Getting the PR and influencer relationship right

By Kerry Simpson, PR Account Director at G&G Digital

Public Relations has undergone a massive shift in the past two years with the digital landscape opening up far more opportunities for brand exposure. Everything and everyone is online, and media (in the traditional sense) are no longer the primary conveyors of information.

Bloggers and influencers have become an important publicity channel for brands to tap into to amplify brand messages and gain credibility and authenticity from third parties. However, the key to successful influencer engagement is finding the right fit for your brand. As we enter 2016, here are a few tips for getting the relationship right with influencers:

Research, research, research
When identifying influencers do your homework. Check their social media accounts to gauge their audience, reach, number of followers, engagement and interests and see what topics they’re talking about. Have they been involved with competing brands or do they engage in any controversial topics that go against your client’s brand and values? Make sure you know the answers before taking things further.

Build relationships
Developing good influencer relationships takes time. The secret is to engage with them via their social media platforms on an on-going basis. Get involved in their conversations, show interest and enthusiasm and get to know them personally. That way, should you approach them to be part of a brand campaign in the future, you’re already half way to securing their involvement.

Have an informal agreement in place
Once you’ve got their buy-in, put everything in writing – no matter how good you think your relationship is. It’s not as formal as a contract but it’s vital to outline specific details of the campaign and establish a clear understanding of what the expectations are – for both sides.

It’s also important to state clearly upfront whether there will be any remuneration or reward for their involvement. Have clear terms in place should the influencer decide to pull out at the last minute or during the campaign (these things happen).

To pay or not to pay – that is the question?
A few years ago, bloggers and online influencers were happy to receive products and services from brands and would often reciprocate with coverage. But as they’ve gained credibility and become increasingly influential, they’ve rightfully realised their worth.

This means simply sending free product and hoping for coverage can actually do more harm than good – especially if your product has absolutely nothing to do with anything the blogger is interested in. Treat bloggers and influencers as creative partners rather than just another channel. Involve them in your thinking – let them add their insights at the conceptual stage to get optimal value from the relationship.

Find some form of reward, trade-exchange or remuneration that works for both the brand and the influencer. Obviously, it goes without saying that celebrity endorsement is a different kettle of fish and if this approach is taken, it almost always involves a monetary compensation and should be budgeted for upfront.

Respect the influencer’s opinions or decisions as you would a journalist. Remember they’re an influencer for a reason and the amplification of your brand message will only have gravitas if it aligns with the voice and personality of the influencer. For example, a sarcastic post might be their way of engaging their audience and will still extend reach – if it fits with your brand.

Don’t forget about them
Once your campaign is over don’t just forget about them, you never know when you might need them again. Relationships have become more important than ever in this digital environment where there is such a lack of personal interaction.

Nurturing your influencer network is key to building long-term partnerships – pick up the phone and chat to them once your campaign is over, ask them what they did and didn’t like, take them for a coffee and continue to chat with them on their social channels. A little bit of care can go a long way.

G&G wins Best Online PR Campaign at New Generation Awards

Ending 2015 on a high note, G&G Digital scooped an Outright Gold Award for the Canderel #SugarFeelingTheCrunch campaign at the recent New Generation Social and Digital Awards.

Desree, Mike & Kathryn

Taking top honours in the Online PR category, #SugarFeelingTheCrunch was a collaboration between G&G Digital and Hammerhead TV. Subverting the concept of a traditional product launch, Canderel eschewed bland press releases and an expected event for a completely integrated online and experiential campaign to launch new Canderel Crunch – a granular sweetener that looks and tastes like sugar.

A real-life Sugar Cube caused havoc during the weeklong launch campaign in a desperate attempt to cling to relevance after the launch of Canderel Crunch. From threatening to sue Canderel for identity theft, to harassing shoppers and coffee shop patrons, the Sugar Cube’s antics were captured in a series of videos directed and produced by Brendan Jack.

The Sugar Cube took his battle for relevance to social media with a dedicated (and desperate) Twitter account (@SugarCubeMan) as well as guerrilla tactics including a LinkedIn profile and job-seeking posts on Gumtree and Careers24.

