Episode three of the Julius Profiles podcast features two distinguished guests discussing the PR perspective on influencer marketing. Michael Lamp, Senior Vice President of Social and Digital Media at HUNTER, and David Harrison, Senior Vice President at PR and marketing communications agency EVINS, discuss how influencer marketing fits into the PR toolkit.

Takeaways from this episode include:

  • The evolution of PR as it pertains to influencers
  • The benefits of building long-term relationships with influencers
  • The role of PR in mitigating risk for clients

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Check out some quotes, highlights, and takeaways from Episode 03: The PR Perspective:

A changing landscape

As advertising has evolved from print to TV to digital, so too have the functions of PR agencies. But their role remains the same. As David Harrison describes it, PR agencies are “the gatekeepers of the stories about brands,” who are trusted to tell the media and the public at-large about a brand’s values, messages, and beliefs.

Now that influencers have been added to the mix, people like Michael and David have had to adapt the traditions of PR to the dynamic and disruptive world of influencers. Though they took different paths to their current positions, with Michael rising through the ranks at HUNTER and David crossing over from digital media, both agree that influencers are here to stay.

As Michael explains, “influencers are no longer the new frontier, they're several years into reality. The tables have turned and now our briefs spell out influencer in capital letters.”

According to our guests, PR agencies have been leveraging influencers for their clients both as a standalone, always-on strategy and as a complement to other forms of advertising for a while now – it’s become standard practice.

In fact, both Michael and David agree that influencers often lead the charge in digital campaigns. Michael thinks influencers are useful throughout the advertising process, from “creating content at scale” to whitelisting content for a brand. David sees organic and paid content “morphing together into one amalgamous mass of coverage.”

Danny, Michael, and David discuss the evolution of public relations

Building long-term relationships

Like many of our clients and Julius Profiles guests, Michael and David made a point to say that long-term partnerships with influencers are ideal. However, especially in the world of PR, every partnership can take on a different form, depending on the client and the influencer.

When our host, Julius’ Head of Customer Strategy, Danny Palestine, asked them about their views on compensation, David revealed that he sees compensation as a means to deliver the best content to their clients. It doesn’t necessarily have to be money, but it does have to help a client achieve their goals: “You're always paying in some way, whether it's a barter, they're trying your product, or they're taking a trip to your hotel. So, it's not just a one off, it's much more of a, "How do we start a relationship?"

Michael dove deeper, describing the need for marketers to cultivate relationships that are mutually beneficial, rather than transactional. “If you're worth your salt as a PR storyteller, you have to be someone who can ensure that it doesn't feel transactional. So, whether it's a one-off post or a year-long partnership, they should only be the partner you choose if they can tell a compelling story that feels authentic.”

“I mean, the reality is it's 2019 and a lot of influencers will simply not pick up the phone unless there is a paycheck at the end of it,” said David.

Long-term partnerships between agencies and influencers can help expedite the vetting process, produce authentic content, and mitigate risk for future clients and campaigns.

Be transparent to get more wins

As agents working on behalf of a client, PR firms bear the risk of working with an influencer as much as the brands themselves. Thus, PR firms, like any brand, have to fully vet their influencers to ensure they align with a brand client, can create authentic content, and will act in good faith. Part of mitigating risk is treating an influencer with respect.

Piggybacking off the conversation about building relationships, Michael and David noted that giving influencers clear direction and creative license over their work can go a long way in delivering quality content to their clients.

“You can't dictate those things. We'll work out certain things in a contract but we don’t own this person. Brands can't dictate every element of the end product,” said David. On the other hand, PR firms also have to broker positive interactions with an influencer to ensure the relationship doesn’t sour, and the campaign doesn’t have the opposite of the intended effect.

“An influencer has the power to ruin a brand with a couple of keystrokes if they want to – we have to be very careful in the way that we speak to them,” said Michael. He went on to say that building a long-term relationship can go a long way in mitigating these kinds of risks. Michael, David, and Danny then shared some of their horror stories of influencers failing to deliver on their briefs, whether they mispronounced a brand’s name in a video or failed to actually create content.

All in all, Michael and David arrived at the same conclusion: treating influencers with respect and giving them room to be creative will yield excellent results, whether it’s a one-off opportunity or a long-term partnership. PR firms have to mitigate risk for their clients, so they often choose partners who they believe will act in good faith and will reciprocate the effort.

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The Julius Profiles podcast features guests with a variety of touchpoints within the industry, whether they’re working in PR like Michael and David, marketing at a major corporation, or are an influencer themselves. Don’t miss an episode – subscribe on your favorite podcasting platform below!

Subscribe to the Julius Profiles Podcast:

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