messaging

Don't dismiss influencers

By Jennifer Kuenzer, TrizCom PR

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A few years ago, there was a reality show, “All on the Line,” starring fashion insider Joe Zee. Each episode centered on him working with struggling designers getting their failing brands on track. One episode had him helping a well-known designer whose label had all but fallen off the radar. The VP of Marketing was reluctant to listen to his millennial assistant’s idea of calling some popular bloggers to cover their show during Fashion Week. But Joe Zee listened. Where the front row of a fashion show has traditionally been reserved for movie stars and major print publications, Mr. Zee invited three fashion bloggers to sit on the front row. It worked. Those bloggers engaged immediately with their audiences on social channels like Twitter and Instagram. By engaging the bloggers, who in turn engaged their audience, Joe Zee got the designer back on the radar. There’s a new name for bloggers who engage directly with their followers to dish about new brands and products, resulting in higher sales – Influencers.

Influencers are everywhere, noncelebrities who have built massive followings on various social and digital channels based on their ability to genuinely engage their audience. Marketers know that one of the biggest traits of Generation Z is their desire for authenticity; influencers (and microinfluencers – who have less than 100,000 followers) fit that requirement. Because they’re focused on real engagement and communication, they are viewed as experts on whatever brand they are talking about. With traditional talent, you tell the talent what they’re going to say. With influencers, they say it the way they say everything. You get a built-in tone and attitude that was once dictated by the client. That’s the authenticity their audience is looking for. It’s not a traditional endorsement, because it’s so much more than a pose and a smile.

Influencers have quickly become a must-have for brands – some now have followings that are catapulting them to true celebrity status, but there is not yet a “go-to” or “tried and true” marketing strategy for them. Because of the traits that make them so important to consumers and popular with brands – authenticity, trust and direct engagement, the best way to utilize them cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. But as more tools for measuring influencer results are developed, finding the best influencers for your brand will become easier. Connecting organically with a brand and maintaining that authenticity is the foundation of working with influencers, and while the most effective strategies for them in the marketing PR landscape are still being tested, it’s clear they aren’t going anywhere, and finding that perfect fit for a brand can be what takes a campaign over the top.

 

PR is Not a Luxury in Your Business Budget

By Jeff Cheatham, Senior Account Manager at TrizCom PR

Ask almost any small-to-medium sized business owner about advertising and you’re likely to hear, “We have to advertise or we won’t succeed!” Then ask that same owner about budgeting for public relations. “PR? That’s for big companies who need hot-shots to get them out of a jam every once in a while.”

Really?

The existing narrative that hiring a public relations agency is a luxury, akin to treating yourself to a spa day, is harmful to businesses seeking trust and engagement among their target audiences. Study after study confirms that a well-crafted and executed public relations campaign is far more accepted that paid advertising attempts.

What a Spa Day Looks Like. Not PR.

What a Spa Day Looks Like. Not PR.

In perhaps one of the most powerful citations, the group inPowered conducted a Nielsen-backed study in 2014 on the topic of the decision-making process in consumers. Its findings indicated that PR is 90 percent more effective than traditional advertising. The reasoning comes down to endorsement. Consumers are aware that ads are a paid quid-pro-quo. But a well-placed and glowing article about a business and what it has to offer in the pages of a respected media outlet reads like a tacit testimonial.

Let’s look at a quick real-world example of advertising vs. public relations:

This billboard ad I saw on my morning commute just told me to go buy a Casper Mattress.

This billboard ad I saw on my morning commute just told me to go buy a Casper Mattress.

Now let’s look at what a well-developed public relations campaign message looks like.

Did   Business Insider   just tell me I should buy a Casper Mattress?

Did Business Insider just tell me I should buy a Casper Mattress?

When you accept the reasoning behind why public relations encourages more trust among your target audience, it’s easy to see why brands clamor for rankings with J.D. Power & Associates. If I say I’m awesome, I’m simply bragging. If J.D. Power & Associates says I’m awesome, that’s actual proof.

One of the most eloquent examples of advertising vs. public relations is outlined in the book, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR, by Al and Laura Ries. One of their central themes states that advertising is like the wind, but PR is like the sun. Based on one of Aesop’s Fables, the sun and wind enter a challenge to see which has the most influence in trying to get a traveler to remove his coat. You can guess what happens. The harder the wind blew, the tighter the traveler clung to his coat. When the sun shone, the traveler removed it. The lesson for advertisers that the authors provide with this parable is that you can’t force your way into a prospect’s mind.

Advertising often results in resistance. If you disagree, I’ll assume you love to read pop-up ads and watch auto-play videos when you surf the web. If you click through or exit the ads to read the content you intended to do before you were interrupted, it’s likely you’ll see a fine example of public relations work.

Establishing a budget for public relations shouldn’t be seen as a luxury spend for your overall communications budget. Brands are discovering more and more that their customers seek trust, credibility, proof, engagement and a personal connection from the products and services they buy. A public relations campaign checks off each of these five boxes. Traditional advertising doesn’t meet a single one.

If you’re a small-to-medium sized business looking to increase awareness and visibility among your core audiences, it may be time to discard old notions and begin thinking about the utilization of a positive PR campaign of your own.

Because you can’t buy your way into a J.D. Power & Associates ranking.