Getting It Right When Engaging Influencers

Gone are the days where working with influencers meant sending them a bunch of brand swag and scoring a shout out. Despite what many brands still believe, it goes beyond a snapshot of the influencer posing awkwardly with your newest drop, or writing a caption below an aesthetic pic about how great your product works.

The influencer marketing industry has not only matured, but become increasingly savvy over the years, and I’ve witnessed how influencers have worked to balance growing their reach, established authenticity and hustled for commercial work opportunities – some much more successfully than others. Influencers who manage to find the winning formula of staying relevant and connected with their followers while constantly reinventing themselves have been able to become successful – while those who have failed in this regard not only lost their audience and credibility, but the potential for partnerships. 

On the brand side, new ways of working with influencers have been sprouting up as companies explore how to create productive and mutually beneficial relationships. There is a benefit to working with them – but only if they’re engaged wisely. 

So, how can you make sure you’re working with influencers in the right way for your brand? 

Influencer marketing is both a time and monetary investment 

It’s important to have the right mindset when considering influencer marketing. By now, most marketers know that not every influencer out there is a good fit for their brand. You already know the importance of research to find relevant influencers who are already aligned with your campaign objectives and target audience. 

But one thing that doesn’t get enough attention is the importance of dedicating proper resources towards building an influencer strategy. Grouping influencer marketing under the same bracket as a PR plan means that both resource-heavy units are sharing the same budget, which often results in a half-hearted influencer campaign that reaps little success. 

Giving influencers one-off access to complimentary products is no longer enough – from a consumer perspective, they are not swayed into purchasing based on an Instagram video or post, as it does not look genuine when an influencer raves about something only to never be seen using it again. Beyond this, truly impactful influencers know their worth and the best ways to to engage with their followers meaningfully. Working with influencers effectively has to be an ongoing conversation that is part of a bigger strategy, and it must have the resources required to create quality content. This requires both the time to connect with an influencer and discuss with them how best to work together, as well as a financial investment to compensate the influencer for their work. 

The key here is achieving a good balance – you don’t want to be throwing money and/or products at anyone who is keen to come on board, but you also need to ensure the influencer you work with is genuine and can help you achieve campaign results.  

To do this, here are three things to keep in mind when working with an influencer:

1. Respect their judgement

The process of creating good content with influencers can become more complicated than regular campaigns, so simply paying an influencer will not help you meet your objectives. Instead, you need to work with them to create this content.

Don’t be afraid to give influencers creative control. After all, they got to where they are today because they figured out what their audience wants to see from them. Remember that their authenticity is why they’ve amassed their current following, which makes it important for them to be able to inject their voice and perspective in the campaign.

The key to achieving great creative results is to ensure the overall message is still aligned to your objectives, while giving the influencer room to speak in an organic tone that is natural to their followers. You can do this by setting guidelines and helping them understand how their role contributes towards the campaign goals. 

2. Keep an open mind 

The definition of influencers has broadened – it’s no longer only about numbers when it comes to picking a suitable partner. There are many ways to evaluate the level of influence someone has that goes beyond follower count to include the relationship and interaction they have with their audience. So don’t discount the impact a micro-influencer can have! They have usually built up a specialised following through their criteria of working only with brands they are passionate about to protect their relationship with their audience, so you can definitely count on them to be authentic.

For instance, if you’re looking to raise awareness for an eco-friendly solution that helps to cut down on single-use plastics, definitely think about including micro-influencers who are passionate about sharing ways to reduce waste. 

3. Create a mutually beneficial relationship 

Both the brand and influencer need to acknowledge that the relationship is a two-way street. The influencer is not there to just help you sell your product – they’ll want to grow their own personal brand through this relationship.  

