I figure it’s for one or more of three reasons:
1. In-house staff have been so cut to the bone there’s no headcount left available .. or qualified.
2. With the decline in the number of traditional journalists, PR companies are increasingly pitching themselves as Influencer Relations agencies and so appearing ready-made for the task. They already enjoy direct connection with their clients.
3. Marketing directors have no experience of what metrics to use with their Influencer Programs, so they’re already open to guidance on how to structure them. And from there it’s a short step to being sold on delivery too.
I think this third point is very significant for two reasons. Firstly I’m struck by how few of our incoming enquiries from vendors see the enquirer, usually a Head of Marketing or Program Manager, having already thought about what they’re trying to achieve, and even less how they think they might measure any program’s success.
I’m not trying to belittle the enquirer, in placing a call to us they’ve obviously made a commendable leap to do something about their interest, and I’m more than happy to explain how we typically set out measuring any program’s success. I’m just surprised that the vendor often hasn’t already applied themselves to that question. When you decide to appoint an advertising agency to create an ad campaign, presumably you’ve already decided what you hope those resulting ads will deliver?
The second reason why the agency outsourcing of Influencer Programs is important is because it’s significantly reshaped the whole direction of many Influencer Marketing programs. Gone is the link back to customers, prospects and sales – never the strong point of agencies – and in its place has come the pursuit of outreach metrics – number of new contacts, theoretical online reach, number of retweets, number of meetings secured, etc. All very metrics-based and easy to report at the monthly client meeting. But well disconnected from customers, prospects and sales.
I can’t help thinking the outsourcing to PR agencies is losing our industry one of the core strengths that originally differentiated Influencer Marketing from traditional marketing outreach.