Going to the few who fuel the many

While PR professionals work with the media every day to keep clients' brands top of mind, the opportunity also exists to tap into everyday consumers and influential thought leaders to spread the word about events, new products, and brand movements.

While PR professionals work with the media every day to keep clients' brands top of mind, the opportunity also exists to tap into everyday consumers and influential thought leaders to spread the word about events, new products, and brand movements. People are social creatures – when they like something (influencers in particular) they love to tell others about it. The trick is placing your message in the right hands so word of mouth can carry it forward.

The cornerstone of building a successful word-of-mouth program is in igniting and curating brand conversations with hand-selected, target-right influencers. We do this by using intimate person-to-person approaches. We do not pull our influencers from an overused database nor pay for participation knowing that this approach won't ignite a viral movement.

The key to reaching influencers – those who will truly spread the word and tell your brand story the way you want it to be told – is in the research and doing your homework. When we activated influencer events for P&G Prestige Brands (DDF, SK-II), we tapped into beauty insiders and curated a list of influencers for private special events that amplified the brand's message through word of mouth and social media. With deep networks in each of our markets, we were able to identify influencers who were not only predisposed to loving the product, but who also had built-in networks of their own in which to share their discovery.

Introducing yourself to influencers is like any other first encounter – you only have one shot at making a great impression. So it had better be a memorable one. This means offering a real-world, relevant experience to influencers, ideally something that helps them smell, touch, and feel what your brand is all about.

We saw this in action when we launched a German cough and cold medicine for children in the US. Our client used Grow's word-of-mouth influencer approach to directly reach moms and engage them in an educational conversation about their children's health. Afterward, the client conducted deep research and discovered 38.5% higher sales in the markets where we introduced the brand directly with influential moms in target-right circles of influence.

PR today needs to be a two-way conversation, engaging those interested in your client's brand in a meaningful way and listening to their feedback. If you're not directly engaging those who influence your target audience, in addition to traditional media, you may be leaving loyal customers and significant sales out in the cold.

Cassie Hughes is co-founder and strategy director of Grow Marketing.

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