How do you engage influencers? 

In a world where conventional media is becoming less dominant, influencers and brand fans are increasingly where we need to be focusing our energy.

Influencers are becoming more, well, influential.  Every brand it seems wants to find and engage them with their story. And all the experts, advice and models for ‘influencer engagement’ can serve to confuse.  But there are some straightforward rules that can be applied to any brand.

The first is the number one rule of pretty much all communications and certainly all sales – be empathetic.

Too many brands focus solely on the story they want to tell, from product benefits to a new positioning. But the thing is, you can’t force someone to tell your story and influencers need to see the value you are offering them for engaging with your brand – unique experiences, content that feels useful, varied and bespoke – and the best route is co-creation.

Influencers are savvy. Blindly sending products won’t cut it – you need to offer them a true partnership by working with them every step of the way.

So what could this look like? Inviting influencers to experience your brand in a way that’s bespoke and personal to them. Better yet, give them a ‘first’. Give them something that no other brand can give them. Why should they work with you over the thousands of other brands that approach them?

As part of our influencer engagement work with William Grant and Sons (WG&S), we partner with bartenders to gain much more than reach. It’s all about building advocacy by showing that WG&S is a genuine supporter of the bartending community. Influencers have been given career support through training courses, consulted on new product innovations and had their trends and insights not just listened to, but integrated into the company annual report.

The second rule builds on this initial engagement, namely to build the relationship.

It’s not enough anymore to do a ‘flash in the pan’ piece of activity, it suits both influencers and brands to have a long-term relationship where you grow together, focused on these regular ‘value-exchange’ moments.

With WG&S, our on-going collaboration with influencers has resulted in sustained conversation on social, inclusion of WG&S branded serves on influencer bar menus and a number of co-created projects, with the influencers coming to the brand with ideas.

A strategy focused on co-creation over time takes you from  reach, to effective reach. It puts you right where your consumer is with content that answers their needs and what they’re searching for (turning you from invader to welcome contributor). A unique opportunity to build brand affinity and resonate with your audience in a way that traditional brand communications can’t.

The third rule is to integrate influencer programmes with other communications to increase the return on investment.

A successful influencer strategy will generate evergreen content, meaning that you don’t have to throw a bunch of money at being ‘always on’, which no-one expects from brands anymore. Co-creation allows brands to test concepts with engaged and connected ‘focus groups’ of influencers, who truly understand your audience, and spread that content across other brand communications, from advertising and PR to shopper and even product development.

In a world where conventional media is becoming less dominant, influencers and brand fans are increasingly where we need to be focusing our energy – through empathetic relationships, co-created content and integrated communications.