Ketchum launches new influencer program

NEW YORK: Ketchum has kicked off a new program designed to identify and reach "influencers," the individuals who shape the perceptions of customers and decision makers.

NEW YORK: Ketchum has kicked off a new program designed to identify and reach "influencers," the individuals who shape the perceptions of customers and decision makers.

The program, Ketchum Influencer Relationship Management, is a seven-step process designed as an alternative to mass-marketing techniques that often fall short with consumers bombarded with tens of thousands of messages on a daily basis. The program reaches beyond traditional PR targets such as media, government, and analysts, and follows the lead of a number of recently published books on consumer trendsetters, such as Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point and The Influentials by Edward Keller and Jonathan Berry.

The program is currently being piloted with three clients, including Gateway and Hydrogenics, and is an ongoing program with four other consumer and b-to-b organizations.

"In a time when people drown in information, influentials play a crucial role in how people think and act," said Paul Rand, the Ketchum partner who led the program's development team. "They serve to filter and validate information for people who want trusted counsel."

Gateway has used the program to identify about 250 people in various fields whose attention the company needs to grab as it tries to build awareness of its new corporate identity as an integrator of electronics around the PC. These influencers are outside of the tech and consumer-electronics press, and many are in the home design, home technology, and media technology fields.

"It's rare when there's somebody we haven't spoken to who has direct influence," said Brad Williams, director of communications for Gateway. "IRM helps find the tangential areas that are worth mining."

Once the influencers are identified, Williams explained, a kind of higher-stakes media outreach takes over. "If you look at the levels on which these influentials operate, you have

to be very creative in reaching out to them," he said.

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