PR Wars Podcast: Win at influencer marketing

Influencers can have stronger readership than a news publication. And, today’s influencer is a savvy content creator. On today’s PR Wars podcast, we talk with Jason Falls author of “Winfluence: Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite your Brand.”

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Show open: “We want the truth.” “We want the truth.” “We want the truth.” “I have news for everybody. Get over it.”

Announcer
It’s time. Welcome to PR Wars coming at you live from Atlanta, Georgia. Now, here is your host… Chris Shigas.

Chris Shigas
Hey, everyone. I’m Chris Shigas. Welcome back to PR Wars. Thanks for listening. Are you stuck in a rut? Using that same old, dwindling and boring media list? Well, let’s try something new and make your plan fun again. Many influencers can have stronger readership than a news publication. And today’s influencer is a savvy content creator. And they target specific audiences for your brand. On today’s PR wars podcast, fellow public relations bellwether, Brad Grantham and I talk with one of the more engaging digital marketing keynote speakers in the world. He’s spoken on three continents, including events like SXSW. He’s also the author of a new book, Winfluence: Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite your Brand. And you can find this book at Jasonfalls.com. Jason Falls, thanks for joining us on PR Wars.

Jason Falls
Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Chris Shigas
influencer marketing, it’s something that’s kind of a hot term, and some people are engaging, some people are a little afraid. Your book goes through some of the do’s and don’ts of you know, some of the perils of influencer marketing, but then how do we do this? Right? So So let’s talk about maybe at the start, when you know, nothing, you’re used to maybe engaging with media, right? And now all of a sudden, you want to engage with influencers? Where do I start?

Jason Falls
That’s a really good question. And the book kind of spells it out, because I write books, and I’ve written a couple of books before and I always write from the strategic perspective, because I think business owners appreciate, you know, a list of things to do is great, but I can blog, I can search search for that and find it on a blog somewhere. So you always start with your goal. And always start with you know, your your business goal and what you’re trying to accomplish there. And your marketing obviously should ladder up to that, and then your influence marketing should ladder up to, to whatever that is. So, you know, if your goal is to drive awareness, then, you know, you want to find influential people online. And I would argue offline as well, we can touch on that in a second. But you’re gonna want to find influential people who have a lot of reach a big audience, right? Because that’s going to help you drive more awareness about what you’re doing. If you want to drive foot traffic to a specific, you know, geographic areas, retail location, somebody with 250,000 followers on Instagram, who lives in LA isn’t necessarily going to help you, you need to look at local influencers, micro influencers, people that are going to affect the people in the geographic footprint that you’re looking for. So you really have to kind of start with your goal, what is it? What is it we’re trying to do? And what audience are we trying to do it with or do it for and then find the people who are influential over that audience. And if you do it that way, it’s just like you sort of dialing in the type of media outlet that you might want to target for PR outreach is, is well, if we’re going to try to reach people in Atlanta, Georgia, then we’re going to, you know, target the newspaper there. We’re going to target the the radio stations and the television stations there. With our outreach. You can do the same thing with influencers, you just have to figure out which ones are influential for the people in Atlanta.

Brad Grantham
Talk to us about, you know, the generation that’s here, now graduating college, and universities across the nation have grown up, essentially with influencers over the past, you know, 510 years, that’s been part of their life. For us. We’re a little bit older, but not much. Except for Chris. Walk us through, you know, how this all started with influencer marketing, like what, what was the timeframe here? Are we talking like 2010 2005 or earlier than that? What’s your what’s your take on that?

