The September 2016 issue of the magazine, therefore, brings the publication of a series of analyses looking at: how new types of influencers are gradually replacing traditional media and celebrities as a means of engaging consumers; identifying and profiling 50 of these new influencers; interviewing a handful of them to understand what makes them tick; and quizzing some Generation Z consumers to understand their social-media habits.
Increasingly, we will see brands and agencies, possibly media owners, setting up ‘influencer’ divisions as the commercial world struggles to understand the new ways of engaging audiences.
Having observed/endured first the dot.com revolution of the late 90s, then the social media explosion of the 2000s, this feels to me like the third age of digital marketing.
Interestingly, new influencers further alter the balance of power within our world.
They have gained influence without the backing of traditional media organisations, without training as journalists, without building celebrity through established means.
They also challenge the rules of communications strategy established over the past decade, blurring the distinction between paid, earned and owned media channels.
Indeed, whether, or how much, to pay these influencers is a huge issue in PR and advertising at the moment.
It causes a deepening problem in defining either discipline. It is also why we see media-buying agencies establishing influencer divisions.
Each marketing specialism has a theoretical advantage in the war over the new influence landscape.
The media guys may have the scale and data to ensure effective campaigns. The advertising guys may have the superior creative and planning departments to wow young bloggers and vloggers. But, really, influence should be the domain of PR professionals.
It is what the PR industry has always specialised in. Earned-media specialists need to adapt quickly.
They need to prove that they understand these complex new maps of influence. Moreover, they must prove that they ‘get’ these new influencers and are best placed to understand how consumers are influenced.
Depending on how one approaches it, new influence offers either a defining opportunity or an existential crisis for PR.
Danny Rogers Danny Rogers is editor-in-chief of PRWeek UK