Over the last couple day or so, there’s been some really interesting threads over on the twitter about the role of regulation in the PR world. Thanks to Ella Minty’s #PowerandInfluence twitter chat on a Wednesday for prompting it all. Somehow I managed to spin off a side thread about what role the PR industry has in the influencer space. It’s been niggling away at me since I wrote this piece last month.
I’ve seen a few things lately which has triggered this thought. Earlier this week, the ASA issued this checklist for influencers (clever news hook using Love Island departees/finalists) – and the perennial news stories about some influencer getting into transparency problems, especially of late on Instagram – Mrs Hinch springs to mind. Some argue that the influencer market has peaked – engagement on Instragram sponsored posts is is half of what it was a year ago (InfluenceDB research). Others, say we’re just getting going! Edelman’s “In brands we trust” research shows 58% of people have bought something after being recommended it by an influencer in the last six months. Thanks to this Buffer podcast for those stats.
Relatability with your influencer is as important as popularity. This plays into the “people like me” segment of influencer who Edelman have been showing us for years, and remain one of the most powerful groups when it comes to trust. Interesting, it seems that engagement is improving the lower your audience size – maybe we should be activating the more micro-influencer that we all have in our organisations? Hitsearch research suggests that those smaller audiences are also more “real” – the bots and fake followers.
A marketing problem, right?
Ok, so this is all well and good. But why is this all a PR problem? Surely it’s a marketing one?
One of my “go to” people on the influencer world is Scott Guthrie – who comes from a PR background – formerly of Ketchum, and now PRCA Board member. He has written extensively on influencer marketing and relations and I’d encourage you to delve into https://sabguthrie.info to immerse yourself. If audio is your thing, Scott also just joined Stella Bayles on her PR Resolution podcast.
In a recent post, Scott suggested that Influencer marketing should be lead by the PR industry – not really a position I’d have thought about. I would naturally have seen it as a route to marketing for brands. When you go back to the definition of PR – managing reputation, goodwill and understanding between an organisation and it’s publics etc etc – influencers of whatever ilk are slap bang in the middle of that.
Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.
Whether they are your employees or wider influencers in your sphere, or up to celebrity influencers, they all sit in the scope of the PR and comms world. In that post, Scott does make clear that PR should “lead” influencer relations, but not necessarily “own” it. One for another day!
So that’s settled that. Now then…
… what do we do about it!?
I did a search of “influencer” on the CIPR and the PRCA websites (I’m a CIPR member) and was a little underwhelmed. The CIPR returned just two entries from the last few years (although I suspect this says more about why they are currently updating their website!) The PRCA had more (maybe Scott’s influence!). But still, we don’t seem to have much of a say on influencer issues as a PR sector. Addressing that point in the Twitter chat, above, Stephen Waddington, PR blogger extraordinaire and CEO of Metia, chimed in:
Surely it’s got to be time to change that. PR and comms has to have a voice here.
Maybe the first port of call is to change the term from influencer marketing to influencer relations. That last word instantly points it in our direction. I just read a Cision report – “Is influencer marketing a busted flush” – and only at page 7 (of 12) does the word “relations” crop up.
Time for the relationship people to step up to the plate!