During his very public sugar highs and lows, Canderel took on the role of a brand doing crisis communications, sending out media blasts with updates and posting statements across social channels. The result? A highly memorable campaign that made the message stick – Canderel Crunch looks and tastes like sugar.

“The creative team really put their hearts into making this campaign the success it was, so it’s wonderful to receive this recognition,” says Michael Gullan, MD and co-founder of G&G Digital.

“The digital space presents so many unexplored opportunities for unconventional PR, and #SugarFeelingTheCrunch truly was a trail-blazing campaign straight out of left field. We’re very proud of the results.”

Sweet results

  • Total PR QPI to date of over 2 million
  • Campaign ROI of 32:1
  • Over 78 000 views of the video content on YouTube and Facebook to date
  • Over 18 300 organic views recorded after campaign spend stopped
  • Organic reach on Twitter of just under 290 000 unique accounts
  • Almost half a million organic impressions served on Twitter

Become a social listener

Social media is nothing more than an ongoing, ever-changing conversation. The discussion topics are varied – sometimes obscure – the tone and landscape changes quicker than you can hit refresh.

This means a key element of any social media strategy should be joining existing conversations – particularly on Twitter, where a hashtag means entry into a debate, an argument, social commentary or, in the case of the recent #BICGate saga, a lynch mob.

If recent social media blunders have taught us anything, it’s that brands that self-implode are generally those that don’t listen to the public sentiment of the moment before communicating with their audience. They forget they’re talking to people, not consumers, and miss the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

This post – during the #BICgate debacle – from rival stationery brand Staedtler, worked well in the moment:

In just over 18 hours, this was retweeted 137 times, favourited 96 times and reached more than 32 500 accounts. These analytics show that an intelligently crafted response or comment about a trending topic can be extremely effective for your brand – if it’s done right.

It can mean organic exposure to a more diversified audience, with the added benefit of keeping your brand on trend and in touch. Here are the top five ways your brand can win at being a social listener:

Stop. Listen. Learn

Don’t spend all your time trying to construct your own conversation, rather start listening. Take a newsroom approach, actively search and anticipate trending topics, or keywords relating to your brand, and pay attention to what people are already saying. These conversations are organic and authentic, and present an opportunity to connect with users who might be genuinely interested in your brand.

This shrewd tweet by Nissan at the height of the #RoyalBaby excitement was well-thought out and right on time:

Be timeous

Make sure you’re being a voice, not an echo. Joining a conversation that’s beginning to wane will make you seem out of touch and irrelevant. If you’re going to join in, do it quickly (but carefully) so your commentary or opinion is discoverable. Remember that one post doesn’t a witty conversation make – follow up on your tweet quickly by engaging with users who engaged with you, always answering in the same tone as your initial tweet.

Groupon won at social media when they engaged in a hilarious stream of tweets in response to their post of a ‘Banana Bunker’:

Check for relevance

No one likes a know-it-all. And leaping into a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with your brand will seem bullish. Random interjects can work, but they have to be uproariously funny and cleverly crafted. So rather stick to what you know.

This tweet by USA-based retailer Kenneth Cole during protests in Egypt – with a not-so-subtle reference to the Arab Spring – was an all-round bad idea:

Test it offline

No community is an island. Never post in isolation. Do your research. If you’re unsure whether your trend-related tweet is inspired or misguided, ask everyone and anyone for their opinion before posting. Get as many insights as possible. Weigh up the offline answers to anticipate what the online response will be. As we’ve already mentioned, social media is simply a conversation, in a different space. It’s run by humans, not robots.

This tweet by USA-based supermarket Best Buy got them into some seriously hot water. The tweet was related to a podcast series about a controversial murder case, in which the evidence hinged on whether the accused had made a call from a pay phone in a Best Buy store. This was probably not the wisest wisecrack:

Avoid the mob

Make sure your comment adds value or humour to the existing conversation – running to join a lynch mob just for the sake of it is neither endearing nor intelligent. Hurling abuse just to be “one of the guys” will do nothing for your brand’s reputation. A quip is okay. Overtly bashing another brand is not. If it’s appropriate, try compliments and encouragement, as opposed to unfiltered criticism. Savanna shows us how trend-tapping is done tastefully with this clever comment: