There was a time when a PR professional could make a substantial career out of cultivating two or three senior editorial contacts and milking them for all they were worth on behalf of their clients. A cozy diet of liquid lunches and long dinners would all be essential elements in cementing those relationships: the journalists got their exclusive stories and the clients got their exposure in the small number of mainstream media outlets that dominated the agenda. Everybody won.
Nowadays, the media has exploded in size and format, especially with the stunning growth of social media. And, consequently, the definition and shape of influence has also changed exponentially.
There is a whole new generation of trendsetters out there. Many of them are camped behind a computer screen, but they have enormous sway over the opinions and choices of consumers - and brands are coming up with innovative ways to get in front of them.
As Unilever's Christine Cea points out, these new influencers have a built-in audience and add significant credibility within their areas of expertise - and that's something paid-for advertising and traditional marketing just can't buy. It's why CPG giants such as Cea's employer are diverting budgets from bought media into the increased interactivity of social environments.
One thing that hasn't changed from the old days is the need to have good personal relationships with these influencers. They might spend most of their time behind a computer screen, but the new influencers are much more than a computer algorithm that can be measured like a formula. They require just as much cultivation as the old-school journalists who hung out in bars next to newspaper offices.