Influencers and Media Partners: How to Amplify the Reach of Content
- A Sample Content Strategy with Influencers
- Finding An Influencer
- The Missing Ingredient: Combining Media Publishing Partners and Influencers
- Sources of Influence Beyond SEO
- Modularized Content
- Becoming The Media
- Potential Compliance Issues and GDPR
- Leading with Value
- Marketing Creativity
- Interesting Examples of Creative Outreach
- Improving Influencer Relationships
- Contributor Quotes
- Keyword-focused Influencer Contributions
- Approaching Influencers Personally vs Professionally
- Tools for Finding Influencers
Presentation related text is in Italic.
Andy Crestodina: Welcome everybody to the influence of marketing webinar here at SEMrush. It's a pleasure to be here and we have an amazing guest, Lee Odden, who's going to guide you through specific tactics and some great examples of ways to really level up your influencer marketing.
A Sample Content Strategy with Influencers
So, I first want to show you now an example of a content strategy that includes influencers. This is for a company here in Chicago and they deliver beer and coffee to offices. The content strategy includes on-site and off-site publishing in multiple formats; and it includes influencers in a way that should generate consistent demand by ranking for the commercial intent, dollar sign related key phrase.
“Office coffee delivery” is our target key phrase for our service page; our conversion-optimized service page. The page should include testimonials, calls to action, answers or top questions, and it's optimized to rank for office coffee delivery service.
It’s insufficient to just make one page and hope to get rich by making one page. We have to improve the credibility of that page, by creating authority, links, and domain score. And we're going to make an anchor piece that's going to be based on research to support that. This anchor piece I just made up is called “office park ideas from the top 50 workplaces”. It is a piece of the original research that includes charts, graphs, and quotes from influencers.
Now, I don't know where the top 50 workplaces are but in seconds I can find a list of the top 50 workplaces and do some outreach. I can ask them what they offer and produce a piece of original research showing what they are offering. The content upgrade or the lead magnet; whatever you call it, could go nicely next to this. An offer to download the e-book, the PDF with charts, with an engaging piece of content that could grow your email list.
A how-to article fits beautifully into this content strategy and it would, of course, mention, link to, and pass some authority to that core piece; the research piece. Research makes you the primary source; it's an amazing link magnet.
Alternate formats are useful of course, such as repurposing my research piece into an info-graphic about the top perks of top offices. Those make for great pitches to other websites that might publish it. This is a classic SEO strategy―to create visual assets and combine with outreach to try and get placement in other sites.
Finding An Influencer
I'm going to find somebody super relevant who has a large following and writes for high domain authority websites, who might be open to an in-depth interview, conversation, or webinar. I can also pitch myself as an interviewee since I created original research, and maybe I can get interviewed on a podcast or a webinar something similar for off-site publishing; passing that authority to my core; helping my service page indirectly to rank high.
And now I'm just going to start blogging on five workplace secrets inside the top offices. The target audience is the office manager. And you can see, this is the difference between content strategy and blogging; a big, big difference. I've got alternate formats, I've got co-created content, I'm writing for many places, and it's all based on that nucleus of the high ranking service page optimized for the money phrase.
I learned some of this from Lee years ago in the social media marketing world. A good content strategist knows their audience, understands topics, uses different formats, etc, however, this strategy separates collaborating with influencers and publishing in many places. I didn't combine those steps.
The Missing Ingredient: Combining Media Publishing Partners and Influencers
But here's where Lee is going to help us. What if you combined the influencers and media publishing partners? So, Lee, you've got my idea, and it's a more comprehensive content strategy than a lot of people use. But still I feel like I’m missing something and I feel like you know something that we can all benefit from in those last two components. I've got some influencers I want to collaborate with. I've got some places I want to pitch to. But is there a better way to put these things together?
Sources of Influence Beyond SEO
Lee Odden: Sure. And it starts with taking a step back and in the architecture of your content strategy. Smart marketers often intuitively make choices about topics. I mean, they'll do their key research; they are familiar with what the pain points are of a customer intuitively or through experience, they'll pick various content formats because they fit well together, and that's all good. But what we do differently is quite a bit of customer research. So, what we look at; sometimes clients or marketers at a brand have documented who their best customers are, who their customers of opportunity are. They might even have personas and different customer segments to find all that information.
We take that data and we create a mapping of the customer and what the influencers are to that customer in their buyer's journey.
SEO is one source of influence, but there are also humans that influence customers. And those humans are not just the famous people in the industry; they are the person sitting in the cube or office next door; they are the people that they talk to outside of work. They’re people that they subscribe to; publications, or media as we're going to discuss. We map that out first. And from an understanding of who our ideal customer is, and what influences them, that's where the intersection of media and influencers comes into play.
