Influencing for good, not just profit during Covid-19

By Deb Sharratt,

Globally influencer marketing is a multi-billion pound industry.  Its development is an evolution of media relations in a fragmented and increasingly digital media landscape.

By definition ‘Influencer Marketing’ is “the art and science of forming, or changing, a public’s opinions and behaviours via a third party online,” CIPR Influencer Marketing Panel.

Reputation, purpose and crisis

Over the past couple of years, influencer marketing has become a buzzword. Used effectively it is a strategic discipline which follows a detailed workflow methodology. It isn’t just about selling or pushing products. It can also play an integral role in strategic communications, helping to achieve objectives around an organisation’s reputation, purpose, awareness of its causes and crisis management.

Impact of Covid-19

Before Covid-19 influencer platforms, such as Tribe, Takumi and Zine, were better known for being the intermediaries between brand and influencer for paid activity, but the coronavirus pandemic has focused much of these interactions between brand and blogger on supporting social causes. The purpose being to leverage the power of individuals who have a significant audience and influence within a particular segment.

Although Buzzfeed has written about influencers sharing bad tips and information about Covid-19 it is also reporting that the World Health Organization is teaming up with a popular CGI influencer named Knox Frost to help spread safe Covid-19 practices and solicit donations.

A strategic approach

In a joined-up strategic approach, many platforms and agencies within influencer marketing are currently asking influencers to support the World Health Organization in pro-bono campaigns to slow the spread of Covid-19 by sharing positive and helpful messages on social media.

First, these campaigns focussed on demonstrating the correct way to wash your hands, and now the aim is to help their communities understand and accept social distancing, by sharing simple explanations and tips about how they are doing it; suggesting hashtags of #safehands #flattenthecurve, #socialdistancing #Viralkindness and #Keepyourdistance; and crucially asking people to ensure the content of their posts follows the latest WHO guidelines.

In addition, 15 leading charities have developed a ‘we are undefeatable’ campaign. They are asking Influencers with a long-term health condition to share messages on how to stay active during Covid-19, to encourage others with the same condition to include more physical activity in their life whilst self-isolating.

The #makeitblue campaign is encouraging people to post ‘blue things’ to say thank you to all involved with the NHS.

The value of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is not just about selling products. We are increasingly seeing how influencer marketing can be used by public relations professionals using their long-established relationship-building skills to embrace new groups of influencers, beyond traditional groups such as journalists, analysts and government officials, to reach new and important but hard-to-reach audiences, to the benefit of the organisations they represent and their stakeholders.

CIPR recently set up an Influencer Marketing Panel co-chaired by myself, Anne-Marie Lacey and Scott Guthrie to explore and shape the impact of influencer marketing on public relations and the wider business community. The panel will aim to define best practice and to build awareness of the best practice. Ultimately, the panel’s purpose is to help members adopt best practice. Look out for launch activity on the CIPR channels soon.

Photo by visuals on Unsplash

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