In our previous article, we talked about the importance of public relations and what publicists actually do on a day-to-day basis. We compared industries like advertising to PR and hopefully shed a little light on why both are necessary in creating/maintaining a profitable business. With that said, it’s time we talk about an ever-evolving part of the marketing world: influencer marketing.
During the prehistoric times before Instagram, influencer marketing didn’t exist. Companies used traditional advertising techniques to promote their services or products. One of these traditional techniques included celebrity spokesmen as a way to put a face to the brand and create a connection with their consumers. Public relations followed a traditional path of pitching journalists, putting on events and securing media placements.
Then social media exploded over night and with that came the “like” saturated, selfie-obsessed, social frenzy we now know as Instagram. Of course, there are other platforms we should mention like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter but when it comes to influencer marketing, Instagram dominates the field. As the years went on and “Insta-famous” became a common adjective to describe people whose online profile had a considerable number of followers and engagement, marketing professionals took notice.
Companies began to see that celebrity figure heads weren’t spearheading sales and ultimately costing them a pretty penny because of their social status. With the birth of Instagram influencers, came a more relatable way for consumers to connect with the individuals promoting a product or service at a much cheaper cost. Public relations professionals started utilizing this for social media campaigns. Influencers became yet another form of third-party endorsements because if an influencer didn’t like the sample of a product, they could not post about it or post negatively instead.
With the growing number of companies dedicating an entire sector of their marketing plan to the influencer space, the line between advertising and public relations has become a little blurred. Influencers are now getting paid for posts, likes and videos which falls into the category of paid media (i.e. advertising). On the other hand, influencers are commonly invited to attend events in hopes that they will cover, post and essentially promote the company behind it. This is a form of PR and here we see the blending of two different professions.
The digital world is evolving every day and our industry is navigating the waters. In recent years, agencies have formed or rebranded themselves as “integrated marketing communications” which means both paid and unpaid forms of media. The growth of Instagram influencers has no end in sight so it’s time to hit “like” and find the right way to utilize social media for your clients, no matter what profession.
—By Alyx Sealy, Assistant Account Executive