Jason Falls
Well, you know, influencer marketing, it dates back centuries. I mean, when you think of Josiah Wedgwood, who, you know, was a potter in England and you know, Princess Caroline, or one at Queen Caroline, one of the royalty actually, you know, saw his work and decided to commission him to you know, make her You know teacups and saucers and things like that. And so you know, he would then he then turned around and said, I’m selling, you know, the Queen’s pottery. And all of a sudden, he was using an influential person in that society to sell his wares. And so it literally goes back and, and to be honest with you, the whole point of influence is really to kind of tell people, we need to reframe how we talk about it and think about it. And so when I talk about reframing, influencer marketing, I think we need to take the AR off. And let’s not focus on the influencer, the people, or the now let’s focus on what we’re trying to do the verbs strategic purpose, the influence, right? So influence marketing, if you look at it, through that perspective, everything we do is influence marketing, public relations, people have been influenced marketers for centuries, as long as PR, you know, PR goes back a couple of centuries now, I think,

Chris Shigas
right? It’s how do you how do you get a third party to talk about your

Jason Falls
exactly how do you get a third party to talk about your stuff, that’s what you’re doing. You’re trying to find someone who can convince an audience to take action, or to think differently, and convince them to help you tell that audience to take action around your brand, your product, your thing, or think differently about whatever your thing is. And so if you kind of trace the lineage of it, in the social media terms, it obviously dates back to the early days of social media in the late 90s, and early 2000s. But it really kind of became a thing in the mid 2000s, when bloggers started building audiences for themselves online that were bigger than some media outlets. And from probably 2005 to 2010, you had this sort of surge of bloggers and people on Twitter and a couple of the other nascent social networks, that started to accumulate audiences that were competing with the audience sizes of daily newspapers in some cities. And so you you go through the the advent of the of in 2005, we had YouTube came out, I think 2003 was when LinkedIn came out, Instagram didn’t really start until 2000. I forget the year I think was 2009 or 1011, somewhere in there. But as the social media networks all came to the forefront, and you have these, you know, bloggers, and then you know, tweeters if you want to call them that, and then facebookers, and then instagramers, were all people saying, hey, if I can collect enough of an audience here, I can turn that around and turn it into selling them products are turned into partnering with brands to talk about products. And so again, it became this whole movement online with social media, that was taking a little bit of attention away from traditional media and creating a new channel a new space for brands to play. And that’s kind of what they’ve done. And that’s kind of where we are today.

Brad Grantham
I’m the CEO of marketing for brand. And I say alright, team, I want you to come up with a full PR and influencer plan. Okay, great. Here’s the product that we’re doing. Here’s our launch date, you guys, let’s figure this out. Go ahead and present something to me in two weeks. The influencer side of things, as we’ve seen over the past couple of years can also be very tricky. My question to you is when you’re looking at those potential influencers, to compliment your PR plan, or the marketing plan, how do you vet some of those influencers? Because we’ve seen some bad examples over the years of Jared from subways? What are some of the others? How far back? Do you go to vet these potential influencers? And what are your criteria, as you’re recommending this potentially, to your boss or an organization?

Jason Falls
Sure, I think in general, you know, you’re definitely going to want to use a combination of things. First of all, depending on the scale of your program, the influence marketing tools out there, they range in costs, but you’re going to want to find a database that allows you to at least identify potential influence partners. So you know, all the people out there that have a certain number of followers or are in a certain topic area, or maybe even in a certain certain geography. And you know, you get a list going just like you would go into a media database for PR and pull a list of potential media outlets, they’re not all going to be relevant. They’re not all going to work, but you got to start somewhere. And unfortunately, the software’s most of the software packages are really good at going out and scraping and finding people, but they’re not always great at being able to really analyze their content, their followers, all that kind of stuff. So honestly, you really have to roll up your sleeves and do some homework, you’ve got to go to let’s say, you take the the top 20 on your list, and you really have to go to their Instagram accounts or their YouTube channels, you got to watch the videos, you got to go through the comments, you got to see okay, does this person post content and then never engage with their followers? probably not going to be real persuasive on motivating them to do anything. Does this person actually engage? Is their content good? Do they partner with brands look at the sponsored content that they’ve done before? And would you buy that product or consider that product based on their content because I’ve seen influencers who have really engaging channels. And then you get to sponsored content and they’re just like, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, gotta pay the bills, here’s this spammy ad in your stream, just ignore this, you know, and then at least that’s how it comes across. And those are not influencers you’re gonna want to work with. So in order to vet who really fits in with what your you want to do, and who is on brand and and aligned with you, you got to do your homework, it takes legwork to do it. And, and sometimes, you know, you you have to go deep into their content, especially if someone suspect if you think they, you know, maybe cross the lines on political issues, or maybe they use foul language and your little, you know, risk risky I work with in the spirits business, so, we have to go deep and find out, you know, have they ever, you know, tried to drink straight from the bottle, because that’s not gonna fly to you, I, yeah, you might want to do a background check on him to say, Hey, have they ever got a DUI because I don’t want a DUI person out there talking about my spirits brand. So you got to do your homework. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of legwork to do it. But if you found the right ones, build a relationship with them over time, you don’t have to do it again. And again and again.

