Yesterday I had the great fortune to step into a blogger panel on behalf of my friend and colleague MJ Tam, Editor of Chicagonista. MJ was called away to an event with the First Lady so I had to fill her shoes at the Zocalo Group Headquarters. (I know she lives such a hard life that MJ does doesn’t she?) The Zocalo Group is an award winning PR and marketing firm here in Chicago. Part of what makes them so good at what they do is their commitment to education, inspiration and ideation. I, (along with the incomparable Maura Hernandez and the talented Nicole Knepper), had the great pleasure of offering my insight into what works and what doesn’t in the arena of brand and blogger/Influencer relations. We only had an hour, so we only scratched the surface really. That is why I decided to follow up on the discussion here and share with all of you my top 15 key ideas for successful PR relationships with influencers.
1. Do your homework
I swear I should have this phrase tattooed on my forehead I say it so much, and not just to my three children. I am always reminding people to do their homework, whether they are PR professionals, brands or influencers, the task is incredibly important. If you research your brand first you will have a clear idea about what need is to be filled and what type of influencer would best fill it. Then it is just as important that you research your prospective influencers. Get to know their style, their voice, their mission and their practices. A good PR pitch will offer to the influencer specific reasons why you think they are a good match for the brand or campaign your represent. A generic pitch doesn’t help anyone and can lose the horserace before you even get out of the gate.
2. Talk to me, not at me.
If all you are going to send me is a Press Release, save your click. Influencers in the social media realm are successful because they know how to foster relationships. They do that through authentic engagement, not cut and paste promotion. So a press release isn’t useful. And if an influencer does make a practice of cutting and pasting press releases, you probably don’t want to be working with them anyway.
3. Don’t try to sleep with me if you aren’t really interested in marrying me.
Don’t brainstorm with me, take my ideas, and then go work with someone else. It’s tacky, it’s unprofessional and it will come back to haunt you. Word will get out. (On the flip side Influencers, don’t give the milk away for free. Execute a non-disclosure agreement before you engage in active brainstorming with a brand or its’ representatives. Your ideas are worth something so protect them.)
4. Be honest about your status.
Don’t bluff if you aren’t prepared to or capable of delivering the goods. If you don’t have the budget, or at least comparable trade, don’t start campaign conversations with influencers as if you do. You can certainly have a research/interview conversation, just be up front about your campaign status and your contract intentions from the beginning.
5. The devil is in the UNWRITTEN details.
The more clear and concise you can be with an influencer about your campaign objectives and expectations the more likely you are to have them met. Put it all in writing. There should always be an executed contract or LOA attached to any campaign partnership. You can’t shake hands through a computer.
6. Don’t be distracted by the shiny toy.
Don’t choose the best influencer, choose the influencer who will help you be the best at your job, and serve your clients’ needs. Numbers don’t tell the whole story and often they just flat out lie. Success is less about quantity and more about quality and effectiveness. Just because an influencer has 50,000 followers on Twitter doesn’t mean anyone is really listening, let alone inspired to act. You may find that an influencer who has 5000 followers is more influential overall because their community is more invested in the topics that they are talking about. And then they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on.
7. Think outside the “Hot Mom Blogger” box.
If I was talking with my colleagues I would go farther and say “think outside the hot WHITE mom blogger box”, because there are still far too many campaigns out there lacking in diversity, but I am trying to be less divisive. (It’s still true.) Social Media came about because consumers were looking for more authentic voices. Voices and bodies. You don’t have to be tall, thin and have long hair to have influence with consumers. In fact it may even work against you sometimes. The average size of a commercial model is a 4, (runway is size 0), whereas the average size of a real woman is 12-14. If social media has risen to prominence this fast because of its’ authenticity, then your spokespeople should more authentically represent the community they are targeting, don’t you think?
8. You get what you pay for.
Before social media no one had to convince PR people that traditional marketing work-for-hire was entitled to payment. So why is there any question that social media work should be paid? Work is the key word here. Sure, you can get bloggers to post for you for a link and a smile, but how good will it be, how far will it reach, and how much conversation will it produce? If you want professional promotion for your campaign you need to hire a professional. Now don’t think you can’t get quality just because you don’t have deep pockets. As a rule I tell influencers never to work for free, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative with payment. Just make sure that your remuneration is commiserate with the monetary fee that would normally be billed by the influencer.
9. The buffet can be more costly than the meal.
I personally prefer an all encompassing contract. If you have a contract that acts like “old country buffet” and necessitates separate bills for every little act, I find that clients start to feel resentful and overcharged, even though the prices have been agreed upon up front. There is greater freedom for all concerned in having a set full price, with a start and end date. Less stress, less fuss, more good will and productivity. But don’t try to sneak in extra work down the line without additional compensation. There has to be trust and respect all around.
10. Don’t be commitment phobic.
I look for brands that I can work with for more than just one event. I find that brands have more success with campaigns and initiatives that have time to escalate. Representing a brand as a spokesperson or ambassador for 6 months to a year or longer affords me as the influencer time to make my community aware of the union. It gives me the space to demonstrate my commitment to the product or campaign. Time, loyalty, practical use and application all increase my credibility as a spokesperson. The time also helps build the audience participation in the campaign. There are a lot of campaigns in the blogosphere competing for attention on any given day. If you can hang around a bit you are more likely to get noticed by a larger audience.
11. You are not alone, but we are.
Remember you have as a PR representative generally have a team, but influencers, on the other hand, are often one-person bands. Give the influencers you are working with time, ample notice, tools and support. That way they will be able to do what you hired them to do effectively.
12. Comment, Retweet, Update, Share, Like.
Influencers have influence, but they aren’t miracle workers. If you pay an influencer to herald your campaign you are still responsible for feeding the engagement. Don’t just sit back and watch them spin. This is a chance for you to demonstrate to the consumer public you are targeting that your client/brand is authentically interested in engaging with them. Plus, in all honesty, consumers are looking to see which influencers are “christened”. It makes a big difference if an influencer is actively retweeted by the brand they are touting. Otherwise the influencer looks a little like a “wanna be” with no real brand backing.
13. Media Media Media
Let’s face it we are visual creators. Audiences love photos and videos. Be sure to at least make high resolution photography available to the influencers your are working with. Give them the logos and other tools they need to enhance their own photos and videos. Then support their creations by cross posting on the brands own social media sites.
14. This is business.
Be professional, and expect nothing less from me either. Period.
These are just some of the suggestions I have for enhanced and successful brand and influencer relationships. I have mooch more. I bet you do too. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Let’s learn from each other. When we know more we do better.
Miss Lori can be found Musing from her Minivan at MissLori.TV , Wearetherealdeal.com , YoungChicagonista ,ChicagoMomsBlog , and ChicagoMoms.com. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter , TOUT and LinkedIn. Miss Lori participates in the Clever Girls Collective, Social RevUp and Collective Bias Social Fabric networks. She is also a Nintendo Enthusiast. A Tropicana Tropimomma, and a FitFluential Ambassador.