I’m having a bit of an online identity crisis.
Am I a PR pro, content marketer, online marketer, online influencer, citizen journalist or a blogger?
Am I all of the above? Does it matter?
Yes, it matters—especially if you’re in PR.
In today’s online world, it’s becoming more and more difficult to identify and define what job category applies to the average marketing person, journalist or online influencer-which can make a PR pro’s job confusing.
Who do we target in pitches and campaigns? All of the above? In the converging online world, the lines are often so confusing it can be hard to decide where to focus your efforts.
To illustrate, I’ll use myself as an example. Based on my online persona, I am all of the following:
- PR professional, online marketing pro and content marketer: This is based on my LinkedIn profile and resume.
- Online influencer: I’m no Guy Kawasaki. I only have about 1,100 followers on Twitter. But for the sake of this exercise, let’s pretend I have 20 times that number. With my fictional 20,000 followers, my Twitter reach within the marketing, PR and content world would be substantial. My fictional self has an important voice in the Twittersphere!
- Blogger/citizen journalist: I regularly blog on the Meltwater Public Relations blog. And people read my blog, which, at the time of this article’s publication, is one of the top-ranking PR blogs on Google. Theoretically I have influence based on reach within the profession.
With this example, the fact that I fit into more than three categories illustrates a problem and opportunity for PR pros. The problem is deciding whom to pitch when you don’t have a clear-cut way to define a person as a journalist, influencer or other. The opportunity comes when you realize it doesn’t matter—influencers come in many shapes and sizes.
The influence formula
The formula is simple: trust + reach = influence.
Influence is on a sliding scale—if a person has a degree of each element, he has influence.
Journalists: This formula is not dissimilar from how PR pros have historically considered journalists for outreach. A journalist is considered a trusted source based on both how well-respected she and her medium are.
A journalist’s reach is based on the audience of her medium. As an example, a journalist at The New York Times has substantial reach and is presumably well respected, otherwise she would not be writing for The New York Times.
Online influencers: The formula for an online influencer is the same. An online influencer earns the position of a trusted resource based on his reach and the quality of his content. His reach is determined on his established network, which is usually made up of his owned media channels.
As an example, Jason Falls is an influencer based on his reach-nearly 80,000 Twitter followers-and the trust he has built over the years as a blogger, writer, speaker and professional. Falls is highly influential. He’s also a nice guy, which helps.
Which influencer is more important to you as a PR pro? That depends on your company, product, campaign and goals. Falls may be more important to your campaign than The New York Times journalist.
With that, here are a few tips on how to navigate the confusing landscape of influence:
1. Don’t be afraid to look beyond traditional media.
Take a close look at your campaign. What are you pitching? Ask yourself whose endorsement will mean the most to your audience. Think outside the box; don’t assume it needs to be a journalist.
For example, if you’re pitching a stylish new lamp, a write up from a blogger on Apartment Therapy may hold more influence over your target buyer than a blurb from a writer at Better Homes & Gardens.
2. Be open-minded about how you define influence.
A person with 30,000 Twitter followers may be more valuable than a traditional journalist, even if the person only tweets and never writes more than 120 characters at a time. Using this example, if that same person has an audience of 30,000 and each of his followers has a few hundred followers, the potential to reach a viral audience is significant-often more significant than that of a journalist.
3. Forget about job titles or the prestige of a media outlet. Focus on the person.
Influencers come in many shapes and sizes. Some are journalists, social media influencers, bloggers and so on. More important, they fall on a spectrum of influence. When working with journalists, an associate editor can be just as important as the editor-in-chief. After all, who knows where that associate editor will be in five years?
The same is true with online influencers. I may have 1,100 Twitter followers today, but who knows where I could be in a few years. Don’t pay too much attention to titles. Focus on the individual people and how well they match your outreach goals. This is more important than the exact number of followers or title.
4. Look for people who have built trust with their followers.
The best influencers provide third-party endorsement, whether or not that is their intention. When you research influencers, pay close attention to how their followers react to their stories, tweets, etc. With journalists and bloggers, it’s easy to estimate influence by looking at how widely their stories are shared online and the level of agreement. The same is true with social media. Check to see how often an influencer is retweeted, liked, etc.
By considering these four tips when you’re thinking about targeting your campaign, you’ll find that your outreach lists become much more targeted and diverse.
The journalist’s playing field is becoming messy-we have to consider classically trained journalists, citizen journalists, online influencers and everything in between.
As for my online identity crisis, I’ve decided that I am Marc, and there is no defining me. (Well, unless you consider me an influencer of some sort. Then please feel free to define me, because that’s a flattering definition. It will help my Twitter numbers.)
A version of this article originally appeared on the Meltwater Public Relations Blog.