Chris Shigas
Now, I know there’s tons of variable in the cost of these plans. It depends on the size of the celebrity or the influencer and but you know, for someone for someone in PR, and they’re trying to put together a program, do you have some sort of budget guidelines of what I need? And what can I expect from the influencer to do for me?

Jason Falls
Well, I think the answer to that question is another it depends. But what I would tell you is if you are if you are shooting for mid tier and above, so let’s say 100,000 followers, on any given social network, up to maybe a half a million, that’s going to be your sort of mid tier half a million up to a million or two is considered a mega influencer. And then beyond that, you’re really talking about a celebrity. And so if you’re, if you’re wanting 100,000 to 500,000 followers, that mid tier, they are generally going to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of anywhere from 500 to $2,000 per post, it’s a good sort of range to think about, but I would challenge you to not think about it in terms of how much do I have to pay per post, because almost all of them, if you approach them and say, Look, we want to partner with you, over time, to really get you engaged with our brand. If you’re building a relationship with them, and you’re bringing them into, hey, we’re launching a product or we’re launching a new marketing campaign, we want you to review it with us, we want you to co create it with us. So we really want to bring you into the fold at that point, it doesn’t become a math game of how many posts are we going to get for what what amount of money that’s not so

Unknown Speaker
transactional, right?

Jason Falls
You want to build a relationship where it’s like, hey, let’s retain you for a certain amount of time. And let’s build content together and collaborate and really do cool things for you and your audience. Remember what’s in it for them, and then you’re gonna get what’s in it for you back in return, and they’re gonna be really enthusiastic about working with you. That’s where you really get into a sweet spot where it works, those mid tier influencers, are

Brad Grantham
you dealing directly with them? Or do they outsource all their business to an influencer manager,

Jason Falls
sometimes, sometimes they do outsource they do have management representation, which is it can be a little bit more challenging on your budget at that point, because the management firm has to take their cuts, there has to be some cash transaction, right, or they don’t get a piece of anything. But you know, especially when you get into the lower, you know, the 100,000 range 100 200,000 range, some of those folks are not going to have, you know, management, they’re going to know that their content is worth something. And they’re going to, you know, say well, you know, it does cost money to work with me, but they’re going to be a little bit more flexible, and you’re going to be able to deal with them directly. I would also say this, it’s always helpful to to remember that when you are partnering with these quote unquote, influencers, what you’re really partnering with is a content creator. These are people who are really good at Tick Tock really good at Instagram really good at YouTube really good at Facebook, and you may not be and so you are actually getting assets from them. That Yes, they’re going to use on their channels, but you can also use on your channels. And when you think of it that way, you think oh, wait a minute, instead of paying an influencer, I’m paying a freelancer who’s creating content with me. They’re gonna use it on their channels, and get in front of their audience, which is significantly good for me. But I’m going to be able to use it on my channels, too. When you think of it that way. The budget problem starts to become a little bit more clear.

Chris Shigas
one chapter that I think is interesting in your book, and you talk about reviews, so and and I think it’s something that PR people may not look at enough how people are validating buying decisions based on reviews ratings rankings.

