I was putting together a presentation on our Influencer Engagement Programs last week and thought it might be useful to outline some of the key learnings we have. There’s way more than six but I’ve chosen six and I’ll write about each in separate posts.
Point 1. Marketing depts. are still heavily, and rigidly, compartmentalized. And that’s a problem. The influencer model requires breaking that apart. As soon as we’ve identified the key customer influencers for a client, those influencers are then typically segmented into those the client routes to the PR agency, those to the social media team, those to the AR folks etc. Those that can’t be dispatched to these teams are mentally put into the ‘others’ category. Most companies have little existing mechanism to deal with these others. Through no fault of their own, they’re considered ‘awkward’ to accommodate. The cause is that their benefits are ‘awkward’ to measure.
Let’s go back one step. Marketing depts. are intrigued by who the individuals really influencing their customers are. There’s a genuine interest to find out. And an excitement with the ‘identification’ results – the feeling of a new dawn. But when they do find out, clients rarely have the internal structure & processes to act on this new knowledge. And then they can stumble.
Marketing depts. don’t have to break anything to commission us to identify their real customer influencers. They have to have interest, and a budget. But to act on our findings they often do have to break something internally. Because much as they’d like to create a new way of interacting with these new-found influencers, they’re restricted in how to deal with them by the existing fiefdoms within their organization. And they get into people-politics.
How do they choose to engage with the single consultant, who occasionally blogs, sporadically contributes an article to a trade mag., but who regularly consults to a number of large prospect opportunities? The PR team doesn’t want to lose that person from their long list of journalists, even though they’re never going to be a priority on that list. The client’s consultant relations team hasn’t the resource to proactively engage with small consultants either, preferring to spend their time with the much larger consultancy brands. And in terms of the influencer outreach program, how do you measure the value that influencer contributes when they act only as a background advisor to one or more prospect companies? Keeping them ‘onside’ with you costs time, patience, budget, and your influencer program needs to show a return on investment each quarter.
PR depts. and agencies think they have a hard enough time justifying their own existence – yet their traditional focus on journalists & the media means their eventual return can at least be measured in column inches, site stats, audience ratings, etc. AR teams can find they have a harder job because often only the analysts’ written reports are seen as tangible returns, when their actual role can be much broader. But how do you persuade your bosses of that? Yet compared to other categories of influencer, the returns from AR & PR activity are relatively simple to display on a PowerPoint chart. And that’s what seems to count. When each category of influencer may require a slightly different RoI metric to reflect the success of your outreach, it needs a particularly motivated, secure, senior and understanding client executive to support the ongoing engagement stage.
No surprise then that so many marketing depts. opt for the instant, though sugary, gratification of social media outreach. All those retweets, shares and weblogs look so much better on a PowerPoint graph. Whether they have any effect on sales is a very different argument.