Of all of the creative industries PR practitioners are best placed to build long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships between brand, audience and influencer. These are the VPs of influence.
Influencer marketing is sometimes dismissed as a fad; marred by short-term campaigns, spiralling influencer fees, a pre-occupation of reach over engagement and a near-endemic disregard of disclosure regulations.
But, influencer marketing ain’t going anywhere. One reason for this is that, as consumers we are skeptical of much that is ‘official’ be it politics, big business or traditional masthead media. We do, however, identify with online influencers. We find them more relatable; more engaging than traditionally authoritative voices. A less polished, more authentic, intimate voice which moves us to change our behaviours or opinions.
People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.
We buy from people, not brands
Mark Zuckerburg co-founder and CEO of Facebook backs up this sentiment saying: “People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”
Influencers can act as this trusted referral. Their experience becomes our evidence.
As consumers we prefer following other consumers more than traditional media or brands according to new research by indaHash, an influencer marketing platform.
Asked whether people would rather follow friends’ accounts than traditional sources (portals, press, TV channels) 82% of 2,285 influencers surveyed said ‘yes’.
The report suggests we buy from people, not brands.
I see the job as an enabler of conversations of influencers to help drive engagement for our brands. ... And to drive relationship marketing as well.
VP Influencer Marketing, Coty Inc
Influencers are influential because they consistently create compelling content that is relevant and resonates with their select audience. They keep listening to and responding to the needs of their following. Influencers nurture their audiences by engaging with them and answering their questions. The relationship between follower and influencer is accretive. It strengthens and develops over time.
VPs of influence
Randall Chinchilla understands this link between brands and influencers well.
Chinchilla, is Vice President, Influencer Marketing at Coty Inc, a global beauty company which owns brands like Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Rimmel and Wella.
Whilst at the iMediaBrand Summit in Biarritz, South West France recently he talked to digital agency, Visionary Marketing, about his role as VP of Influencer Marketing:
“I see the job as an enabler of conversations of influencers to help drive engagement for our brands. ... And to drive relationship marketing as well. … “Influencers play a tremendous role in brand building. Influencers are helping marketers break through consumer disengagement, traditional advertising erosion; ad blocking.”
Asked what his day-to-day role involved Chinchilla replied: "to stay constantly curious ... To help enable a team of brand builders to stay up-to-speed on new ways to make connections with influencers. And that's a never-ending journey."
Chinchilla also shared his thoughts on the essence of influencer marketing as one of enabling conversations: “It's enabling those conversations in the right tonality and building long-term relationships between your brand constituents ... and your brands … Human relationships are at the core of who we are. Integrating relationships and how you insert your brand into those relationships and conversations.”
You can watch the whole of the interview between Randall Chinchilla and Visionary Marketing here:
New title: age-old theme
The VP of Influencer Marketing is a new title, but one which relates to an age-old theme - building long-term relationships between a brand and its audience. These are bedrock skills of the public relations practitioner.
PR sits at the nexus of conversations between an organisation and its stakeholders/publics/important people. By ‘scanning the environment’ and listening to conversations about the organisation and its competitors, locating where these conversations are being played out and by whom public relations practitioners are well placed to help organisations identify opportunities and risks. To identify who is influencing the opinion forming and then to aim to neutralise impact from dissenters and to amplify the impact of advocates.
Influence not control
Professor Tim Traverse-Healy, OBE, founding father of both the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, & the Institute of Public Relations writes in the forethoughts to #PRredefined: "The ability to manage two-way relationships is a myth. An organisation does not own the conversation around its products and services. Your 'important people' need to know, like, trust, be front of public mind, and talk about you."
PR is the planned and sustained effort to influence opinion and behaviour and to be influenced similarly in order to build mutual understanding and goodwill.
Traverse-Healy encourages us to turn to influence rather than control when defining what we do as PR practitioners: "PR is the planned and sustained effort to influence opinion and behaviour and to be influenced similarly in order to build mutual understanding and goodwill."
Mutuality requires continued dialogue with the intent to understand and to be understood. It doesn't necessarily mean to be agreed with. But it does mean holding a position of respect for each others situation developed through continued dialogue with the intent to understand and be understood.
The communicator can't control how other people think or act. In a world of complexity and chaos, the concept of influencing is the most realistic task for PR practice.
Today, all PR practitioners should be VPs of Influence.