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3 keys to a successful influencer relations program

Remember the days of splashy influencer programs gracing every consumer marketing publication? Intriguing, but felt just out of reach for those of us who didn’t work for a huge consumer brand or have endless resources.

While the buzz has dimmed in ways, the potential for results has not. And the prospect of a successful go at an influencer marketing strategy no longer relies on having a household name and a huge budget in your back pocket.

Based on our experience, what you will need is to:

  1. Find influencers whose “why” aligns with your company’s
  2. Trust and amplify their expertise
  3. Think beyond the social media silo; integrate their voice and content across platforms and channels

Find influencers whose “why” aligns with your company’s

Why does your organization exist? What’s that one problem that, if your org was a person, would keep it up at night? That if it were solved, the world would be that much healthier and brighter of a place?

You probably already know that a company’s “why” connects employees to the work they do and is what turns prospects into customers (check out Simon Sinek’s legendary TED Talk for an unforgettable discussion about the importance of “why”).

And when your company lives it out in everything it does, others—even outside of the organization—will likely feel it and want to unite their “why” with yours.

One of the first foundational steps to take when building an influencer relations strategy is to find thought leaders who share a common “why,” because they likely already relate to, understand and are motivated by similar drivers. And they likely already have built a following of folks you’re trying to reach.

When we started building an influencer marketing strategy with Axogen, a leader in surgical solutions for peripheral nerve repair, we knew we needed to find people who shared a dedication to increasing awareness of chest numbness post-mastectomy and who had the attention of the right audiences to spread the message.

A common side effect of mastectomy that isn’t commonly talked about, chest numbness can deeply affect quality of life, from not being able to feel a hug from a loved one to not knowing if you’re being burned by a curling iron or the sun. Imagine living the rest of your life like this—not being able to feel such a large portion of your body—even after surviving or previving breast cancer.

Because the cause is so interwoven into everything Axogen does as well as the objective of the campaign, it was an innate part of the influencer vetting process, from initial questions to exploratory conversations. And it resulted in finding the right influencers to partner with.

Trust and amplify their expertise

When you’re in charge of results, it can be hard to let go of controlling the message. But one of the many reasons influencers are powerful is because they know their audiences and what will resonate best. They can deliver a message in a way that perhaps your brand can’t.

For the work we did with the Axogen influencers, we knew it was important to capture each influencer’s voice and words to use in content and give them creative freedom. Letting other voices champion the message brings an authenticity and credibility that companies aren’t able to bring alone.

“We didn’t put words in their mouths,” said Heather Boldt, senior principal on the engagement team at Inprela. “With any influencer campaign, we choose the influencers because they’re credible and knowledgeable. And if you want the relationship to be more than a one-and-done project, they likely need to feel like they have creative liberty and autonomy and feel like they’re being heard and can use their authentic voice.”

What resulted in the work with Axogen was cause-focused, brand-agnostic content, developed in partnership with passionate influencers, that generated a high-volume of quality media placements and broader awareness of the psychological and quality-of-life effects of chest numbness.

To take partnerships with influencers and amplification of their expertise a step further, consider brainstorming campaign ideas with them.

“I always would love to hear if there’s an idea that’s super authentic to someone and on a topic they’re really passionate about,” continued Heather. “Part of the time spent with influencers should be to brainstorm and uncover ideas. They know what’s going to resonate with their audiences best.”

Think beyond the social media silo; integrate their voice and content across platforms and channels

Often when we think “influencers,” we think “social media.” Going back to the days of splashy B2C influencer campaigns, social media seemed to be the main channel getting attention. But we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the social silo!

“When we expand to incorporating earned media, for instance, there’s more in it for the influencers,” said Heather. “In addition to supporting a cause they care about, they’re also getting their name out there to new audiences and building more credibility.”

We treated the influencers who partnered with Axogen almost more like KOLs and SMEs—they bylined contributed articles, were quoted in op-eds and a mat release, and more.

And depending on what you’re trying to achieve and what the influencers are comfortable with, you could also consider options like webinars, podcasts, conference speaking opportunities, blog post series, etc.

While developing and managing an influencer relations strategy takes time and effort, it doesn’t have to be exclusive to big brands. Finding the right people to help champion your cause can be the boost you need to take things to the next level.

To learn more about our work with Axogen, read “Helping breast cancer survivors feel whole again through influencer relations.”

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