Who should own influencer marketing?

The influencer marketing landscape today is unrecognisable from how it looked when I started The Remarkables Group five years ago.

For one, back then “influencers” weren’t a thing and “bloggers” was the term du jour.

Secondly, there were just two operators in the space – ourselves and Nuffnang. Fast forward to May 2017 and there are at least forty businesses specialising in connecting brands with influencers in one way or another.

Thirdly, responsibility for influencers is sitting in a major grey area of the marketing landscape right now. Back when we started out in 2012, blogger outreach (as we called it then) was solely the domain of PR professionals.

Today, many types of agencies are running influencer campaigns; from media to creative, from PR to content, from digital to search. Add in the number of brands managing these relationships direct, and it’s quite the space to try get your head around as a marketer.

The most accurate way I would describe the situation right now is a turf war – agencies are competing to own the influencer marketing space, and it’s not necessarily helping brands do the best work in the channel.

Despite the flurry of new influencer ventures, responsibility for influencer activity still remains unclear.

Here we look at the pros and cons of the different offerings of influencer marketing, from creative agencies to doing it in-house.

A couple of caveats before we begin:

1. Clearly, there are several agencies in the Australian market who may offer a blend of these different agency roles. In the interest of clarity, we have kept this list quite structured in line with “traditional” agency remits.

2. We have also generalised for the purposes of compiling this list. Not every point of course will apply to every agency model, however we have identified common themes within how each model approaches influencer marketing.

PR Agencies

The pros:

1. PR “get” content – from years of creating angles, they can generally identify where the interest might lie for influencers in a brand story

2. They’re strong relationship managers and will generally own influencer relationships across the agency team, which can benefit multiple brand clients

3. Their skillset can extend beyond paid engagement to events, ongoing outreach and reacting to influencer ideas

The cons:

1. Can sit somewhat removed from the overall strategy, and so struggle to get visibility early enough to identify opportunities to integrate influencers

2. PR budgets tend not to be as high as other agencies, limiting the scope of activity they can undertake with influencers

3. PR agencies may not have a full understanding of other channels and as a result can operate in a silo – they create great content angles, however perhaps not many people see that content

Media agencies

The pros:

1. The media agency usually owns the overall media plan, so can integrate influencer activity early in the piece and maximise execution time

2. Most agencies have access to a broader suite of tools that can amplify influencer activity; for example a paid social team, trading desk and analytics

The cons:

1. Are not as skilled on the nuances of stories and content, so find it difficult to move influencer content beyond a straight badging/sponsorship exercise

2. Relationship management with influencers is not a core skill so the team depends on suppliers to manage those relationships on their behalf

3. Most often influencer activity is tactical and led by a specific one-time campaign need

Creative agencies

The pros:

1. Generally own bigger creative idea so are in a position to place influencers at the heart of the idea

2. Budgets allow for larger-scale executions with influencers

The cons:

1. Rarely hold influencer relationships within the agency and are dependent on suppliers to provide that connection

2. Influencers chosen can work well for bigger creative idea but not necessarily deliver reach and engagement

3. A longterm or strategic approach is rare

Social agencies:

The pros

1. Have an in depth understanding of the social space and where influencers can integrate into the overall strategy

2. Measurement and tracking metrics are likely to be strong

The cons:

1. Influencers form just a part of the broader strategy, with many other elements (e.g: native, paid social) also requiring focus and budget

2. Rarely take a longterm strategic approach to influencers – generally dip in and out as and when specific campaigns require influencer activity

Inhouse:

The pros:

1. Brand team is the voice of the brand and provides a direct line to internal stakeholders for influencers

2. Ad-hoc activity can often be turned around speedily without additional agencies in the communication chain

3. Inhouse team can spot opportunities for influencers in the seed stages of a marketing strategy; particularly longterm opportunities

The cons:

1. It’s difficult for an in-house team to nurture relationships with a broad spectrum of influencers as the team is generally quite small in size

2. Measurement and tracking may not be as comprehensive as might be provided by an agency partner

3. Removing bias from identifying the best influencers for a campaign is a challenge as the team may have longterm relationships with specific influencers

Our prediction for the future is that brands will add a dedicated influencer agency to their roster of agencies. With our new model at The Remarkables Group we sit closely with the brand at the briefing and ideation stage of strategy in order to correctly identify the role of influencers within it and integrate them fully in order to deliver maximum return for the brand.

Influencer marketing is a specialised area, and as such requires true specialists to drive true results for the brand. After all, would you get a plumber to fix your faulty power socket?

By The Remarkables Group founder and MD, Lorraine Murphy

Article originally posted on AdNews 22 June 2017

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