Increasing number of brands are reaching out to the thought leaders and third-party experts that influence buying behavior in their respective industries. Recent studies indicate that most of the media is expected to act like the B2B buyers. 50%-70% of the buying decision is made before the B2B buyer speaks to a sales representative. The buyers have done a thorough research on the product by checking with the domain experts, checking for people’s views and reviews on social networks and more.
Public Relations is about ‘Influencing the Influencer’ but somehow the industry has been limiting itself to media relations. Influencers can greatly impact the PR program: they have high credibility, are authoritative and are trustworthy among the community. Thus the traditional approach to PR will have to be redesigned to understand the key influencers for the brand, develop strategies to build relationships with the unbiased third-party experts.
To start with one needs to go through a comprehensive influencer mapping process which is important for businesses to engage with on a regular basis. Here are few tips to engage with your influencers traditionally as well as on digital platforms:
- Understand the influencing community and their news consumption patterns: If you are servicing a B2B brand say a tyre manufacturer, the dealers are the key influencers for the buying community, out how can you reach out to these dealers? You can explore conducting dealer meets to build your relationship with the dealer. Keep the dealer engaged by sharing different brand properties, for example, branded Kalnirnay 2014 calendar, branded toys which can also be given as a souvenir to the buyers. Depending on the industry in which you compete, these influencers could be academicians, gadget experts, nutritionists, designers, bloggers, or other category specialists. Each brings a level of expertise and knowledge within your vertical market that can be leveraged via both paid and unpaid partnerships.PR pros can also explore smart applications such as Contactually that sends you automatic reminders to contact people on your list to whom you haven’t reached out in a while.
- Care what your Influencers care about: Research about the influencers, online on social networking platforms as well as offline to understand what interests them, festivals they celebrate, whom they respect and look upto and also know what they dislike and what ticks them off?
- Plan the engagement strategy: Outline a consistent engagement strategy with the influencer community; these should aim at meeting their rational as well as emotional needs. You could explore tools like newsletters, e-mailers, festive greetings etc. As the third-party influencers are domain experts they often have great media relationships and are most often willing to talk about your brand if it is credible enough. And of course one has to keep in mind that utilizing influencers in this capacity typically requires a participation fee.
- On Social Media: Third-party influencers can be incredibly effective when utilized within your social media programs as well. You could explore LinkedIn Groups where you could share interesting content, ask relevant questions to the domain experts so that they are involved in insightful discussions, you can conduct a TweetUp/TweetChat where an influencer can engage with consumers on relevant topics else to make a company announcement you can organize a Google Hangout along with your brand spokesperson to share specific details.
Influencers can be great brand ambassadors for brands and developing relationships with them takes time and consistent efforts of engagement. These partnerships can bring your brand a level of exposure and credibility it just can’t get on its own.
Are there any other interesting ways of engaging the influencer community, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.