s lack of trust in news sources is not just a problem for journalists. It is clearly one for public relations professionals and the organizations that they represent too.

To understand what got us to this low point in trusting news and what might be done to restore trust in the media and information, I spoke to Lynn Walsh of the Trusting News project.Lynn Walsh Trusting News

Lynn spent the first 10 years of her career as an investigative journalist and most recently oversaw the NBC San Diego investigative team. She served as president of the Society of Professional Journalists last year regularly speaking on and advocating for journalism ethics and press freedoms. She teaches journalism at Point Loma Nazarene University and recently, took on her new role at Trusting News. It perfectly blends her journalism and digital media experience with her passion for a healthy, thriving free press.

As project manager for the Trusting News project, Lynn works with newsrooms and journalism schools in the U.S. and Canada to conduct news engagement experiments and research leading to new best practices intended to restore trust between news media and news consumers.

Alongside project director and Poynter Institute adjunct faculty member, Joy Mayer, Lynn studies how people decide news is credible and shares that knowledge and actionable strategies that newsrooms can implement. Currently, close to 30 newsrooms are trialing these new best practices with plans to roll out the strategies that show the most promise for change.

Trusting News is funded by the Reynolds Journalism Institute, the Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund.

  1. What is the mission of the Trusting News project?

Our goal is to rebuild trust between journalists and the public and we do that by working with newsrooms helping them be transparent in their reporting and encouraging engagement with their readers, listeners and viewers.

  1. What is driving the lack of trust in media?

The responsibility is on both sides. Both news media and news consumers have been struggling to adapt to the digital news environment and how it changed the relationship between journalists and the public.

Lynn Walsh Trusting News projectIn the past, consumers of news didn’t really have that many options. They got the newspaper from their doorstep or turned on their TV, and the news was delivered to them. Now, they also discover news digitally when they’re searching online or using social media.

News has also become less of a one-way delivery system. People can now respond to your content.

News organizations didn’t do a good enough job of adapting to the changes created by this new digital format. They continued to deliver the news in the format they always have.

For instance, we didn’t do a good job of labeling the content when we moved it over to the digital space—is this a news article, a blog post or an opinion piece? People have no way of telling what kind of content they are discovering digitally and how to filter it.

The public also does not understand what journalist do, how they do their jobs and how the news media works. That means that people aren’t prepared and equipped to decide whether what they’re seeing is news or someone’s opinion.

  1. What can the media do about that?

I think from my personal experience dealing with members of the public, it’s about having conversations, explaining why we chose to cover a story or interview an individual on a subject matter, why we blurred a photo or didn’t use someone’s name. Explain the decisions we make every day.

Labeling is key here. If you have a story that’s an opinion story, don’t call it an op-ed since people don’t know what that is. Label it as opinion. Be clear about labels and make sure that label follows that story online and when shared on social media. Be clear about labels for the people we as broadcast journalists put on air too—not just calling everyone an expert. For instance, what is an analyst? Are they a reporter or giving an opinion?

We need to be honest with our viewers when we are putting someone on who is just sharing an opinion.

  1. How do you see this trust issue impacting professional communicators like PR people and spokespeople?

Unfortunately, where we really are now and have been for a year or more is that people just don’t trust what they’re hearing and reading. It doesn’t just apply when it’s coming from a news organization. It can be coming from a press release on someone’s website or a blog post. People are questioning everything and searching to find information that can disprove it. So, the trust issue doesn’t just apply to news organizations. It applies to all information.

People don’t trust facts anymore. People think that facts can be debated. It extends beyond news.

  1. How do you see things five years from now? Better or worse?

I really hope that five years from now I’m not having to teach people how to build trust, be transparent and build credibility with their audience. I hope we begin to be open about how we are telling our stories, why we chose this person to talk to and not be hesitant to talk to people who are critical of our reporting. If we didn’t include something in a story, I hope that we’d be comfortable going back and telling that side of the story or incorporating that missing viewpoint.

This is a new kind of storytelling. It’s things we’ve always done but just in a more transparent way.

To get there, we need some of the biggest news organizations to buy in. When you look at 24-hour news organizations, this isn’t happening. We need CNN and Fox News to start labeling stories and their experts and pundits properly. Hopefully, they will do a better job of separating for the public what is news content and what is opinion.

So far, that’s not happening.