AVID Public Relations™ is still a very young firm compared to many agencies – Ketchum, Edelman, Fleishman, Ogilvy and others come to mind. I hope that some of the key attributes that make us competitive are our ability to learn, adapt and exploit new technologies, techniques and strategies. So, I am out there talking to as many people as I can. Recently, I have heard and participated in a great deal of discussion regarding Influencer Relations, Influencer Relationship Management and Influencer Relationship Marketing.
As anyone who has talked to me in the last few years will tell you, I believe that Influencer Relations is the future of the public relation business. Before I started Agile Public Relations™, I was the head of influencer relations at Ketchum’s NYC headquarters office.
What I can’t get over are the number of advertising agencies, PR firms and “support services” companies that are selling and leveraging automated tools for reaching, connecting with and managing industry influencer relationships. It is based in large part in communicating one-to-many.
One vendor for example, provides “cloud-based software that automates the creation, distribution and measurement of influencer marketing programs.”
Wow, automating an influencer marketing campaign. No wonder the marketing types get excited about these tools and platforms. They’re most comfortable with the one-to-many model – like consumer marketing. However, effective influencer relations campaigns are about building one-on-one relationships with the 50-100 most influential people in a given market. Most marketers don’t understand this discipline.
Now, I have no problem with organizations that can help you automate some steps of preparing for and measuring influencer relations programs – but they are ancillary. If you need assistance finding the right influencers, there are tools that can help you do that. Vocus, Cision and others have gotten more sophisticated at helping you find influencers in their vast databases.
Measurement tools that help you see how effective your influencer relationship marketing or influencer relationship management campaigns are performing can pay huge benefits in terms of determining ROI, message penetration, etc.
It’s the automation of “distribution” that, in my opinion, is the glaring issue. There are numerous types of industry influencers: analysts, academics, editors, bloggers, industry association executives, pundits, futurists – and that is just scratching the surface. To see a more comprehensive view of the influencer landscape, look here.
As I keep saying, the foundation to building an effective influencer relations program is fostering relationships. Communication has to be personal, authentic and two-way. You can’t do that through automated distribution. Automated distribution is vapid at best and another form of spamming at worst.
Think of it as dating. Because the best company-influencer relationships are just that, dating.
Automated Influencer Relations
Now I have heard some people say that you can automate relationship building – like online dating. But the analogy quickly falls apart. You may be able to find the “right” person or persons, but you can’t automate your communications in a relationship. If you were dating someone and the primary method of their communication with you was automated social media posts, texting or email – well, the “relationship” would not last long at all.
If an organization is leveraging a CRM contact management package as part of their strategy to ensure that they are staying in touch with influencers, I applaud it. But that is not automated distribution.
The key to unlocking powerful, lasting influencer relationships is consistent one-on-one communication; two-way conversations interspersed with the occasional push of some valuable, relevant information. But you can’t stop there. Influencers don’t want to just share their insights. They want to see that your company’s behavior is modified and improved by their insights and counsel.
So, leveraging automated tools to help find the right influencers can be good. Automated measurement tools can be very beneficial. But, to be effective, make sure your communication with influencers is consistent, one-to-one, two-way and authentic. And, hopefully you are doing the same things in your personal relationships.