Brand Comms: Malala shows the power of influence wielded with clarity and care

Brands should learn from human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who uses targeted influencer comms to powerful effect.

Kate Sarginson: 'It’s imperative to be clear. Whatever your brand objective, there’s an influencer for that'
Kate Sarginson: 'It’s imperative to be clear. Whatever your brand objective, there’s an influencer for that'

I recently read a fascinating article about Malala – the Pakistani schoolgirl who gained worldwide recognition after being shot by the Taliban in 2012, and went on to become the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 – in The Sunday Times Magazine, and it got me thinking.

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The piece focused on her recent trip to meet young women from Brazil’s favelas, and cast a light on their troubling stories. How she chose to tell that story gave me pause for thought.

Yes, she talked to ‘traditional media’, but there in her entourage were Juanpa Zurita, Jérôme Jarre and Elaine Welteroth.

Most people won’t know who these three individuals are. However, Malala is not trying to talk to most people.

She wants to take her message straight to her young audience, and what better way than via these influencers? Between them, they have 25 million followers – more than three times the combined circulation of our national daily newspapers.

This is a beautiful example of how we can use influencers to tell the right story – think audience first, then select the most appropriate influencers. Ones that resonate, engage, and encourage action or a response. Isn’t that the Holy Grail?

Brands so often invest in influencers because they feel right for their audience. To be fair, many tools on the market propagate this approach. Tools that use vague methodologies and rigid data sources. Often this leads to campaigns that look great on paper, generating those big numbers. But is it actually doing anything for the brand? It’s questionable.

Like any brief, we have to start with audience, and overlay our brand ambitions. If the two don’t require an influencer programme, don’t invest in one just because everyone else is.

Turning to influencers, it is imperative to be clear about the desired outcome. Conversion? Awareness? Conversation? Whatever your brand objective, there is an influencer for that.

However, as an industry, we arguably need to be more sophisticated in our approach; because, at the end of the day, we need to deliver tangible returns for our clients.

Why? Because more than anything else ROI is the thing keeping them awake: 78 per cent of marketers cite it as their biggest challenge, according to Linqia research.

If they are investing significant sums in paying these influencers, it is only right to expect a strong return.

Some would say it is an inexact science. I’d argue there are ways to hedge your bet. Let’s use analytics, let’s use AI, let’s use conversation/topic/competitor analysis. Let’s be clear what measurable success looks like. If we manage this, marketers can start to sleep easier.

Back to Malala. An influencer in her own right, she is a phenomenal 21-year-old who wants her message to be heard. She knows her audience, and how to reach it. She uses influence to influence at the most targeted level – and in some way, as marketers we could all learn from this remarkable woman.

Thumbnail image via @MalalaFund on Twitter

Kate Sarginson is managing director, consumer marketing, at Weber Shandwick London

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