Teammates of mine just came back from Toy Fair in New York this past weekend.
Traditionally a show place for the latest and greatest hot toys for the coming year and holiday season, the event has evolved over the years to become more than just a manufacturer's showcase and selling forum: it's a must-attend event for any PR professional in the space who wants to influence the influencers.
The positive outcomes for clients go well beyond the media coverage that emanates from the show. The toy industry influencers – those handful of experts who determine the hot toys, who forecast the trends, and who set the tone for how traditional and social media write and talk about toys – are some of the most important people to reach during Toy Fair, leading up to and after it.
Building solid relationships with them – the “new” Rolodex – has become critical to marketing and PR success.
The fact is that in every consumer sector, not just the toy industry, communicators must start any strategic planning process with a true understanding of the influencer landscape – identifying the influencers who matter most to the end user and building messages and strategies that will engage them, whether the end user is the consumer, the retailer, the media, or all of the above.
And the work of mapping influencers takes time and thought – and budget. Unfortunately, too often, influencer research is one of the assets in the PR toolkit that often winds up on the cutting room floor when budgets are cut. But unless we press this conversation with our clients and show how critical influencer mapping is to measuring real marketing success and ROI – externally and internally – our campaigns will simply not be as effective.
Unless we know who matters most to the people who matter most to our clients, we run the risk of talking primarily to ourselves.
Liz Van Lenten is EVP and group director of the Chicago consumer marketing practice at Ogilvy PR Worldwide.