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How I Used to Work with Influencers

[fa icon="calendar"] 14-Jan-2020 10:00:00 / by Iliyana Stareva

working with influencersA few weeks ago, I shared how I started my career in PR and where it got me. (If you haven't read it, check it out and come back.)

In my early days, I used to do a lot of traditional media relations as in pitching journalists and national media. Shortly after that, came the influencers - the bloggers and the YouTubers. Instagram wasn't big at that time. 

I wouldn't say that the influencers changed the game on how to do proper media relations. Regardless whether you're pitching journalists or bloggers, YouTubers and Instagrammers, the principles are the same if you want to do it right.

But the very key principle is to treat them like human beings who have their own goals, needs, ways they like to communicate and make decisions. 

You need to be a bit like an anthropologist if you want to succeed when working with influencers. 

But let me tell you about a typical scenario that I used to encounter almost every week when I started working in PR and had to deal with influencers.

Here's what normally happened: 

  • Client to Agency: Here’s a new product, here are some tests products, do some PR with the bloggers.
  • Agency to me: Here’s the client’s new product, here are some test products, here’s a list of influencers, work with them. 
  • Me: That’s a long list, where do I start and are they all relevant? 
  • Agency to Me: Don’t know, cover them all, as many as you can. 

Now, there are a lot of things that you need to learn on your own when you work in PR and you must approach this logically. 

The scenario above wasn't ideal as I didn't have a lot of experience in PR but I decided to put myself in the shoes of an influencer. What helped here was that I was already writing a blog myself. 

How I used to work with influencers

So I took the massive list of influencers and: 

  • Checked out each influencer and their blog/YouTube.
  • Narrowed down the list to 5-6 that I thought were most relevant because there was no way I could be successful with just one product among 150+ influencers. I preferred to be focused and strategic rather than all over the place. 
  • Rang the 5-6 influencers just to chat and get to know them and for them to get to know me as this was the first time I was reaching out to them and they had no idea who I was. Imagine a blunt pitch from someone whose name you've never heard of, you'll just ignore it. People like to do business with people they know and like. 
  • I learned how these influencers preferred to work with brands, how they liked to communicate, what they expected, what success looked like for them.
  • I sat down and figured out an angle for each influencer and how to fit the product and the campaign within their expectations and needs but still aligning with what the client was expecting.
  • A couple of days later, I rang them again individually pitching a very specific and relevant to them idea and discussing how it could work for each and one of them. 
  • They got hooked because they liked the personalised approach and the freedom I was giving them to create what worked best for their readers so I was successful at achieving pretty good coverage for that new product with the key influencers whose readers were the most possible buyers.
  • And after that first time, it was super easy to work with these same influencers again and again because we had already built a trustful relationship where they knew that I cared about making them successful. 

Of course, this whole process took a lot longer than what most people do - blunt pitching - but was also a lot more fruitful and successful when it came to results. 

But I did have some challenges as most people who work in a PR agency - I didn't get any insights into the purchase data from the client and we were only measuring clippings and views as we didn't have access to Google Analytics or any other measurement tool. 

That was the point when I realised how important the position of a trusted advisor is for a PR agency. It was also the moment when I realised there was a long way to go for PR with regards to measurement and I wasn't learning how to do it within the environment that existed so I ended up moving into inbound marketing but that's another story. 

To summarise, here's my formula for working with influencers: 

My working-with-influencers formula 

  1. Define and get agreement on the campaign goals and what you’re trying to achieve - what does success look like to you? 
  2. Identify the influencers that can help you achieve those goals and whose goals you can help them achieve - what does success look like to them?
  3. Ensure the influencer will track what you want (put that in the contract), otherwise, back away.
  4. Work together on how each influencer can execute so they do it authentically. 
  5. Get the data and measure the success and do this always. 

How do you work with influencers? 

Topics: Public Relations, Inbound PR

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Chief of Staff to the EMEA President at ServiceNow. Before that, she held global and EMEA-wide positions at Cisco and HubSpot. She is also certified by the PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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