There is no question that when it comes to marketing, and especially public relations, the topic of influencers by far raises the most questions. There’s a lot of gray area when it comes to influencer marketing and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Without the black and white, there’s a lot of room for flexibility and creativity, which is why we love working with influencers on behalf of our clients.

Here are some common influencer questions we get asked:

  • Earned, owned or paid: who should handle influencers?
  • What’s the point of social influencers?
  • To pay or not to pay?
  • How do I vet an influencer?
  • Why would I partner with someone with a lower following?
  • Do I need an influencer contract?
  • What is the future of influencer marketing?

We will be exploring many of these questions and more in a series of articles to help guide you in your influencer marketing endeavors, whether influencers are a large piece of your marketing pie or just a sliver.

First up……

Earned, Owned or Paid: who should handle influencers?

One of the hotly debated questions when it comes to influencers is, what marketing discipline owns the partnerships: earned, owned or paid?

Well, here is your big gray answer: ALL of them. That’s right. It doesn’t really matter who is managing influencer relations for your brand, as long as it is happening.

Why PR (earned) should handle influencers?

Pitch, pitch, pitch – Lou Hammond Group’s media relations motto, we are all about personalized pitching to build relationships. If you don’t pitch, no story, no relationship, and no brand awareness. Isn’t the same true in the world of influencers? Being one of 5K likes or 200+ comments doesn’t put you on the top of an influencer’s radar. Personally emailing, meeting with and forging personal relationships, sets a brand apart from the crowd. Getting on someone’s radar and building relationships is in a PR professional’s DNA.

And, just as a good PR professional can sniff out a phony writer, they can easily do the same for influencers.

As PR professionals, we are all about key messages, so who better to provide messaging to an influencer than the PR team – we make sure influencers are well-informed of the brand’s messaging and key deliverables. Additionally, when it comes to fact checking and tracking, there’s no better team suited. At LHG, we invest in a dedicated influencer outreach and tracking tool to ensure we are vetting and tracking to the best of our ability for our clients.

We also know how to get the most bang out of our client’s buck. We know how to work and negotiate on a tight budget. Our persuasive pitching/selling tactics prove to be an asset in the influencer marketing space.

Why Social (owned) should handle influencers?

Social media teams are an obvious choice to manage influencer campaigns. After all, they live in the influencer’s social world. Between daily monitoring, trend research and all-around content development, social is organically engaging with and discovering new influencers each day. Anyone can google “top influencers,” but finding those little known, up-and-coming micro influencers is a skill itself (see future post on the various levels of influencers)! The key here is organic discovery – something that good social media teams are already doing.

They say, “birds of a feather flock together” and the same can often be applied to influencers. When you find a group of influencers that align with your brand, chances are they have influencer friends that may fit the bill as well. With a little bit of sleuthing, observing and engagement, social teams can begin laying the ground work for future partnerships based off current partnerships.

Another key role social media teams can play in influencer marketing is live engagement with the influencer’s content and amplifying the message or campaign through the brand’s owned channels and paid social or boosting.

Plus, in addition to PR tools, social media teams are set up to track conversations, engagement and of course the ultimate goal: to increase a brand’s key message awareness, channel reach and engagement.

Why advertising (paid) should handle influencers?

When it comes to budget, it is no secret that influencer campaigns can be a drop in the bucket for advertising/paid teams. And, that’s great news! While there are plenty of opportunities to work with influencers on barter – we know, we do it all the time – the best influencer campaigns offer compensation to influencers to ensure deliverables are being met. Plus, the fact is, it doesn’t matter how fabulous your brand is, for top influencers, their channels are their business. No one likes to work for free!

In addition to supporting with budget to pay influencers, paid teams can offer a unique perspective that can really amplify an influencer campaign. Perhaps they are in the process of negotiating a big buy with a print publication, could one of your influencers help promote the outlet/print issue as well? Considering a paid broadcast integration? Could your influencer be a spokesperson?

Advertising creative teams are also an asset, so even if your influencer marketing efforts are the responsibility of PR and social teams, it would be worth a quick brainstorm with everyone to maximize your efforts and stand out from other influencer campaigns.

The Sweet Spot: an integrated approach to influencer marketing

In our experience, the best influencer marketing initiatives and campaigns utilize the knowledge and expertise of all three disciplines. Each brings a unique and important perspective to the table. Our number one recommendation? Get to the table early! Start talking about influencers as an integrated team ASAP if you aren’t already. The best influencer campaigns not only incorporate earned, owned and paid, but they are also strategic and well-planned.

One-off influencer engagement is still effective. Especially, in the travel, hospitality, home décor/DIY and fashion categories. If a good opportunity arises, take it. And, if influencer marketing isn’t allocated in a brand’s annual budget, then one-off partnerships might be the only way – for now (be sure to get it influencer marketing in the budget next year). If you need help putting that plan together, you know who to call, wink, wink.

Speaking of budget, that brings us to two other very popular questions:

To pay or not to pay? and How much of my budget should be spent on influencers?

Keep following here for our next article in this series to address these common questions.

In the meantime, if you need assistance with your next influencer campaign, contact our influencer experts at LHG.