‘Influencer relations’ must not throw out the baby with the bathwater

The rising interest in influencer relations will dangerous disorient managers who see influencers as a new category, separate from and exclusive of existing audiences, such as industry analysts and the media. In particular, its would be quite mistaken to think that because ‘influencers’ are influential, that analysts and journalists are not. Sadly, that seems to be the mistaken conclusion that Paul Gillin and David Strom are leading people to.

Their blog Mediablather, while discussing influencer50’s book on influencer relations, have arrived at a curious verdict.

In their new book, Influencer Marketing, Nick Hayes and Duncan Brown make the case that most businesses are squandering their marketing dollars by spending them on press and analyst relations. In fact, they argue, those influencers have relatively little impact on customer buying decisions. Businesses would be better off choosing the 50 or so people who really do affect those decisions and marketing to them through a coordinated program of highly personal contacts.

It’s quite mistaken to suggest that the media and analysts don’t have influence. Certainly they are not the only influencers, but it would be crazy to ignore them. Analysts influence hundreds of billions of dollars of spending.

The firms with the best ‘influencer relations’ programs tend to be those that also excel at analyst relations – a great example is SAP.

Suggesting that analysts are not influential would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Many people speak with buyers, and not all are analysts. However, analysts are few in number, easy to identify, simple to approach and straightforward to communicate with. The buyers personal network is typically more influential. However, personal networks are highly diffuse. There are not the same 50 people in the personal networks of every buyer of (say) SAP. However, the top 50 industry analysts will be influential over many thousands of organisations.

When new fashions come in, they tend to demote the old (and this is an old story, read the Oresteia). Wrongly understood, influencer relations could turn into a campaign against reaching out to analysts. And that, of course, will be a growing source of competitive advantage for those who do practice analysts relations effectively.

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2 Comments

  1. John Oh May 6, 2008 Reply

    Duncan,
    I couldn’t agree with you more, glad you brought it up. The notion that money spent on PR and AR, etc is wasteful or squandered is simply ludicrous. I think the industry as a whole is well beyond recognizing the power and effectiveness of PR and making lots of progress wrt AR.

    Personally, I get a bit worried that influencer relations and influencer marketing is being stuffed or forced into a very misleading definition and understanding …

    There’s market influencers for credibility and trust building. And, there’s influencers specific to the sales cycle where the influencer directly persuades or disuades a person with purchase authority. I think those two are different although some are one in the same as in direct to custome or route-to-market models.

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