Last week I caught up with Jesse Lewis, Head of Content at Touch Creative to talk about the very real ways in which social media influencers (SMIs) are affecting the Public Relations industry.
Jesse has been working in PR for 5 years and has been privy to the influencer take over on a very real level. Over the years he has worked with brands such as Gumtree, ING Direct, KAYAK and American Express.
We kicked off our interview broadly talking about the ways in which the industry has changed and for Jesse, he believed the industry focus had changed entirely. What was once about an industry about product launches and events, had become infinitely more transactional. For example, Jesse described how celebrities would be used as brand ambassadors like when he was involved in a Virgin Velocity campaign and they used Richard Branson’s Twitter account to launch their PR stunt.
Whereas now, instead of using their celebrity status, “it is more of a content play. Instead of paying for influence, now we’re paying for influence through content that we can bring onto our channels.”
Briefs became influencer focused
As a result of the astronomical increase of influencer work and social media content, Jesse and now Managing Director of Touch Creative were able to break away from the umbrella agency of N2N Communications and create a sister brand that is Touch Creative. When Touch first started, 90% of Jesse’s work was influencer focused from the PR team at N2N. For example, KAYAK Australia was looking for shareable content and so they enlist travel bloggers and send them to destinations.
Determining the influence of SMI’s is no easy feat. Influencers can be used across practices so it will all depend on what type of public relations is trying to be achieved however the criteria is generally based around:
- Authority: they are in a position of authority to speak about the product or brand
- Audience: that they have a significant reach
- Engagement: that there followers engage with the content
New technologies are being created for people in the industry to better facilitate the use of influencers in PR. Instagram created an analytics tool called Insight that brands now leverage to track their followers and how their content is performing. Additionally, Tribe is a “self serve marketplace” which allows agencies to connect with the right influencers to suit the brief. This is both time and cost efficient.
When explaining the creative direction of influencer campaigns, Jesse made clear that despite PR strategists traditionally controlling the ‘story’ of content, influencers are brought on as creatives. In a lot of ways, PR strategists are losing control of their content as it is the influencers who know their audience best.
“If anything it is all about investing in a relationship with the influencer” Jesse describes of the on boarding process. “Engaging in social listening to understand the influencer and showing how aspects of your brand can reflect their passions is how we get influencers to work with our brands.”