This article was originally published in 2015 and has been completely updated in 2020.
Media relations was at the core of PR for decades. Some people in the industry still think media relations is PR. However, the internet has changed all that. A new type of stakeholder is the online influencer. What’s more, these influencers can be present internally as well as externally.
The key is to identify influencers and win their support. Internal influencers are not just people who hold management or supervisory positions; they are very well-connected and trusted by their peers. Identifying them can be a complicated process.
Firms try to harness the influence of these workers to come up with creative ideas, new products and services, recruit new staff and influence others during times of major change such as introduction and acceptance of new policies, retrenchments and mergers.
Basically an online influencer is anyone who, through actions or opinions, is able to shape opinions, perceptions, or behaviors of others on the internet. Influencers are basically thought leaders who can give third-party endorsement to products, services and organizations. For instance, they can be instrumental in shaping corporate reputations through blogging, Twitter messages, Facebook comments and messages in other internet-based channels.
However, if you are serious about cultivating them, you need to do the detailed work to ensure they are appropriate influencers. They are much more important than mere contacts. Externally, those people could be journalists who write opinion pieces in their own blogs, they could be people who engage in Twitter campaigns, they could be current and potential customers.
An important starting point is to define the nature and extent of their influence. Analyze their fit with your purpose by reviewing their content, type of audience, engagement with readers, share rate, etc.
The nature of their influence needs to be defined to be effective. The influence could be based on the number of followers, but those followers need to be engaged. Likewise with site visits – not just the number of visits, but the visitors would need to stay on the site and read the content. Do the analytics.
Bloggers are a good example of influencers. Invest in the time needed to check the relevance and importance of a blogger to you. PR tools can only partly help with this.
To determine if they are worthwhile to cultivate, you should do your homework. Go to their Facebook and Twitter presence and see how they interact with others – retweeting, sharing and commenting knowledgeably. Does their audience interact positively with them? If they run a website, do some analytics to you see if visitors stay on the site and whether the person’s posts and reviews are shared. Check if their content is authentic or seems to be derivative.
To keep up to date with key influencers you can read their articles through customized news feeds or you can subscribe to updates of digital articles. Subsequently, when you establish contact or a relationship with them, you can display that you are interested in their perspective and knowledgeable about their work.
You can interact with them to see how well they respond.
Overall, to find the best influencers, you need to do the research yourself. So be prepared to allocate the time to find those quality people.
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