Many PRs don’t understand how influencers work. That must change.

Chris Lee
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Do PRs understand how influencers work? (Source:

As someone who works in the PR industry and also runs a football culture blog, I have seen “influencer marketing” from both sides. Building on my recent City A.M. post on the growth of microinfluencers, here are my insights on where PRs go wrong and how they can work better with influencers.

Most PR agencies will offer outreach to bloggers, and many of them do it very well. To me as a recipient of many untargeted, irrelevant and impersonal brand approaches, it’s clear that some education is required on how influencers and microinfluencers like me work.

How Influencers Work

Firstly, influencers are publishers but they’re not journalists, so work very differently. PRs used to the pitch-and-press-release approach will not get far with influencers.

Influencers share some similarities with journalists, in that they have an invested audience to engage through unique, high-quality content.

Some influencers are advanced to the point where they are professional, full-time publishers in what they do. Their revenue will come from a variety of sources, chiefly sponsored content, advertising, affiliate links, guest posts, merchandise and appearance fees.

Many of these will have agents representing them and through whom the PR will need to work to gain traction.

Those who do not make enough to go full-time will build their blogging around their day job. This is important when it comes to pitching.

PRs need to understand whom the target audience is, how the influencer works and what angles or unique content the brand could help provide. PRs can get a sense for this from the blog’s ‘About’ page.

No one understands the blog’s audience and house style like the influencer does, so the best approach for PRs is to “co-create” – provide an idea or experience, and facilitate the blogger in every way possible to help them create unique content for their blog, YouTube channel and social media feeds.

Tips for PRs and Brands

Bloggers don’t want companies’ news. So brands must take a long-term view to working with influencers and approach only when they have something genuinely unique to work on.

In short:

  1. Be clear on your objectives: why are you engaging bloggers? Is it to build brand awareness and interest, for example? How will you measure what ‘success’ looks like?
  2. Understand your audience: Which blogs, YouTube channels, Twitter handles, Instagram feeds etc. do your brand’s audiences follow? Who influences them?
  3. Identify, Qualify, Classify: Once you’ve generated a shortlist of influencers, check for genuine audience size (many Twitter handles will have used bots to grow their following), look at their engagement rates and keep a concise log of your targets and your contact with them
  4. Engage! Reach out to the influencer according to their preferred route, accepting that this may well be via an agent. If so, expect to have to negotiate payment. The amount will depend on a) their audience size and b) the workload and investment required. Always personalise your approach - expect to get deleted if you open with "Dear blogger...". Agree your expectations and fees in a contract. Be sure you know the law on disclosure
  5. Analyse and iterate: How did your outreach help you achieve business objectives? What lessons could be learned? Would you work with that influencer/microinfluencer again in the future? Don’t be afraid to ask for statistics, some influencers will be only too happy to share post and social media data.

Influencer marketing is only going to grow in relevance as the media continues to fragment, but brands need to learn to work better with influencers and microinfluencers alike.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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