Jason Falls
So talk a little bit about some of the recommendations you have for maximizing and leveraging those reviews. Sure. There’s this really great case study. out there, a couple of them are in the book. And this is this is kind of a magical thing. Because if a PR person brings this kind of strategy at the table, everybody’s going to look around and go, Wow, Where’d that come from, because that checks a bunch of boxes. So imagine that you have a relatively new product, you have a relatively new website, you’re you need SEO, you need inbound links, you also need engaging content on your website. And of course, you need those ratings and reviews on all these other sites to have that validation when people are searching. Well, you can actually engage a number of influence there, there are agencies out there, there’s one that I talked about in the book called Apex drop. And their whole purpose is to say, to take someone with a product, and get that product in the hands of 100 150 200, micro and nano influencers, people that you do not have to pay cash money to, you’re giving them product, I think you have to go to go to the table with a little bit of retail value, maybe 100 bucks worth of retail value, and whatever you’re distributing to them. Because that entices them to want to do it, you got to give them something, but you don’t have to give them cash, you give them $100 retail value worth of product and Apex drop will manage it for you so that you get 150 influencers, let’s say they take your product, what they do is they not only create great social content for their feeds around your product, to review it, to tell people about it. But they also give you permission to use that content as well. So while you can’t necessarily send a bunch of people to Yelp to review for you, because that’s against yelps Terms of Service, and I would never recommend you do that against someone’s Terms of Service, you can have them go to and post reviews on sites that accept solicited reviews, you can also use their reviews on your site, which is a big bonus for Google, who’s searching your site for content. Well, more reviews on your site means there’s more validation from other customers. And Google likes that. And you can use their social content, I’ve actually seen several of these programs where you get literally for a reasonable amount of money, you get 150 influencers, creating a piece or two of content that you can then use on your website. And they’re great images. And they’re great videos, and they’ve got great copy because there’s from these really talented content creators, right. And now all of a sudden, you’ve checked the box of SEO, you check the box of ratings and reviews, you’ve checked the box of website content, and you’ve checked the box of social content. And enough probably the last year for a year,

Chris Shigas
Brad, I love the term, he used nano influencer, I think we’re nano influencers.

Brad Grantham
I don’t know what sandbox you’re playing. And you know, we all learn from our mistakes and our careers. And you know, influencer marketing, especially with social media has evolved quite rapidly over the past five to 10 years. What is the biggest not mistake, the biggest learning that you’ve taken away over the past five to 10 years, something that you won’t repeat that you learn from? What would that one thing be?

Jason Falls
Well, I think the one thing that I keep coming back to that is the sort of the fear factor for me, when I sit down to identify the right influencers to use with a client’s project is I don’t want to repeat the mistake of choosing someone because they have a big audience, and not do the homework to know that they can actually motivate that audience to do something. And that’s the biggest mistake you see brands make now they get fascinated with the number of followers beside the person’s name. And they don’t do enough homework to realize, oh, maybe they’ve got a bunch of fake followers. And that number is kind of added. Or maybe they you know, they can’t really motivate that audience to do anything. So you really have to look beyond the superficial vanity metrics. And really understand that influencers content and how they engage with their audience. And when you do that, you’re going to find the ones that can move the needle for you. And that’s my biggest fear is choosing one because it’s a big name. It’s a sexy number. I’ve actually gone and engaged influencers that the client was fascinated with. And I’ve done the research and gone back to the client said, This person is not going to move the needle, they’re not going to motivate their audience to actually do anything I would recommend. We go with a couple other different ones. And they were like, now I want to use that one. And it’s fine that I think it’s a waste of money. And it proved out to be that. Well, to that point,

Brad Grantham
what’s your biggest success like what’s you know, arguing that with a client and saying, look, this is the person not person x over here? What would you say that your biggest success has been today?