Consider what other benefits you can give the influencer. They want to feel valued and heard, so do consider providing more opportunities for them to feel like a part of your brand. There are various ways you can do this that don’t involve extra costs, such as giving them first dibs to exclusive product launches, event invites or even a personal discount code for their friends and family. This can help them become more than just a one-off campaign partner to become something of a (comparatively) low-cost brand ambassador. When there’s something in the deal for both parties, influencers will be much more inclined to go above and beyond to create something great with you. 

When done right, influencer marketing can help to drive strong results for your marketing campaign – but it is only as effective as you are savvy. Do your research, manage internal expectations, choose your partners with care and keep building those relationships. 

Need more help integrating influencer engagement into your marketing strategy? Drop us a line at hell[email protected]

Myth BUSting: Get My Ad Off That Bus!

You have an ad on a bus – congratulations, that’s great stuff.

How much did it cost? More than $30,000 for three months? And that’s one bus only? Right.

Your brand awareness must be spiking. Oh, you’re not sure?

You must be getting some leads, though?

While I am sure your CEO is happy to see the brand flash past, it can be hard to tell whether your bus ad has actually made an impact. Bus ad starter-packages of around $30,000 is a big sum for small and midsize companies to spend, so you really need to consider how effective bus ads they actually are for your intended outcome, and what you could potentially do with that money instead. 

What does an ad on a bus do for you?

Many marketing departments (not all, though) are afraid to invest their budgets in testing new ways of reaching their target audiences. They are more comfortable with tried-and-tested campaigns that have worked for them in the past rather than branch out into new territories they are uncertain about paying off.

Now, we aren’t slamming transit ads altogether — they’re hugely effective for certain campaigns and brands. In fact, out-of-home advertising is the only offline media category to grow consistently, thanks in part to huge commuter volumes. Our contention is with brands taking a cookie-cutter approach, given the main argument for running ads on buses in Singapore is that it will generate mass awareness for your brand. 

But does it? Sure, you can get in front of people by riding around Singapore — but how impactful is it?

Here’s what you CAN know about your bus ads: What percentage of people from your target audience takes the bus (in general) and how often; which routes are more likely to be seen by a particular audience (i.e. students, tourists, office workers); and an estimation of how many people could potentially see the bus your ad is on.

But here’s what you CAN’T know about them: Your brand awareness lift as a result of your bus ad; how many people looked at your website or social pages after seeing the bus ad; how many people bought your products or requested your services as a result; cost per conversion and return on investment (ROI) or return on ad spend (ROAS).

For large, established brands, these concerns are minimal. But for small and mid-sized businesses looking to reach a wide audience, to generate mass brand awareness and to track their efforts accordingly, it should be an important consideration. 

So what should you do with $30,000 (if you don’t paste it on a bus)?

A quick bus ride would reveal that most people look at their phones both while commuting or at bus stops. While your ads will get in front of a lot of people, it’s hard to say whether there will be an impact on sales. Following the motto ‘a lot helps a lot’ is suitable here – i.e. the more buses carry your ad, the higher the chance your message will be heard. However, this comes at a significant cost. So, why not try to reach people where they are more responsive and can take immediate action?

Example: Let’s assume you are running a big-ticket event in Singapore for which you want to drive awareness and sell about 10,000 tickets at $70 each. 

Alternative #1 – Digital Reach

Opt for a digital advertising campaign that includes brand awareness and lead generation in the same campaign. Start by running video ads on social media or other digital channels. For a budget of $5,000, your ad can reach more 500,000 people in your target audiences.

Your next campaign can be built and optimised based on the results and data you have accumulated so far. If you run another bus ad campaign, you are starting from scratch because there is no data.

Alternative #2 – Digital retargeting 

Run a campaign retargeting people who have liked, interacted or fully watched your brand video. Choose ‘conversion’ (online sales) as your campaign objective to reach people who are more likely to make a purchase.

Find more people who are similar to those that have already bought a ticket. Create a custom audience based on the conversions in phase two, and then create a lookalike audience. This will find people who are very similar to those who made a purchase and who are more likely to purchase as well.

