“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” (PRSA, 1982). If you have studied Public Relations and Communication, you know this definition by heart! But, seriously, in practice, how do we build and nurture these relationships today, especially in an internet-dominated world? Can we still count on traditional media to reach our audiences, to have their complete attention and then turn this interest into measurable actions?
Long gone are the days where traditional media could ‘influence’ audiences; long gone are the days where celebrity endorsements were powerful tactics used by marketers to make us become impulse buyers. Do you remember Pepsi ads with Britney Spears, Pink, Beyoncé, and Beckham, L’Oréal ads with Andie MacDowell and Jane Fonda (and most recently Celine Dion)? We grew up with the jingles, catchphrases and slogans of these ads, repeating it proudly ad infinitum!
The era of traditional media is utterly fading today. Latest technologies and social media have turned tables on media consumption. We cannot but notice that our audiences are no longer present where they used to. Baby boomers and Generation X may still prefer the touch and feel of newspapers, they may still pay attention to radio ads and glossy leaflets, but how do we connect with our growing and upcoming main target markets: the millennials and their children: the Generation Alpha? Those audiences who can smell our ads (which we pay a lot for) from miles away and who skip them instantly.
While millennials grew up during a period where the internet and social media were gaining prominence, the Generation Alpha have learned (for themselves) to swipe touchscreens before they could read, talk or even walk! Companies and brands have redoubled their efforts to hit millennials in the most effective ways and one of these is influencer marketing. Influencer marketing deals with dynamic content-driven marketing campaigns used as PR tactics to enhance brand awareness and brand loyalty, thus maximising sales and building those “beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics”. Above all, isn’t it not all about marketing 3.0, where nowadays we should focus on the end-user, the consumer; treat him/her as a human being with feelings and emotions; rather than investing massively on presenting the product itself?
Leave Britney Spears, Pink, Eva Longoria behind. Yes, they may be top influencers in their own right, but the type of influencers I want to talk about are those individuals who are just like you and me –those we can better relate to. Instagram and YouTube (to a lesser degree Facebook) are being invaded with influencers who do not hesitate to test the products on themselves – shampoos, creams, gels, clothes, shoes and so on. Many of whom have become millionaires today just by using their image and by allowing companies to ‘borrow’ their audiences to reach their own objectives.
How do they become so successful? How do they get 1k followers overnight and 100 likes in 30 seconds? An influencer is simply a passionate individual who uses social media platforms to showcase his expertise or love for a specific thing, for example, sports, baking, reading, arts or cars. Over time, his audience grows through the number of likes, shares, comments he gets and he builds himself a reputation, not to say, builds his own brand. As much as their fans and followers trust them and let themselves being influenced in their purchase decisions, companies trust them as well for talking about their products, services, brands and reach satisfactory conversion rates (indeed one of main KPIs of influencer marketing). The quality of their audience (who share the same passion as them), the relevancy of their content (text, pictures, videos), the frequency of their updates and their expertise are the top elements that propelled them to the forefront.
Talking about millennials, they are known to be online customers. Therefore, traditional advertising is absolutely useless when it comes to them. Companies continually compete to get their attention online. Then again, mid-roll ads, bumper ads, or any types of Google Ads tend to be abusive and invasive and do not necessarily catch their attention. I do reckon that influencer marketing, on the other hand, fill in the gaps of your effective communication with your potential and existing customers.
We are not talking about advertising here, but engagement and two-way communication. Influencers understand your audience because they engage in real-time quality conversations with them on a regular basis. This gives way to important creative exchanges which you can use in order to develop, implement, and why not modify your products in order to better meet the expectations of your customers, especially if you evolve in a niche market.
Professionals who have long debated on whether marketing and public relations are two totally distinct disciplines should rethink this statement. More than ever today, these fields are complementary and work hand in hand in order to best serve any company’s customers. The question is: how disrupted will the marcom field be in the very near future when communicating with the Generation Alpha?