Jason Falls
So the biggest success that’s a good one because I don’t mean to brag but I’ve had a couple. Now the biggest success for us we did a it was actually a very local hyperlocal influence campaign. For I know you guys are in the south and sec folks, so forgive me here but it was for the University of Kentucky health care. So it was for the hospital health care system of university Kentucky. But they had a new campaign that was launching. And they launched it with a two minute brand film, not really a sizzle reel, but kind of a brand cinema cinematic graphic is that he say that a really, you know, sort of almost Hollywood style two minute film. And we I was asked to help develop a strategy using influencers to get a lot of people to watch this thing when it first went live on Facebook. And so and we wanted to get a lot of people to watch it in a very short amount of time, because we knew if we did that we could game the Facebook algorithm a little bit and get some organic lift out of it. Because we know that you know recency, relevance, and resonance are things that the Facebook algorithm likes. So using those three things, recency, relevance and resonance, we said, okay, let’s find online influencers who can we can engage to come and comment on the video, share their UK healthcare story, and then share the content, the UK video with their networks, encouraging other people to come back and do it. We found 43 influencers, who had, I think, All told, if you add up all their followers, like 1.2 million people in reach, keep in mind licensing Kentucky’s 320,000 people. So you know, I think if we’d gotten 100,000 views, this video would have been felt felt like it was successful. So we had 43 influencers that we engaged, very low budget, like under like I think was under $12,000. We didn’t spend a whole lot of money. And these some of these folks were UK grads, and some of them wanted to participate anyway. But then we said, Wait, we can’t stop there. We got two other audiences of influential people that we need to reach one was University of Kentucky healthcare employees, they have, you know, a couple 100 couple 1000 employees. So we shared the brand decided to share the the movie with them first and say, Hey, this is coming out tomorrow. And we want you to go support it go comment, like, share all that good stuff. So we had employee influencers, you know, who are people who maybe have a couple of dozen followers online, but they’re influential, because they have family and friends in the area. Right? Then we went and said, Let’s find influential people, not online influencers, people with influence in the community. So we got the mayor involved, we got local state representative involved, we got the president of the Urban League involved, we had a local dentist involved a local real estate agent, people who knew other people in the community. And when they posted it on their Facebook page. Now all of a sudden, we were reaching a lot more people than then the online influencers could all told after I think 30 days, we had 800,000 views of this video. And we were capturing stories of people commenting on the video that then parlayed itself into an entire new suite of content on UK health care’s website where the community was telling their story about UK health care, which was great, you know, fodder for people to come and read and consider UK health care for their medical needs, but also for the search engines to say, hey, there’s a lot more content here for us to consume. And so that was probably, I think, the biggest feather in my cap in recent years anyway,

Chris Shigas
when you look at measuring these campaigns, and yeah, of course, sales in direct sales, if your product or service is like that, right? You know, you sell t shirts, you tell the influencer to say buy this T shirt, and then you measure how many t shirts you buy, when you’re looking for a longer play. When you’re looking, say lifestyle association with a brand. What are some of the metrics that you get excited about?

Jason Falls
You know, there’s, there’s a ton of them. If let’s let’s start by getting away from the financial metrics, and then I’ll come back to those because there’s some interesting things you can do there too. But if you’re if you’re talking about building branding and awareness, if you’re talking about aligning your brand with an influencers, audience or with a lifestyle, then the metrics you’re going to want to look at or certainly the reach and the impressions and whatnot. But more importantly, I think you’re going to want to do either a some social listening. So let’s let’s see what people are talking about, when they talk about our brand or see how they think about our brand, when they’re talking about it online, before you start. That’s important, you got to start out with a benchmark, right? And then during and then you know, a year or two years down the road and see how you’re moving those needles, right? If people are not, if you’re trying to align yourself as being a brand that is aligned with outdoorsman, and and and, and hunting and fishing and whatnot. And when you do some social listing and say okay, when people mentioned our brand, do they also talk about those things? If the answer is no. Okay, now let’s figure out how to make them align and associate us with that type of activity. So you engage outdoor influencers, you create content with them, you align yourself with outdoor, in a year in six months and two years, whatever. When you do that same search, do people mentioned those activities when they mentioned our brand, now you’ve got a needle that you’ve can see how far you’ve moved it. So it might be social listing. It might be that you do consumer surveys and you Net Promoter Score type measurements to see how are we aligned with our, or how much more aware are people of us now than they were, and when we started. So those are some fascinating things that you can really get into kind of monitoring and measuring over time. But let’s go back a little bit to the financial metrics. Because if you look at, you know how much you have to pay for a placement, right, that’s how much you’re going to pay the influencer to do whatever or the number of placements they do divided by whatever you pay them. There’s a cost per placement, you also can look at the number of engagements that they drive and get a cost per engagement. You can also look at the number of, you know, 1000s of people impressions that you drive to them. So you can get a CPM out of that as well. And you can do a cost per click on how many times that influencer causes people to click over to your website, or whatever it is you’re trying to do. You have to plan to measure and do all these figuring upfront on how you’re going to capture all that data. But what you can do if you set it up on the right way on the front end, is you’ve got CPM CPC, CPC is cost per placements. And you can compare those two, you’re the same metric in SEO and pay per click in a traditional

