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The role of influencers in the PR world

Posted by Louise Moran on 9th May 2011 sparked some interesting debate with the release of its PeerIndex list of the UK’s 100 most influential journalists online. Initial reaction focused on who made the cut, surprise absentees and some interesting one hit wonders – you can read the list for yourself here or check out some of the more interesting statistics that caught our eye in the diagrams below.

Scanning through the list led me to wonder, what does influence really mean? There’s no arguing that those included on the list are prolific, social media savvy journalists, but surely influence is more subjective than a top 100 list?

In PR, when we discuss influencers we refer to journalists, analysts and industry commentators who have the authority, credibility and power to shape opinions amongst their peers and wider audience. Influence is hard to measure in tangible terms, but a journalist or media publication should meet certain criteria before the term ‘influential’ can be applied.

Targeted relationships

National newspapers and broadcast media are often considered the holy grail of PR press coverage, offering high readership and audience ratings. However, many of those who access the newspaper article or watch a broadcast slot will not form part of the client’s clearly defined target audiences. To influence a group, relationships must be targeted – music reviewers renowned for spotting ‘the next big thing’, a business journalist with a reputation for predicting market trends or a political correspondent who can analyse and present the bigger picture behind a politician’s spin.

Quality of coverage

What is more meaningful to a client’s campaign: a hit in a national newspaper where several news stories are printed daily, replicated and posted to hundreds of thousands online, or an exclusive interview secured with an established commentator who writes once a week about a single company or industry issue?

The answer of course depends on the client in question and their expected results and outcomes for their PR campaign.

Measurable results

Finally, we expect that achieving coverage with an influential journalist in a targeted media outlet to generate more than just well written, nicely laid out words on a page – today’s news is, after all, tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapping! Quality media coverage with an influential journalist will generate far greater results than a glossy coverage book, such as an important sales enquiry, improved awareness amongst key audiences or a jump in website hits as a direct result of media coverage.

‘Influencer’ is not a term we bandy about lightly in PR. While the top 100 on the list have earned their place there, EML Wildfire will continue to take a more subjective view of the tools and media relationships we use to achieve results driven, targeted PR campaign.

Louise Moran