Post by Kara O'Donnell, Kite Hill PR Senior Account Executive
#CommsWeekNY continued on Wednesday morning, diving into how to leverage influencer marketing while maintaining transparency and authenticity, featuring panelists Armando Triana, Director of Social Media at Coyne PR, Robbin Mangano, Co-Founder and PR Director at R Public Relations, Andy Morris, CEO of Code Morris and Paul Kontonis, CMO of WHOSAY.
The discussion was moderated by Bill Evans, Head of Strategic Growth and Innovation / Influencer Committee Member at MSLGROUP/PR Council. As Morris explained, “We’re still living the hangover of misinformation from last year that influenced the election, amongst other things.”
Panelists opened the conversation on how brands and influencers can continue to maintain trust in today’s era of influence and fake news. Triana suggested that brands and influencers should always partner organically, while as an influencer herself, Mangano explained that it is part of the brand/agency’s responsibility to vet influencers’ credibility and ensure they’re partnering with a brand for the right reasons.
Morris bought up the importance of forming connections with influencers directly, rather than only ever going via a manager, before explaining that micro influencers are currently proving more popular with brands thanks to the trust they have with their audiences. “The deeper degree of trust you have with people is based off generating more engagement and interaction with them,” Morris explained. Additionally, Kontonis explained WHOSAY’s approach, focusing on the combination of the affinity of the brand’s audience to the influencer, the need for a powerful creative element, and of course, transparency in the relationship.
The conversation progressed to how agencies are driving the creative role forward. “It’s important that, from an agency perspective, we make sure brand/influencer relationships are collaborative,” shared Triana. Kontonis highlighted the importance of clearly identifying different kinds of campaigns. An unfiltered campaign vs a campaign with a half million dollar budget is extremely different and will consequently yield different results. “Content creators and influencers really know what works for their audience. I think a high degree of specificity about what’s needed can be useful for both parties,” shared Morris.
So, how do we prove that influencers are driving brand performance forward? “From the consumer standpoint, they have many touch points with brands - they’re not siloed in the channels they use, so neither should the brand be in terms of how it’s measuring campaign success,” Triana explained. Mangano noted the need for brands to use their own channels to boost the chances of a successful campaign outcome. “It’s amazing when a brand is prepared to put aside a budget to amplify the content I’ve created through their own channels, as well as my own efforts - these are the brands I most want to work with.”
Panelists concluded with a few forward-looking thoughts. Kontonis stressed the importance of remembering that this is a human-based industry. It’s vital to ask yourself,“Do you actually want to work with this influencer?” keeping in mind that the data can only take you so far in making that decision. Morris chimed in that AI is going to be a big disruptor. As we continue to leave more digital breadcrumbs - brands are figuring out the right time, format, etc. to successfully implement the personalization of marketing of individuals’ needs.
There’s no question that influencer marketing will continue to heavily dominate the industry, and it’s now more important than ever before to maintain transparency. “Make sure influencers are authentic, rather than just taking the check. You want them to be selective about who they work with and that they’re choosing the brand because it’s one they’re genuinely interested in,” Triana explained.