In recent years, influencer marketing has become rather a digital advertising platform, challenging the integrity of both brands and influencers. We’ve seen an unhealthy blurring of money and influence, whereby influencers take revenue from brands, but pay little regard to the product, the idea or its message; and it’s this inauthenticity that ironically undermines the credibility that brands sought to achieve from working with influencers in the first place. In 2018, the way in which we use influencers as part of the marketing mix will therefore need to become smarter – it’s an incredibly powerful tool, but must be executed in the right way. Is there a genuine connection between the influencer and the brand? Do they have the credibility to tell me that I should buy the product? Did they post about a competitor only last week? Brands need to apply the fundamentals of communication with digital influencers: relationship building, trust and transparency. And, of course, PRs are the best placed to do this; we have, after all, been engaging influencers long before digital influencer marketing was considered “cool”.
In a similar way, brands will need to stand for something – too often, we’ve seen inauthentic, socially moral messages, but savvy consumers see straight through these lazy attempts at a point of view. While speaking up about divisive issues can be risky, it can be hugely rewarding if done right, with depth of purpose felt across the whole business. We advise clients that this purpose must come from within, linked to commercial targets, and driven by CEO down and shop-floor up, not from marketing. What’s more, standing out has become more important than ever to ensure brand differentiation. One of the biggest challenges faced by consumer brands is how to stay fresh, innovative and relevant in an increasingly competitive market, with lots of choice, savvier shoppers and a demanding consumer looking for expertise, speciality, quality, exclusivity, sustainability, honesty, and/or local credentials. We expect to see engaging, innovative and disruptive brand propositions in 2018.
Finally, the era of traditional, tedious and text-heavy communication is over: the press release has had its day. Having not generated quality earned media for some time, the press release is already being re-defined for today’s digital generation. It’s now more visual, with embedded images, graphics and videos alongside minimal copy, and more interactive, allowing readers to navigate quickly from one part of “story” to the next. Don’t give up on press releases; re-invent them!