As public relations professionals, we strive to tell a positive brand story to promote our clients, and in recent years, influencer marketing has become a go-to strategy for achieving this goal. When influencer marketing is incorporated into your PR strategy, the influencers can become powerful advocates for your brand, as they have tremendous power on social media.

It’s important to remember that influencer campaigns are not black and white. What worked well for one brand may not work at all for another. Before diving in headfirst, we always ask our clients: what is the overall goal of this campaign and how would you define success? Are you looking for increased engagement and brand awareness? Are you launching a new product? What kind of budget do you have? Depending on the response, there might be multiple strategies to consider.

Identifying the Influencers
Once you’ve answered these first questions, the next step is to identify the best influencers for your campaign based on brand guidelines and budget. We do this by taking a deep dive into influencers’ pages, evaluating the quality of their content, engagement rate, demographics of their followers and brand alignment.

The best strategy for finding influencers is to create a tiered list, ranging from low-tier, which includes influencers with lower follower counts but strong engagement rates, to top-tier, which typically includes influencers with at least 50 thousand followers. With a tiered approach, you are able to identify a wide range of influencers that could potentially be a fit for the campaign given the budget.

After identifying the best influencers for the campaign, we begin outreach. The first email should always let the influencer know that you’ve done your research, highlighting how their page fits with the overall campaign goals of the client. In this email, we also outline the campaign and request rate cards and media kits. We always try to give an overview of what the deliverables may be at this stage. That way, the influencer can get a sense of what all would be expected on their end. Once this information is received from a handful of influencers, we begin reviewing these materials, determining what content deliverables would be the most impactful given the budget.

The Negotiation
Now you are ready for the negotiation process. Most influencers are willing to work with you and your brand to determine what kind of deliverables will be best received by their audience, so don’t be afraid to ask questions! We always ask influencers for their recommendations based on what their audience responds the best to, whether it’s an Instagram Story, in-feed post or reel. Depending on what they say, we work with them to create a contract that outlines the number of posts, approval process and payment timeline.

Campaigns and Strategies
Now that you’ve identified the appropriate influencers for your brand, it’s time to execute. Here are some of my favorite ways we’ve partnered with influencers to elevate our clients.

Paid Campaigns
When raising brand awareness is the overall goal, paid campaigns are the way to go. With this approach, we identify and engage with top-tier influencers with a high following and engagement rate to ensure that the campaign will be successful and reach your targeted audience.

One of our CPG clients recently launched a new line of lemon scented products. This is the first new line of products it’s launched in recent years, so to increase awareness, we wanted to be sure to identify the best influencers who fit the brand’s overall image. We honed in on influencers who focus on lifestyle (specifically in the home), parenting and cleaning. From there, we worked with the client to identify a budget and collected rate cards from the influencers, moving forward with those who best fit the campaign goals and budget.

Clear, concise contracts that identify all of the deliverables, review processes and payment plans are essential in these types of campaigns as they ensure that the client’s needs are met.

Product and/or Service Exchanges
When launching a new product or service, this strategy is the perfect approach. Influencers love trying out new things and sharing them with their audience. Depending on their follower count and engagement rates, they might even do this for free.

Along with paid campaigns, we used this product exchange approach with the same client’s lemon line launch. Based on the interest we received, we identified the most brand-aligned influencers who had less than 50 thousand followers and created partnerships where each influencer would receive the new products in exchange for social media posts. Above 50 thousand followers, influencers typically have fees – so by splitting our outreach by this metric, we were able to appropriately structure individualized partnerships with each influencer.

Combining this strategy with a paid campaign (in which we paid macro influencers to test out the products and post) was a great strategy for this client since brand awareness was the biggest goal of the campaign. We were able to reach a large array of viewers without paying large amounts of money for each post.

This strategy is the perfect fit for a brand looking to elevate brand awareness, promote a specific product / line or generate buzz around a new line of products or its own event. While influencer events do require some kind of budget, they also offer a high ROI as influencers are more likely to post about the event more than once, reaching a larger audience than a single post.

Earlier this year, our team worked closely with an international retailer to host a fitness event for influencers, followed by lunch. The client’s primary goal was to increase brand awareness, specifically for its latest line of activewear. Using New Year’s resolutions as a time peg, we decided to engage with influencers who feature fitness and healthy living on their pages. Their assignment was to shop the brand’s latest activewear, wear their outfit to the fitness event and share stories and posts that promoted the line’s comfortability, affordability, and style.

The Outcomes
With the right strategy in place, working with influencers is a great way to elevate your brand and reach your target audience, and it can be a lot of fun, too. If you think your brand would benefit from influencer marketing, reach out to a local PR firm today!