So, for example, we might identify a journalist or an analyst who is also an influencer. So, along with the subject matter experts in an industry whom we engage to contribute their insights into something that we’re making, we may also ask some journalists or analysts to do that as well. As a consequence, not only do we get that credibility of that third party, but there's also a very good chance they're going to help spread the word, and in some cases, this is actually turned into earned media coverage in their publication.
Andy Crestodina: I love that. So, you're reaching out to the journalist and asking them for contributor quotes or interviewing journalists and analysts. It’s like they're both a publisher and a source?
Lee Odden: In some cases, yeah. When you think about the customer journey, customers have questions about what the nature of their problem is, what are the options for solutions, who's the best and where do I go to buy that. You think of specific keywords for content to be relevant at those different moments in the journey. You can also think about which influencers are most relevant to go right along with those keywords at those different moments in time.
Sometimes it will surface that you know an industry analyst is someone that's good for the top of the funnel or a really famous person. You know the book author, or keynote speaker, celebrity or whatever. But on the other end of that funnel, sometimes, we're literally using the very customers we're trying to sell to as influencers to create the content we will then use to market to them.
Andy Crestodina: So, it sounds like in your model, the higher up we are in the funnel the more you are seeking influencers of large followings large audiences as distribution partners and co-creators and the further down you get, the more you are polling people who are more intimately related to your target and who are more basically like that same persona as your potential buyer.
I'm picturing a diagram that shows the ideal co-creators for content at different stages in the funnel. I never exactly thought of it in that way.
Lee Odden: We actually did a project for Brian Clark at Copyblogger. And what we did is, we identified five blogs and we modularized the contributions the influencers and speakers gave to us at an event. Henry Rollins was the keynote for the event. So, Brian Clark got some tips from Henry Rollins and made him the cover of his E-book. And we had other people; Chris Brogan, other interesting people speaking at this event as well. And so, we created this e-book of insights from these different people speaking at the conference.
We had a quote about content marketing, a quote about leadership, quote about overcoming adversity or whatever. And then we identified blogs whose audiences and readership matched a particular subtopic of the overall message. We sent an article to them and we used very specific influencer quotes. The call-to-action is always back to the main e-book or landing page. We were able to create customized content for five different blogs of five different audiences, yet there is an overlap in the narrative that brought everybody back to that main asset. That's one example.
One of the big myths is that you have to pay all the time or you shouldn't ever pay but the reality is that you know there are some people that you really do need to pay for and once you pay someone that doesn't mean you always have to pay them going forward.
Andy Crestodina: True.
Lee Odden: It all comes with setting expectations and creating a structure for how the relationship can work. The other thing is that, there are pro influencers―we know who they are in the marketing space especially―this is what they do; they're famous people and they are really good at being these influencing personalities.
So when you approach a person like that they're pretty easy. That's wonderful but there are a lot of people that are very influential, especially in B2B where they have domain expertise and they have a following and a niche but they are not familiar with behaving like an extrovert influencer.
Andy Crestodina: Yes.
Lee Odden: And yet it would be incredibly impactful for your program. And so you approach a person like that a little bit differently to professional influencers or as I like to call them, "Brandividuals".
Andy Crestodina: Brandividuals, I like it. I want to talk about that and the competition for these influencers and the idea of managing these relationships. But before we jump right into that topic was there anything else on that another example of when you're engineering an outcome. Basically, how do you make that happen; combining influencers and media? Anything else on that?
Lee Odden: I know a lot of people think of media in terms of what we were just talking about, "can I pitch to a publication? Can it involve the New York Times? Okay, yes that is a form of media relations. But when you think about events; events have so much media going around them and there's so much buzz in conversation, social, traditional media and so forth; these all represent opportunities for distributing what it is that you want to get out there.
Andy Crestodina: Right.
Becoming The Media
Lee Odden: And so what we did with content marketing institute in the Content Marketing World Conference was we agreed to connect with, we took a list of the speakers and we brought them into an influencer ranking software platform and we identified which influencers were most influential on the specific content marketing topics we wanted to create content around. And so we ended up wrapping it into a metaphor themed "secret agents." So content marketing secrets, what is your content marketing secret? And we published that on a Thursday. By Monday, the beginning of the conference, there 46000 views on SlideShare and people were talking about it and promoting it on other stages, it was amazing.
This year, "Game on," was the theme so we used a retro video game theme to create the comprehensive guide to conquering content marketing. Then we had these companion videos that went along with it where we featured to speakers as eight-bit video game characters and it was to promote the e-book. It was all fun and it was a way to create media.
