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Influencer engagement: should Marketing or PR own it?

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From a Kardashian sister promoting a meal replacement shake to a once-funny meme account suddenly hashtagging every other post with “#ad”, there is no doubt that influencer marketing is currently driving a huge amount of content production - and brand value. But as regulators crack down on sponsored content and consumers grow evermore brand-savvy, influencer marketing is shifting from straightforward advertising to mutually-beneficial ambassadorship.

Influencer marketing used to be very cut-and-dried: find an account on a social media channel with a large following - let’s say 50,000 people?  Send them a message, and offer payment in exchange for posting about your products. With a basic trackable URL, you could count click-throughs to your product pages and measure the ROI of your venture into influencer marketing. Done!

The struggle

But consumers grew wary: as ever more ads filled our timelines, influencer marketing started losing its feeling of authenticity, looking too much like affiliate advertising. The trust between an influencer and their followers aspires towards transparency. Followers need to perceive such posts as earned media - an influencer’s genuine response to a product or brand, not “just another ad”. This poses major questions about the true value of earned media - and how we might define it in the future. 

More and more organizations are shifting their influencer marketing strategies away from their Marketing departments and towards PR. Influencers are perfectly positioned between the media and the word-of-mouth authenticity their followers crave. And crucially, they are individuals with their own audience, aspirations, and motivations. It's time to stop treating them as just another advertising opportunity and instead approach them with a PR mindset:

Build trust. Connect to their audience. Create mutually-beneficial relationships.

The next steps

Influencers are the new media. Engaging with them through a PR framework can yield better results and stronger connections. Start shifting your approach today:

  • Using your PR strategy and research, define your target audience and their preferred social channels.
  • Identify influencers who align with your audience and brand values.
  • Reach out to these influencers with the eventual aim of creating a brand ambassador.

This is the moment for PR professionals to own the influencer engagement process. Expertise in establishing relationships has never been more valuable. Build a trusting relationship with an influencer and you can, in turn, build a trusting relationship with your audience.

Want to start looking for the right influencers? The PressPage integrated Media Database contains over 820,000 global influencers and media contacts. Ask us about it here.

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