Who owns influencer relations?

Global Social Media Strategy and Content Production for e-Commerce

I guess using the term “influencer relations” instead of “influencer marketing” gives away which side of the industry I find myself at right now. Colangelo & Partners is a very innovative integrated communications agency, but their origin is in Public Relations and I’m part of their Influencer Relations team.

Colangelo’s founding team believe that influencer strategy lies between digital marketing and media relations, and I agree.

An influencer is not a digital advertising platform where a brand can just insert a message, but they will adapt their voice to a brand message much more easily than any journalist could (and should).

An infuencer is not a production house that a brand can brief for them to develop on-brand audiovisual content, but they will often charge as if they were, and consequently develop content that serves the brand much better than any media hit.

But, as media professionals do, an influencer has an area of expertise, an authentic style and an editorial line to stick to. An influencer is a person and as such, developing a relationship with them involves time, understanding mutual objectives and a level of codependency that can be uncomfortable at times. Same as with journalists, with a small but tricky difference: with influencers, it’s you who pay their salary.

Who does what

When I joined Buzz (then Bloguzz) in 2010, Procter & Gamble was one of our biggest clients. Beauty bloggers tested their body care products, food bloggers reported on their home care innovations. Their influencer strategy was spearheaded by their Public Relations department, but executed by us because PR agencies didn’t really know how to deal with bloggers. But that was 8 years ago.

In these last 8 years, I’ve seen advertising, digital, social media and public relations agencies fight to conquer a brand’s influencer business. And, more recently, a new player has joined the game: influencer management platforms like Fohr or Neeuton (for meta-followers, or influencial followers of a brand’s Instagram account) promise marketing teams they won’t need an external influencer relations expert to take their influncer strategy to the next level.

But this fight shouldn’t be one: depending on the brand’s objectives, a good influencer strategy can be crafted and executed by an advertising, digital, social media or public relations agency – or all of them, together – as long as they have a team of professionals who understand digital influence. And influencer management platforms can support the efforts of those professionals with big data analysis and automated actions.

What’s next

The Social & Influencer Lions category has been included in the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the first time this year and Wieden & Kennedy’s “Nothing Beats a Londoner” campaign for Nike took home the Grand Prix.

Only a new era of integration where creativity, digital strategy and personal relations play together will allow the industry to grow and deliver the results that brands are looking for.