Public relations with Lenox Mhlanga
The idea of third-party endorsement used to generate a lot of debate in my public relations (PR) classes. It was around how believable someone “touting” a product or service as great would be when paid for doing so. Granted that in PR, companies approach agencies to generate earned media for them and their products.
In the true sense of the term, third-party endorsement is seen as the solicited or unsolicited recommendation or testimonial from an entity other than the manufacturer and seller of a product or service. PR is seen as a vehicle through which positive mentions, quotes or features can find their way to potential customers via the media.
Nowadays, with the growth of social media and other online platforms, PR practitioners and marketers alike have seen the value in getting individuals to “endorse” or vouch for particular products and services after using or “experiencing” them.
The key focus here is on the popularity and reach of these personalities to a targeted audience that will be turned into, at best, buyers or advocates. Pop stars and athletes come to mind, and all this makes more sense if the products being touted are linked to their active pursuits.
Brands seek individuals such as influencers or advocates who can “help move the needle and gain buyers’ trust”. The reason being that these influencers can engage potential customers in ways that brands can’t.
This has led to growth of billion-dollar endorsement contracts for athletes who won accolades for their prowess. So you have Serena Williams and Tiger Woods endorsing Nike and the likes of Usain Bolt’s sponsorship deal with Puma. In the area of modelling and fashion, Victoria and David Beckham come to mind.
However, influencer marketing has taken third-party endorsement to another level. Influencers are no longer restricted to celebrities, but to ordinary people who have built a decent following on social platforms. They have been incorporated into PR strategy as part of earned media programmes.
Influencer marketing is partnering with individuals who have significant audience and influence with a particular consumer segment. Influencers can help you drive scalability via consumer reach, engagement and content. Brands often use influencers to grow awareness, affinity and loyalty.
Influencers are usually experts, bloggers, speakers, authors or analysts with an established online presence and a loyal audience in a particular niche.
Because they have a broad online presence, they can expose your brand to receptive audiences through the content they create.
Another PR tool is that of advocate marketing that harnesses the support of a different set of stakeholders and will be dealt with in a future article.
Recent research shows that consumers trust a referral from their personal network at a rate of 90%, and referrals are found online 81% of the time. 92% of consumers rely on referrals from people they know above all else.
Prime Influencers’ Freshy Orprecio lists three reasons why influencer marketing works.
“People believe someone who already has an established credibility. [They] always look for opinions. We, as humans, it is our nature to look for more options before deciding,” Orprecio says.
“We always look for: Where to go? What to eat? What to wear? And hearing those opinions from an authority we look up to, makes the decisionmaking much easier.”
The second reason is that people don’t want to be sold. We are irritated just like when a shop assistant breathes down our neck at every step we take in a shop while browsing around.
“As a business owner, you start your business with all marketing and sales strategy. And these efforts end with the goal of selling, but the people [your target market] don’t want to be told what to buy,” says Freshy.
We all know that customers are always looking for products or services to pay for or buy. An endorsement from other people sets their mind in a frame to buy. They are even more likely to buy when they are already familiar with your business.
“PR brings instant trust and confidence to prospects. This might even help them get off the fence if they’ve been thinking about working with you for a long time,” Orprecio continues.
What influencer marketing rides on is that fact that people tend to believe whatever a VIP, celebrity, or influencers says. When conveying your message to the public it’s easier to spread it through them to their network.
PR, by giving publicity, will help introduce your service or product to the public. But what counts is that the impression that they are good comes from the fact that those that they trust, trust you. Subsequently, those that know you become comfortable doing business with you.
Lenox Mhlanga is a consultant with Magna Carta Reputation Management, an award- winning PR agency. He has worked as communications specialist for the World Bank and serves on the Council of the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations. Contact him at email@example.com