Andy Crestodina: Yes.
Lee Odden: There's an expression I said a long time ago and I know someone else had something similar but it was six or seven years ago "If you want to be in the media, become the media”. When you think about this on your journey to create more effective influencer marketing SEO, of course, you can think in terms of how can I leverage media to get extra distribution. But you should also be thinking about how you can create more influence for yourself as a media entity, like being a publisher.
Andy Crestodina: Yes.
Lee Odden: By working with other media properties to get that distribution and to create those great relationships with influencers who advocate for you, you will also become more influential, you will also become more media yourself at the same time.
Andy Crestodina: Yes, I think that's the paradigm shift of this modern world is that it's all reversed now and that brands are publishers and as a publisher, you can do outreach, you can invite sources, you can explore topics, you can do research. So it's an important takeaway that we're not waiting for someone else to pay attention to us―we create attention; we're combining these ingredients to make this stuff happen like those eight-bit characters.
A couple things happen from that, I think one is the social exposure goes way up because you inject such creativity into the campaign. They're just so cool looking like the whole team is gorgeous and I wonder what kind of feedback you got from the influencers themselves. They were surely charmed?
Lee Odden: Yes.
Andy Crestodina: Was that in any way part of the intent was to get that feeling yes?
Lee Odden: We want to create a great experience for the influencers that we're working with. We've got to really focus on treating them like our best customers; we've got to take care of them because that’s going to be very valuable not only for them coming back and saying, "yes," to new opportunities but also for the word of mouth as they talk to other influencers.
Potential Compliance Issues and GDPR
Andy Crestodina: So let's say I partner with an influencer and we create a piece of content together. Are there any issues with then repurposing that piece of content into another piece or pitching it to another publication?
Lee Odden: Where it really becomes a problem is when the context of their contribution is for, let's say, an article, and you take excerpts out of that interview you put it into an e-book and you also put their face on the landing page. Now you're using them for public promotion when the original context was this is an interview for an article. That's a problem.
Andy Crestodina: Is there backlash like, "Hey, why is my face on your site for that gated thing?”
Lee Odden: Absolutely. Today we ask for permission, "Is it okay for us to use that?" And it's turned into a good thing because we're talking to them earlier and showing our responsibility and most people appreciate that.
Andy Crestodina: Does GDPR change the ground rules for even things like a round-up?
Lee Odden: It can. If you have influencers that are based in the EU there's a potential issue because you don't have permission to use their fans, friends, and follower counts, their engagement rates, and their community and all that, you don't have their permission to do that anymore.
The thing to do to mitigate issues with this is to create a community. You create a community where you invite these people and you're creating value for them to be a part of the community. And then those in the community are those that you invite to be a part of your influencer initiatives.
Andy Crestodina: Don't ever miss the chance to be closer to someone that would have value to you in your network. So if there's a legal reason to reach out, that's a reason to reach out, and outreach is good. But wow, let us know with a comment if GDPR was affecting your strategies around round-ups. It wasn't on my radar.
Lee Odden: And it's a caution, it's a caution on behalf of legal departments.
Andy Crestodina: Yes, well you've been excellent over the years and a lot of us have watched how you've approached compliance and permission and an ethical approach to building relationships and thoughtful re-purposing and outreach.
My favourite tactic is to reach out to people and ask them for a contributor quote. It's almost one of my publishing standards and yet I published a post today without doing it but 80% of the time, I'll try to get a contributor quote from someone who is relevant. I think the contributor quote should be on a lot of people's lists as a way to build relationships get on someone's radar.
Leading with Value
Lee Odden: Well, on top of that not only can you add credibility to your content by having a third party expert provide that quote, but why not highlight some of your own people? Why not grow the influence of the people coming up in your organization?
Andy Crestodina: Yes, I am always looking for opportunities to link to a client and to mention a client. I will definitely let them know in advance. I'm looking to a client and using them as an example of something done well. But yet to do this with a prospective client is actually a much more interesting in a way. It's like, how can you become closer to that company that you hope to work with someday? How can you become closer to that journalist you hope to work with someday?
I sort of think this is like a give whatever you want to get approach. Like if you want to be quoted in the media quote them first. You know, it works for everything. You want LinkedIn recommendations, write Linked In recommendations for people. You want to get shared, share peoples' stuff. If you want comments, comment on peoples' stuff.
Lee Odden: Yes. When you lead with value, you know at the end of the day, people are going to remember and feel a lot more about a person that is leading with value than a person who's always asking for you to give them something.
