Brands and Influencer Marketing: Activating allies who consumers trust

Last week, I attended a BusinessWire lunch on influencer marketing and PR. Serena Ehrlich, BusinessWire’s director of social and evolving media, discussed the ever-evolving world of influencer marketing and led a great discussion on how brands are (and should) engage with influencers.

Influencer marketing encompasses the efforts by brands to build relationships and engage in partnerships with key individuals who have considerable influence over a desired audience or groups of people. To be clear, influencer marketing isn’t new in the world of PR. There have always been people whose opinions carry considerable weight or inspire others to action. However, the social/digital piece might be something brands haven’t tried yet.

For those brands that haven’t dipped their toe into influencer marketing, it’s important to understand that influencer relations is a natural offshoot to more traditional PR activity. A good PR team should include both influencer and media relations as part of their recommended strategy. The same creative, tenacious and targeted storytelling skills that help secure great media coverage will also help build engagement with the right influencers.

Here’s a data point that can’t be ignored: According to the 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report, 66 percent of worldwide respondents reported to “completely or somewhat trust” the recommendations of editorial coverage (the product of traditional media relations). Those surveyed said their level of trust went up to 83 percent when the recommendation comes from a third party (an influencer). Folks are 17 percent more likely to trust someone whose opinion they hold in high regard than they are to trust a traditional article in a magazine or newspaper. That’s huge.

At Curator, we’re big believers in the power of influencers. In 2016, our client Ably launched a line of technologically advanced clothing that repels liquids, stains and odors. They knew the revolutionary clothing would appeal to travelers who thrive on adventure, so our team rolled up our sleeves and researched the top influencers who were out there creating inspiring digital and social content about their travel adventures. Then, we worked to get Ably’s clothing into their hands and encourage them to give it a try. We negotiated both paid and earned relationships. Traditional media relations was key to generating widespread awareness for Ably, but influencers added a layer of credibility from real people who could talk about how the products performed during their travels. They shared compelling testimonials from their blog or social media channels and that content inspired site visits and drove sales.

Whether the client’s goal is to increase sales or website traffic, gain social media followers or inspire app downloads, consumers are more likely to take action based on the recommendation from someone in their life they trust. Brands that create a place for influencer marketing in their marketing strategy (and their marketing budget) are setting themselves up for success. In a world full of skeptics, it is imperative for brands to connect with the issues, activities and people their audience cares about. Influencers are a powerful way to make that connection.