PR Pros and Influencers: A Passing Collaboration Trend Or A Recipe For Business Success?

Are you familiar with the term SIP? You should be. It stands for Socially Important People, or digital influencers. Today, youtubers, bloggers, vloggers, instagramers, and snapchatters are increasingly becoming well-profiting brands with more than just one storyteller behind them. Virtually everyone cooperates with them. PR pros do too. And as is often the case in business, for such cooperation to prove successful and bring the desired results, both teams should be reasonable about it.

The end of January has brought a very surprising piece of news. A Pole has become the most influential fashion blogger in the world. Julia Kuczyńska, known as Maffashion, topped the list produced by WWD.com. Nikki Tutorials, Kathleen Lights and Manny Gutierrez, fashion blogger to debut as the first-ever male ambassador of Maybelline, were also listed among the best in the ranking next to the Polish blogger. It’s not their popularity in terms of the number of fans or followers, but earned media value that comes from the cooperation with digital influencers that was applied as the main criterion in this ranking. As Maffashion herself wrote on Instagram, “The report was made by assigning a specific dollar value to each piece of content created for fashion giants.” What does this achievement really mean? It proves that such collaboration produces economic benefits for businesses that dare to engage digital influencers in their activities.

So, anyone who still thinks that collaborating with digital influencers is just a passing trend and a waste of money should now revise their approach in this respect. SIPs can help brands make money. But—as is often the case in business—your actions better be carefully considered and formed, and the benefit will be mutual.

Strategy over trends

Brands are now more willing to have their actions supported by collaborating with digital influencers. The reason for this is simple—it’s effective. Consumers see influencers as their friends, and it is our friends who we trust more than any brand. We value the opinions of such “friends” when making our own purchasing decisions, which is an enormous advantage for brands.

Also, skillfully handled activities undertaken in cooperation with digital influencers may be a cure for PR pros and marketers who are kept awake at night by mechanisms like adblock—more than 51% of people use them in Poland (source: Kantar TNS).

A profitable record of cooperation between brands and influencers is obviously very tempting. After reading such optimistic news, it must have crossed the minds of many PR pros that they should change their strategy for the next couple of months. It may even turn out to be a terrific move in some cases.

Not in all though. Instead of following the trend and giving in to temptation of hiring influencers to support their campaigns, it is actually better to think it through carefully. Otherwise, we’ll definitely lose money, maybe even reputation, when the results of such cooperation turn out to be far from our expectations.

It matters with whom and how

Not all brands must work with influencers. If, however, a brand decides to do so, it should take a few important rules into consideration. Currently, strong emphasis is placed on whether a particular influencer matches the brand in terms of image, whether the formats he or she creates are consistent with the brand’s vision and also who is their audience. Ensuring a good match between your brand and the influencer will always be far more important than his reach.

When considering starting cooperation with a particular influencer, it’s also worth to check in which communication channels they are active. We should remember that influencers operate on many different social platforms, using all communication channels that are available. That’s why, by collaborating with one author, we can engage the audience of numerous social media sites at the same time. It’s a huge advantage which provides great opportunities when planning campaigns.

Did you make up your mind about having a particular influencer involved in your actions? Trust him! They know best what to say to their followers and how to address them in order to produce the desired results. That is why today digital influencers more frequently become co-authors or even authors of campaigns. As a result brands may be certain that published content perfectly matches the channels, formats and audiences, while translating into the authenticity of their story.

A win-win model. Is that even possible?

Theory is one thing, but practice often proves that cooperation between PR pros and digital influencers is challenging, as well as full of misconceptions, stereotypes and contradictory expectations.

As part of the project “Komu Komunikacja” (Communication: For Whom) we have conducted a study of interactions between PR pros and digital influencers to help us find out what both sides expect and how such cooperation between them may be improved.

The results of this study are conclusive—brands acknowledge the power of digital influencers and plan on utilizing it in their communication activities. Both groups, however, lack clearly defined principles of cooperation. In consequence, it happens that both the brand reps and influencers end up resenting one another instead of acting towards common goals. How to deal with this problem?

Talk to each other.

This seems obvious, but quite often major problems arise due to the lack of an honest conversation on day one of our cooperation project. And both sides should state at the outset what possibilities and expectations they have, and what can they offer to each other. Hiding motives will only lead to misunderstandings.

Be professional.

Cooperation between PR pros and digital influencers is not playing around in social media, but entering into a genuine contract. If both sides want to be treated seriously, they should be performing it in all-business seriousness.

PR pros claim that the thing that annoys them most is when bloggers and vloggers fail to deliver on the agreed deadlines and commitments. Such problems can be avoided by signing an agreement that covers all oral agreements.

Trust one another.

Almost one third of digital influencers stated that what annoys them most in collaborating with PR pros is their lack of understanding of the role and specificities of social media activities. 27% reject cooperation proposals because a PR pro offered collaboration with brands that do not match thematically their blog or vlog profile. What does it mean? Brands prefer to have control over the story and make decisions on what, where and how will be published online. However, when choosing to work with bloggers or vloggers, they must trust their experience. Nobody knows their audience better. Digital influencers are so aware of the needs and expectations of their readers and viewers that they simply reject covering stories that don’t work well within their communication channels.

Respect our work.

Work costs money. Apparently though, brands often don’t consider the actions of digital influencers as work, as 58% of PR pros still prefer to barter instead of paying actual money. Given how 92% of digital influencers would rather take money, we should not be surprised that financial matters are at the bottom of many misunderstandings and cause irritation of online creators.

Play it strategically.

Many examples of collaboration with digital influencers are the result of a communication trend, leading to many one-off, not always well-thought-out actions. Creators of online content are increasingly becoming brand ambassadors, which guarantees long-term actions that become be integral parts of the brand’s strategy.

Increased confidence in digital influencers together with measurable financial benefits that come from collaborating with them result in more and more PR campaigns employing online content creators. However, for such collaboration to bring the expected results, it’s essential to think through the principles guiding it, select appropriate communication channels, be frank and straightforward, and keep in mind that joint actions first and foremost mean business. Only proper involvement, accountability and honesty on both sides will guarantee success.


This article was originally published on PR Fashion Talks.