Andy Crestodina: Let's pretend we are that office coffee delivery service and we have good relationships with a couple of well-known editors or writers for blogs about employee benefits. They are influential over our target audience of office managers and we've got some big blogs or publication about offices. Maybe it's a design blog about office kitchens or it's a publication about employee law or something. Any ideas about how someone in this position could try to start those relationships to lead to bigger value; you know links and leads?
Lee Odden: Well, you need something to give to start with. If you're a small brand and you are publishing content and you have a publishing channel, the thing you have to give is potential exposure on that channel. And when I think about a situation like that I think about interactive microsites. I mean, wouldn't it be cool to create a comic book that's interactive and shows an office environment or something humorous that involves you know coffee and beer.
Andy Crestodina: Yes.
Lee Odden: Use exposure as the “give”. That is the most abundant and it might be a very specific niche, and again, if you have a publishing channel and it's not super popular, then maybe you can get really creative and create something really amazing. It is by the virtue of everyone being so excited about their contribution that they are inspired to share it and make it successful.
Andy Crestodina: Yes. I didn't expect that you'd touch on that or that we'd talk about that at all but and I'm glad to hear it that and it's why a lot of us got into marketing in the first place was the creative side. There's so much room for ideas I think, in search especially. There's a lot of people who kind of take a mechanical approach to it like it's a numbers game.
Lee Odden: There's a place for the mechanical but there's also a place for the meaningful. We're in an age of information overload; there's so much information to choose from so we've got to go beyond just informing people. We do this through storytelling and through creative experiences. Search is an experience. It's a very important one but it's not the only one.
And the irony is that it when you create momentum around creative content if you're thoughtful about the keyword usage etc., it actually contributes to your search performance at the same time.
Interesting Examples of Creative Outreach
Andy Crestodina: Have you seen any interesting outreach or any use of creativity to approach influencers?
Lee Odden: I got this little package and it was the size of a phone. It was a piece of plastic with a screen and on that screen when you open up the lid it was a video of a guy talking to me specifically.
Andy Crestodina: Wow.
Lee Odden: About how he wanted to meet and the thing he sold was that little device it was a way to get under people's radar and I thought that was kind of interesting. Another example is where someone made a video on YouTube and they were talking to me specifically.
Andy Crestodina: The barrier is low I mean you think more people would do it. So this is a suggestion―next time you're considering e-mailing an influencer or potential co-creator or e-mailing a journalist or editor, maybe turn on your camera and do a one-minute explanation of it―let them feel it not just read it.
Lee Odden: Right.
Andy Crestodina: We all know that video is a more powerful format.
Lee Odden: I want to tell you an example of a program for DBHQ Content Marketing Software company. We created this campaign; you know, the easy as pie content planning guide―so easy your grandmother could do it. And we asked influencers as part of our engagement, "What's your favourite pie?" So we sent them their favourite pie!
Chris from G Digital created a video. He came home and apparently his kids ate some of the pie and he's like, "35% of this pie is missing; ironically 35% of marketers don't have a documented content marketing strategy to create a video." So, yes there's some fun stuff you can do and it doesn't have to be about the recruiting, it can be about the relationship.
Andy Crestodina: Something I did once at the Content Marketing World event: I went to one person first, I think it was Ian Cleary. Ian asked a question. I brought a better mic, so it sounded okay. Then I went to another speaker and I played Ian's question and asked him and he answered it and then he asked his own question. And I went through 26 different speakers each one answering the previous question and asking the next question - it was like an 'ask it forward' thing.
It was quite simple to produce because it was just one long clip ultimately requiring very little editing. It was a round-up of video produced in person at an event where they all were, 100% of people said that they wanted to participate.
One of the benefits was meeting everybody. And I got a piece of a content at the end with what you call "Ego Bait".
Improving Influencer Relationships
Andy Crestodina: I'm very interested in the overlap between influencers and media but also this conversation about building those relationships. These are people for whom there's a lot of competition, so any tips or ideas or just advice for us who are now living in the reality of trying to create content together with people that have a ton of noise and requests coming to them?
Lee Odden: Well. You know the thoughtfulness of being genuine, being upfront about what you expect, creating that great experience for them as they contribute, as it gets published, as it gets promoted and all that stuff. Repeated positive experiences―that's all investment in a solid relationship, and most importantly, loyalty. The repeated positive experiences that build up that loyalty are the kind of insurance that you need especially if you're working on organic relationships.
On my team, we have dedicated people just for influencer relations. They care; they know how important this is and they pay attention, they're thoughtful, and they also have to be effective and efficient at what they do. It's the investment of building a genuine relationship and being upfront and understanding.
