It’s no secret that influencers have become an integral part of most brands’ marketing/PR strategies. As PR professionals, we continue to work to adapt to ever-changing digital marketing and social trends, while still maintaining traditional media relations practices. Instead of pulling from the (dwindling) pool of media pubs, we’re now tasked with identifying and reaching out to on-brand influencers who have the potential to serve as trustworthy brand ambassadors.
When I started my career in PR, I was tasked solely with influencer relations, specifically in the fashion and lifestyle categories. The blogger world was new and fascinating to me. I connected with a variety of influencers from different parts of the country, and have since developed long lasting relationships. In the beginning, my pitching strategy was simple: look at each blogger’s most recent post, talk about it in your outreach and share with them some information about your current client roster. Since then, I’ve secured coverage from influential style bloggers for a variety of brands in the lifestyle and fashion spaces. I even started my own style blog 7th & Willow, and I did this with the help of a fashion blogger who I connected with in my influencer outreach. See how that works!
I think it’s funny when I hear people talk about influencers as if they are some revolutionary entity that require payment in order to reap results. That’s like saying to our clients, “We can get you coverage in ELLE if you pay for a full-page ad.” No, that’s not how PR works. We secure coverage through blood, sweat and tears. Working with influencers is no different.
So, to help shed some light on what it takes to work with influencers and create lasting relationships, I’m sharing five of my favorite trade secrets below.
1. Take time to research. I know it’s time-consuming, but it’s necessary. Let Instagram be your CISION. Everything you need is right there inside that little platform you use everyday. Start your research with a blogger you know well. If you don’t know any, search relevant hashtags like #fashionblogger #blogger #bloggerstyle #nybloggers #bostonbloggers, etc. Once you find one blogger who resonates with your brand, use the drop down arrow below their follower count and scroll through the ‘Suggestions for You.’ This will lead you down a fun little rabbit hole of similar bloggers.
2. Use micro-influencers. First, let’s define micro-influencers. According to Adadge, micro-influencers have anywhere from 10,000 to 90,000 followers. They often have higher engagement rates, more personal connections with their followers and their audiences are likely more targeted. Some clients may be weary of working with influencers who have less than 100,000 followers because they fear they won’t garner the same results as a macro-influencer. However, in my experience, micro-influencers are the ones who garner more impressive results and genuine engagement. Work on building a solid list of micro-influencers before wasting time pining after the macros.
3. Go after the ‘up-and-comers.’ This is key. I truly believe in the practice of identifying up-and-coming bloggers, before even thinking about tackling macro-influencers. This is your opportunity to get to them first and be part of their success. For instance, when I started working with influencers, I connected with a series of bloggers who had modest followings, ranging from 5,000 to 15,000. Today, some have over 100,000 followers. In fact, I continue to work with them and have developed lasting relationships. I even asked blogger Larissa Leigh of Living in Color to share her thoughts on what it’s like to work with me. Here is what she had to say:
“You use real-life, relatable language and you are super friendly! One of the things that bothers me (especially when I first started blogging) is how stiff PR reps can be and how some feel that the language they use is universal to everyone else, when really it can be very intimidating and difficult to understand; especially if the influencer is just starting out.
Also, we worked together back when I had under 10K Instagram followers. I like that you work with influencers who don’t necessarily have giant followings, but instead have an engaged niche specific audience.”
Defining an ‘up-and-comer’ can be tricky, and there’s really no right way to determine which bloggers are going to make it big. However, some attributes to look for include: quality of their images/work, consistency in posting and authentic engagement with followers. For example, are they constantly checking in with their followers? Do they treat their followers like friends and work to create genuine, relatable content, or are their posts just slapped together to please a brand and make some money? Not only are up-and-coming bloggers more likely to work with you at little to no cost, but they will also remember the brands that believed in them in the early stages of their blogging career. This will help you develop genuine, longstanding relationships that will benefit you in the long term.
4. Be sincere. When reaching out to influencers, use relatable language and connect with them on a personal level. As a blogger myself, I’ve received some very impersonal, cut-and-paste emails that make me feel like I’m just a number on their mail chimp list. It looks thoughtless, and doesn’t make me want to connect. We are in the business of writing emails. If you take the time to craft a personalized email to an editor at VOGUE, do the same for an influencer.
54 percent of influencers say they will work with brands who respect them as they would any other publisher. It’s true, influencers have earned their influence and expect respect from brands when it comes to collaborations.
5. Say ‘Thank you.’ It’s so simple and easy, but it goes a long way. After you see that an influencer has posted something for your client on their blog or social channels, ping them and tell them how much you love their post. They’ll appreciate it and may be more likely to continue to post about the brand organically.
Influencers are not going anywhere, so take the time to develop a solid list and work on creating lasting relationships. Not only will your clients be happy, but hey, maybe you’ll even become an influencer yourself!