Alternative #3 – PR 

Define your story angles and pitch your event to lifestyle publications and general media. Typically, after impactful event coverage appears, you will be able to register a spike in ticket sales. Using e-ticketing service for your event, you can keep track of how effective the different media coverage is.

Alternative #4 – Influencer campaign

No matter what target audience your event may have, there will be a number of great influencers. Be sure to work closely with your PR team in selecting the right influencers and outlining the rules of the engagement. Just a simple post that talks about your event might not be enough. Links back to your website and ticket giveaways should be a given. Be innovative and use the influencers’ channels in a creative manner. 

What’s the outcome?

If we’re talking about bang for your buck and tangible outcomes – regardless of whether you want to sell tickets, drive awareness for your ecommerce store, or generate leads for your business – a digital campaign will get you quantifiable results for your  investment. 

And while this is a debatable topic and you might argue that out-of-home advertising is creative and ‘in your face’, until you can show us the data to prove your point…

Took the wrong route? It’s time to step off. If you want to talk about how you could spend your marketing budget more efficiently, send us a message to [email protected].

The Role PR And Communications Plays In Building Responsible, Ethical Businesses

Digital advances are transforming how we live, learn, work, and play – and the media industry is, of course, no stranger to how digitalisation is altering its landscape. Changing consumer behaviour and an increased hunger for instant gratification has forever evolved the way we view and digest content, moving slowly away from linear offline publishing and steam-rolling ahead towards multi-platform distribution models. The general consensus is “anytime, anywhere”.  

In fact, annual growth of internet and active social media users in Asia Pacific (APAC) has increased by 10% and 12% respectively, according to the Digital In 2019 Report by We Are Social and Hootsuite. More consumers are constantly plugged in and being bombarded by information from virtually every platform possible. 

With this, it’s no surprise the public relations and communications industry has grown more complex as we adapt to new forms of communications. As the go-between for the brand, media, consumer, and the wider community, PR professionals have to work closer than ever with their brands and clients to identify new storytelling opportunities that provide value to the audience, on the right platform, with the right approach.  

The key connecting factor here is trust, which is imperative to building a good relationship between a brand and its audience – and this only becomes even more necessary during times of digital disruption. Yes, our job is to take a brand objective and create a palatable story that aligns with the broader business goals, but it’s also to provide guidance and counsel around sharing the right messages in an ethical and responsible manner.  

As transparency comes under scrutiny and consumers slowly recognise the impact of #fakenews, PR professionals need to lead the way in un-blurring the line between fact and fiction.

PR should proactively combat fake news

Sensational news will always travel faster than the truth. In Singapore, according to a 2018 survey by Ipsos, four in five consumers were confident in their ability to spot fake news – but 90% were actually unable to distinguish the fake headlines from the real ones. With social media being a hotbed for misinformation – paired with APAC consumers’ high social penetration rate – users are vulnerable to being exposed to unverified sources of information all the time. 

The good news is that consumers are aware of this threat. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found 71% of Singaporeans rely on traditional media as a credible source of information – a five-year high – and 73% were worried about false information or fake news being weaponised. It’s great that the rising threat of fake news elevates trust in traditional media; the fact that The Straits Times has dedicated an entire section to debunking it is testament to how intrusive it is.   

Better reporting is the way forward in the fight against fake news, and the pressure is on for media publications. Journalists have their work cut out for them in identifying credible sources and information as they implement improved fact-checking and research processes to ensure what is published is accurate. This presents a real opportunity for PR professionals to work collaboratively with journalists by providing accurate and timely information from our clients, building them up as thought leaders, which in turn helps journalists gain access to credible sources. Similarly, PR practitioners have the responsibility to proactively counter misinformation and take a stand whenever we spot something amiss. 

Take last year’s Trump-Kim summit as an example, where we saw speculations from unverified sources on the earned media value. Our team at Mutant Communications saw the opportunity to reach out, armed with verified statistics through a client’s media intelligence platform to correct the statement in subsequent news syndications. PR professionals have an obligation to help journalists and the public identify facts, and in doing so foster a transparent relationship that builds trust organically. 