Then there are other people who have a lot of domain expertise and they just don't play the game.
Andy Crestodina: Yes.
Lee Odden: They're not used to being an influencer. So, you approach them a little bit differently. For example, "We'd like to invite you to do this in a soft ask yes to answer just one question”.
Andy Crestodina: Yes.
Lee Odden: You know two hundred words, for example. “In fact, if you just want to give me a stream of consciousness through chat, we'll make it look beautiful."
Andy Crestodina: I'll take this attendee question "can you please give me some examples of influence or quotes? I'm not sure I understood that properly; the term."
Like if we use Lee's quote tomorrow. "If you want to be in the media - be the media," that would just be using a quote that existed in the wild at first.
The next level would be the contributor quote. You're reaching out: “I'm working on this piece would you mind adding, thirty words by the fifteenth if you have some time I'd love to include you?" That's at an outreach thing and it gets better results I think because it's more thoughtful and they're expecting it.
The next piece would be the deep dive interview: You send them one question, they send you an answer, you send a follow-up question. Or, less interesting, you just e-mail the person ten questions. It's a giant quote, the whole piece, and it is a contributor quote.
And the fourth is the round-up. A lot of people think that's a very overused tactic and format in marketing, but this is not the only niche in the world. I think the round-ups have plenty of room left in a lot of other niches.
Keyword-focused Influencer Contributions
Lee Odden: If you execute a round-up well it's magic, and everybody wins. One tip, in the context of SEO and search marketing at least, if you use keywords in the questions you ask people who are influential about the topic, you're going to inspire a keyword relevant answer. And if you think about that, if you use that strategy across a portfolio of ten different people and do a round-up or editorial or on that topic, it's really good stuff.
Andy Crestodina: Let's play that in slow-mo. Ask your influencers to contribute answers to questions that are keyword-focused and you may end up with a piece of content that is keyword-relevant?
Lee Odden: Yes.
Andy Crestodina: Wow. I think that that nugget alone might have given everyone the value to be glad they tuned in.
Approaching Influencers Personally vs Professionally
Jessica, an attendee, tells us that she's heard from other marketing experts that it's better to approach influencers as a person rather than introducing yourself as a marketer? Lee, you got some thoughts on that right?
Lee Odden: It depends on what industry you're coming at it from and how you want to relate to the person. If you have credibility―if you are the person who is conducting influencer relations activities at your company or agency, if you have evidence of relevance around the domain, then it's like, "Yes, I do work in this field you know me I've got blog, I've got social channels, etc. I'd like to invite you to be part of this thing.
You and I do this and we have plenty of influence, we have plenty of evidence of our domain expertise so we can easily go with relevance to another marketer and say “hey...etc” opposed to "I'm a marketer working for a marketing agency and I want you to talk to me about marketing”.
So, if you don't have that relevance then you're going to have to create credibility somehow and of course you want to be relatable but I wouldn't explicitly say, "Hi I'm a marketer work on my agency XYZ and we're creating a campaign we'd like to use you to create this really cool campaign." That would be a fail.
What you can say is, "I'm working on behalf of Brand XYZ, we're creating this really cool thing for the greater good of the industry and we see that you said some things that are really relevant and add a lot of valuable discussion to the conversation, we would love to highlight and feature you in this really cool thing that's going to save the world, would you like to join us, are you interested?"
You know that's a relatable thing, that's honest.
Tools for Finding Influencers
Lee Odden: An attendee question: “what are the top tools you use to find influencers in a specific niche?”
We look at our existing relationships first because this is part of what we do as an agency―we build relationships, we retain those relationships and when new clients come on board in tech or healthcare or marketing we've already got people.
But we do use software, we use Traackr on the high expense end and Buzzsumo on the low expense end. An interesting blogger-specific platform is Group High. And then, of course, you can just talk to people.
We do surveys, we ask people who influence them and we will bring those ideas as a brainstorm into one of those software applications and then use the software to actually validate what the people said. The software crawls across the web like Google does and it can find artefacts and evidence of whether someone has an affinity towards a topic if they have a positive or negative sentiment towards a brand, and so forth.
Andy Crestodina: That's a good place to close because that's a good next step for a lot of people, maybe the 30-day free trial on some of those tools. We're out of time guys this was super fun. A huge thanks to Lee for giving us his time and attention and insights and wisdom.
So, give before you expect to get. Think about the media when you do your outreach. Modularize your content. Build those relationships. You've now officially heard it's a title it's a thing―Influencer Relationship Management, so you might want to add to your team if you're sincere about these approaches. And also GDPR for round-ups, think carefully about compliance.
Keep networking and keep growing your own influence.