From the editor-in-chief: Influence is at the heart of PR - and so are the new influencers

PRWeek's theme for September 2018 is influence - the very essence of the PR business. Influence, as opposed to blunt power, has long been the preferred currency for professional communicators.

But it is time to re-examine the patterns of influence that tangibly are transforming our media, politics, brand strategies – the whole of public life. And it is time to talk to the ‘new influencers’ who are growing in importance as we speak, enthusiastically shifting the communications paradigm.

It is enlightening then to look at influence from a multi-generational perspective.

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

Through its analysis this month PRWeek has identified a third grade of influencer emerging. If the first type was amateur ‘bedroom bloggers’ and the second seminal YouTubers, the third grade comprises those content creators who have become genuine entrepreneurs (such as Joe Wicks, September 2017) or those with the ambition to also embrace mainstream media (Niki and Sammy on Radio 1).

PRWeek has commissioned fresh research into influencer marketing for the PR industry, which highlights a fast-maturing discipline. Our survey, by OnePoll, shows influencer marketing has, in some sectors, surpassed celebrity endorsements, even media relations, in terms of its importance for brand communication.

Because this is still a young discipline, however, it continues to suffer from myriad problems; not least fraudulent audience claims and a lack of transparency regarding what is editorial and what is advertising or sponsorship. These issues are limiting the progress of influencer marketing in some sectors.

To view this subject from a more established perspective, we have also caught up with arguably the world’s most influential PR professional, Richard Edelman, to examine how the globe’s biggest comms agency is adapting to these new paradigms.

Edelman’s mantra of ‘earned at the core, social by design’ addresses the challenges of brand marketing in 2018, embracing the new channels of influence, fresh approaches to content, and investing in cutting-edge data and analytics. It is the Holy Grail that the best PR consultancies, ad agencies and media shops now seek. Campaign’s head of media, Gideon Spanier, takes a hard look at Edelman’s claim to be leading this quest.

Influence, at this point in history, seems very much up for grabs. New challengers are staking their claims, the old models are under threat. Businesses are having to evolve fast to take advantage. But then the rewards, as ever, do look tantalisingly lucrative.

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