Pitch Witch: who influences the influencers?

Cultivate your relationships with care and you could provide the critical link for authentic client connections.

Alison Clarke: 'Building meaningful influencer relationships delivers for clients and protects the agency’s reputation'
Alison Clarke: 'Building meaningful influencer relationships delivers for clients and protects the agency’s reputation'

This is no time to stand still – yet, as we all aim to be on top of the next big thing, we do need to take stock and consider whether our consultancy, and teams within it, have the right skills to deliver the most effective results for clients.

From our influencers special: Exclusive survey – what PR and marketing chiefs really think about influencer marketing

We need to be adept at working with multiple channels, understanding their power and relevance; we have to create great content that works hard for our clients; we still have relationships with journalists – and now influencers, too.

As consultancy leaders we must ensure that our training and development plans give our teams the best possible understanding and basis for success.

The power of influencers as a topic for this month’s issue demonstrates how they have grown in importance. They are being engaged with daily, yet in some cases the understanding of how best to work with them is minimal. It’s rather like the bad old days of PR: in at the deep end, throw a few contacts at an executive and expect them to get on with it.

That’s not how our industry works now. Building meaningful relationships with influencers not only delivers for clients, but also builds and protects the agency’s reputation.

In many ways the approach is no different from the core training once received about developing and nurturing relationships with journalists. Knowing who they are is one thing; their importance and relevance in a sector is critical.

While there are many tools at our disposal, such as Grin, Buzz Sumo and others, which can identify targets, we need to understand what they really want and need. Building a relationship with those that matter makes the difference.

Your teams may well follow them on social media, but make sure they understand the importance of engagement.

From our influencers special: The business of influence: how savvy are today's stars of social?

Then there is the thorny issue of payment. A commercial relationship is legitimate, providing the content delivered is authentic. We’ve all seen gushy prose that smacks of cash rather than credibility – not helpful to the brand or your consultancy’s reputation. Building long-term relationships with them as people is the key to success. Real engagement will deliver quality content that is relevant and consistent.

Having committed to skills training and guidance for teams, should agency seniors also develop their influencer network, or is it the preserve of the millennials in the room?

Ask yourself whether you still connect with journalists relevant to your client’s industry irrespective of whether you are pitching stories. If the answer is yes, a relevant influencer could also be your target. You will be the best judge of where the most appropriate connection should be made.

However, if a blogger lunch isn’t about to be in your calendar, your responsibility as an agency leader is to ensure that the relationships your teams are forging are being conducted well, with transparency and respect to the rules of engagement. You can play your part with this increasingly important audience – millennial or not.

Alison Clarke is a business consultant and mentor @pitchwitch

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