Ethical concerns around paid influencer promotion

APAC is one of the most digitally active regions, and this has led to an increase in consumers who trust in influencers, vloggers, and social media celebrities for purchasing decisions, the latest report by Meltwater found. In fact, a report by Celebrity Intelligence shows 80% of respondents in SEA said influencers are pivotal in shaping their opinions and buying decisions. With this amount of clout, it’s no surprise there’s a growth in paying key opinion leaders (KOLs) to create content promoting a brand. 

As PR practitioners, we have taken product-centric briefs from clients who want to engage KOLs, with the main objective being to sell as many items as possible. While KOLs do have a role to play, PR professionals have a duty to guide clients in making smart choices when working with them. It’s not enough for clients to simply pay a bunch of KOLs to spread their message – the onus falls on PR professionals to educate clients on how they can pick the right people, platform and timeline to run with their message. 

Similarly, consumers are savvy, and can easily identify when someone is being paid to sing praises. However, it’s not always clear if a post is organic, or if it’s a masked, sponsored ad – and consumers should be given enough context to know immediately if the post’s objective is to spark a specific purchasing behaviour.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” if it means doing what’s right 

Numerous agencies will probably disagree with our approach here, but we believe it’s okay to take a stand and voice disagreements when it comes to servicing clients that go against the company’s values, or if there is a disagreement on what is ethical and what isn’t – even if it means losing the business. 

For example, we have walked away from a potential client who wanted to front-foot an anti-LGBTQ agenda across Singapore, and we’ve also said no to clients who were willing to pay us to set up fake profiles and write fake reviews for a product. We also regularly speak up if clients ask us to “fudge the numbers” or want us to play a part in spreading a mistruth as part of a media pitch (thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often!) We are not and should not act as mouthpieces for clients. So, rather than acquiescing to the demands, PR professionals should educate clients on how they can drum up thought leadership the right way.

For instance, I worked with a company that sells child passenger safety products – a huge issue where Singapore is lagging behind its OECD counterparts. We created a comprehensive PR and content strategy around the importance of using age and weight-appropriate child restraints, and by building a steady pipeline of educational content, we converted many of their customers into huge advocates for children’s ride safety. These advocates then championed our client’s messages unprompted across various parenting forums in Singapore, resulting in a direct uptick in sales.

At the end of the day, nothing erodes trust faster than being lied to. As PR professionals we are the messengers between all stakeholders, and it’s our job to safeguard the transparency between them. 

Truth is our greatest currency, and we have a great responsibility to communicate with honesty. Let us play a part in shaping ethical brands and businesses by making truth and transparency their core values.

This essay is the winning entry for the inaugural PRCA SEA Future Leader Award, where PR and communications practitioners aged 25 and under were invited to submit essays focused on the role played by the PR and communications industry in building trustworthy businesses in a digitally disruptive age. 

The essay can also be read here. 

Need help forging trusting relations with your customers? We can certainly help, if you write to us at [email protected] 

 

PR is evolving, and so should you

The way we communicate has completely changed over the past decade, including the concept of Public Relations and the way we do business. Recent office chatter brought up stories of how things were done back in the day. All media clippings were processed in-house and keeping a media list up to date was a job on its own. Today we outsource these services that helps us focus on what’s important.

In a rapidly evolving industry, there is no place for complacency. PR professionals should develop a hunger to learn more and become a specialist in the field. The ability to write an impressive press release and put together an amazing pitch is no longer good enough. The scope has moved far beyond drawing up a media list, writing a press release and following up. In order to make an impact across all platforms, we now have to focus and build relations with key media in the digital and social space. PR professionals or agencies that are not evolving with this landscape will be left behind.

Clients are expecting more. They want to be relevant and make an impact where it matters most. Here’s how PR and marketing can adapt to meet clients’ growing needs and demands.

