‘Influencer Relations’ – a new term for an old industry

Louie St Claire

16 May 2017

Every couple of months here at Harvard we run what we call a Comms Confessional. A dinner where we ask around a dozen PR, communications or marketing professionals to spend an evening with us where we talk about some of the issues of the day. Last week we circled in on Influencer Relations (as opposed to Influencer Marketing, the difference is best described here in Onalytica’s report on it), because we’re getting asked about it a lot more than normal from both clients and in new business briefs. Needless to say, it was another robust conversation. We agreed that Influencer Relations is a natural extension to the PR realm. If you’re a brand looking to improve reputation and/or awareness, create brand advocacy and build a long-term strategy, then Influencer Relations is probably for you. Where there was some serious frustration in the room is around the fact that most PR people think that they are doing this already. None of the core fundamentals of creating strong, authentic and trusted relationships have changed, whatever your audience, from the media to think tanks, government to academics. However, what has changed is the myriad ways in which influencers, whoever and wherever they may be, can be mapped and reached in order to achieve a set of communications objectives or solve a series of challenges. Where all of our guests were very insightful was a simple approach on how to approach influencers in the first place. For me this has become best practice in PR nowadays, regardless of what we call it.

1) All about context and relevance

If anything has changed it is the fact that the internet has given us access to our audiences with context. These are skills worth investing in. This, in turn, gives you a much better chance of your campaign being both relevant and having impact.

2) Be brutal when you prioritise

It is difficult for most large companies and lots of small ones to prioritise all of the audiences that they need to reach. Leadership teams need to understand that PR and marketing work best when the brief on what it needs to do is as tight as possible. It needs advertising brief-levels of prioritisation.

3) Just do it right

Yes, mistakes happen, but there is no excuse these days with the data available, to not hit the right people time and time again. Whether your universe is 500m users or 200-person community, the ability to scale and go large, or be niche and targeted, has never been more important or easier to do.

4) Build for the long-term

All the best relationships blossom over time. Too often in comms we expect to have in-depth relationships with our stakeholders and all the glory that brings for our businesses without putting in the requisite effort. It doesn’t work in real-life and doesn’t work in business. Be authentic, genuine and commit for the long-term… some things never change! Picture rights: © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0