Unknown Speaker
plan in all the

Jason Falls
traditional plans. And now you can say, okay, what’s more efficient? What’s more effective if we need to hit this button to make this needle go higher one month? Where do we got to put our money? Now influencer marketing is not necessarily always going to be the most effective and efficient depending upon what your goals are. But it might be, and it might be good for you to understand, okay, I’m going to spend across these different categories and channels, because I need those multiple touch points. And each one of them is important. But if I want to do really effective cost per click, I’m going to go over here and do pay per click, because I can get a better cost per click there. But if I need a good CPM, I might have an influencer with a big audience who’s really engaging, who gets a lot of people’s attention on my stuff. And they might be more effective and more efficient, because I’ve built a relationship with them. So measuring it that way also gives you a lot more to think about.

Brad Grantham
So as we wrap this up, is this a fad? And where do we go from here? I mean, where the next 510 years look like hell, what is the end of this year

Unknown Speaker
look like? Yeah, that’s a good question. I

Jason Falls
don’t think it’s a fad. And the reason I don’t think it’s a fad is because the media landscape is so fractured, and people’s attentions are so fractured, that they are gravitating toward people with very narrow fields of expertise, very narrow, you know, content. And so social media has created a world where you can go out there and be the one guy or one gal who is the you know, Navy SEAL veteran blacksmith or with halitosis that can be your thing on online. And, and there’s going to be a number of people out there that are interested in that type of content. So I don’t think it’s a fad. I don’t think it’s going away because the media landscape has really fractured probably to the point that it will never not be. But the signal rises from the noise, right? These people who are really good at creating content, have a really interesting perspective on the world are really engaging and entertaining, are attracting those audiences. And I don’t think that’s going to go away anytime soon. What I think will happen as 2021 evolves, and then as we get into the next five to 10 years, is you’re going to start to see more signal emerge from the noise, you’re going to start to see the fakers and the posers go away, you’re going to see more influential people who are great content creators stand out and develop really good relationships with brands, where there’s a long term relationship there’s a given a take and both of those parties benefit, meaning the influencers audience benefits, the brand’s audience benefits and the brand benefits as well as the influencer. So I think we’re on the up side of the bell curve of this industry becoming mature. It’s not mature yet. And so I think we’ve really got nowhere to go but up, it’s just gonna get better.

Chris Shigas
And the production values are only getting better, right? Absolutely. Yeah. All right. Well, the book is wind Fluence, reframing influencer marketing to ignite your brand, Jason falls. Thank you so much for joining us,

Jason Falls
Chris. Brad, thank you. Really appreciate you having me on.

Chris Shigas
You can listen to a new episode of PR Wars every Sunday night at 8pm. On behalf of Brad Grantham and the entire PR wars team. We want to thank Jason Falls author of Winfluence available at Jason falls.com. And do me a favor. When you’re looking for an influencer, do your homework look for an influencer? Who really engages with his or her followers and measure this new tactic to see if it moves the needle? Now go get ’em.

PR Wars was selected as a Top PR Podcast You Must Follow in 2021 by Feedspot.

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