Access to information in the palm of your hand

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, the way people access information has changed entirely and continues to change. Your target audience have gone from readers to users. Information is readily available to anyone, everywhere, at any time. Make sure you change with the times and keep content interesting, relevant and easy to consume. Check out our blog 3 ways to help bring your content back to life for some tips!

Find the right influencers

PR professionals and brands still dismissing influencers and bloggers as real content creators are committing professional suicide. Influencers are the most connected people today. Their devoted followers trust what they say and many influencers have larger followings than many media outlets. Collaborating with an influencer in your industry is a great way to get traction and interest in your brand or product. A word of caution though — don’t go in blind, it’s important to partner with someone who is relevant and authentic to your audience and brand.

Learn a new skill

The PR scope is getting wider and clients are demanding more. To be able to keep up with the demands, learn a new skill, understand how digital platforms work – it’s the only way to improve your offering.

Content

Content is and will always be king. Having the ability to create compelling and shareable content will make you indispensable. Learn the art of writing for various platforms. Know your audience and create captivating content that will get people talking. Great content adds value to SEO efforts and it encourages engagement, which means your content or brand will be seen.

Public Relations will always be about storytelling and being able adopt a forward thinking approach to how we achieve our targets.

Need help telling your story? Drop us a message at [email protected]

Capturing the younglings (with the help of social media)

Most Millennials and Gen Z (iMillennials, as they are infamously called) have grown up in an environment where everyone is connected 24/7. They can barely survive half a day without the Internet or their smartphones (trust me, it’s true) and they leave footprints all over various social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest… With that, advertising is shifting from traditional channels like television and radio to social.

Seeing how readily exposed these this generation is to advertorial posts, brands need to seize this opportunity to capture them as early as possible (or at least before your competitors beat you to it).

But how do you do that? Where exactly are they?

Get onto the platforms 

Your lack of presence on social media platforms is a huge strategic miss if you are looking to reach out to the younger and digital generation. Social media is your opportunity to speak with people, not speak to them. You should be building a social media presence regardless of the size of your business.

Remember not to splash the same content on all your platforms in one go. From a youngling’s perspective: “why would I follow you on all your platforms if you’re going to be posting the same ol’ boring content on every channel?” Instead, mix it up selectively.

Go on-the-go

If you don’t already have a mobile platform, go and create one! Younglings today have their hands on their smartphones at every moment of the day: at home, when they’re having their meals, in school, on public transport and perhaps even in the toilet. 86 percent of those of aged 18 to 29 own a smartphone, and this figure is very likely to increase.

A mobile application is another way for brands to engage with their younger audience. Start early – build your brand name, engage your target audience and capture their loyalty.

Let them share it

A great way to get your content out there is to let your audience do it for you. You want people to look at your content, like it and share it with their friends. With that, your reach will be stretched further than your intended audience.

Sharing is the easiest way to get opinions across, especially amongst the millennials and iMlilennials. What is shareable content? It should be easily understood without too much fluff; it should be able to capture attention (especially suited to the short attention spans of younglings today); it should be fun and feature images, gifs or videos.

Take video seriously

On a similar note, high quality and engaging content has recently come in the form of videos. Snapchat is the second-most used social network, and Facebook recently introduced stunning 360-degree videos that allow brands to capture their audience. Bite-sized videos are comprehendible, engaging and easily shared, so why not?

Remember to caption your videos with appropriate keywords and be creative in linking your video posts to your website’s page. You want to attract your audience to watch your videos, not scroll past them.

Influence with influencers

Influencers rake massive followings on several platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. Their followers are most probably your target audience: the younglings. This audience would rather hear from the very people they look up to than from your brand directly (I know, ouch). Word-of-mouth has never been more powerful.

You should be leveraging on the personalities that your young audience follows to amplify your brand’s message. In other words, you should be ready to loosen your grip and let influencers narrate your brand story. Let it go!

Need help with social media? Drop a message to [email protected] 

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