How to Influence The Influencers

9 Ways to Build An Influencer Relations Program

InfluencerHow do you influence the influencers to achieve your business objectives in today’s mobile, social media connected world? Understand that building an influencer relations program to persuade your target audience is a delicate art form especially given the content explosion.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell succinctly defines 3 categories of influencers in “The Law of the Few.”

  1. Connectors. These individuals know lots of people across an array of interests.  They’ve got large social networks and continually bring people together.
  2. Mavens. These individuals are “information brokers” who solve problems and distribute the answers. They possess the ability to communicate this information in way that facilitates its sharing and dissemination.
  3. Persuaders. These individuals are charismatic idea salespeople whose negotiation skills cause others to agree with them.

Influencer relations is a three step process:

  1. Identify key authorities in your specific niche recognized and respected by your prospects and customers for their targeted knowledge.
  2. Build a relationship with these area experts based on real life interactions that go beyond following their content and social media interactions.
  3. Work together to develop marketing programs that increase brand awareness and advocacy, hopefully resulting in customer acquisition, sales and retention.

Influencer relations exist in the grey area between rabid fans endorsing your brand and paid spokespeople who are just product shills. Influencer relations must be human and feel real to be effective.

9 Steps to build your influencer relations program

Here are 9 steps to get your program on track to influence the influencers.

1. Who is your target audience?

Before you can figure out who influences your key market, understand your target audience. To this end, create a fully fleshed out marketing persona including a social media buyer persona. Among the questions to answer are: Who contributes to your customer’s buying decision? What tradeoffs will the customer make? Where do they spend their time consuming content and communicating?

2. Who are the influencers relevant to your target audience?

Based on your marketing persona, find the key influencers in your niche. While some of these individuals may be uncovered during your marketing persona work, you’ll probably need to do additional research across different platforms. Include a mix of connectors, mavens and persuaders for your offering to ensure that your message gathers appropriate reach.

3. What makes the influencer tick?

Do your homework to discover who the influencer is as a person. Take the time to research them via social media and Google. What do they talk about? What are their principles? Do their interests and behaviors align with those of your organization? Go beyond the obvious. Engage with them on social media and in real life. Your goal is to find out more about them and to build a relationship that goes offline and meets in real life.

4. Where does the influencer exert their authority?

Assess the expert’s community and realm of influence. Take the time to assess the landscape and where they fit in it. Are there specific topics that people turn to them for answers? How big is their community and/or reach? Is it limited to a specific platform or geography? How doest this relate to your target market?

5. How does the influencer engage with his community?

This speaks to how you’ll be able to leverage the power of the expert’s following. It has a direct impact on how you can work together to sway your target audience. Sign up for his newsletters, blog posts and other content. Ask pertinent questions in public forums.

6. What do you want the influencer to do for you?

While this may strike some as an obvious question, it can be a make it or break it for the influencer. At the heart of your request, you must have respect for the influencer. What makes this influencer the one person you want to talk about your brand? This means you need to engage with them on their home bases before you ever send them a request.

7. When do you want the influencer to engage on behalf of your brand?

This relates to your marketing plans including your promotional calendar and editorial calendar. Do you need him to give specific presentations or create special content? Do you expect on-going interactions? How does your timing relate to the influencer’s schedule?

8. What motivates them to support your brand and/or offering?

Understand that it’s about the influencer and their audience and community, not your business, brands or products. Share their content on social media, comment on their blog posts, buy their books, etc. Show you care about the expert as a person. How does helping your firm, brand or product improve the expert’s relationship with their audience? Think in terms of what you can offer them.

9. What’s in it for the influencer?

Realize that the influencer has worked hard to build their following and invested his time and energy into establishing himself.  Therefore, you need to consider the value you bring him, either in terms of direct compensation or in kind. This is particularly important if you’re part of a PR agency or employee being compensated to attract the influencer. Also consider how you’ll be transparent about your relationship and compensation.


While influencer relations can help you achieve your business objectives, understand that you need put yourself in the influencer’s shoes and provide incentives for him to work with you.

What has your experience been with influencer relations? 

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Hat tip to Paul Roetzer, of PR20/20 and author of The Marketing Agency Blueprint, for asking this question at my Content Marketing World presentation.



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One Response to How to Influence The Influencers

  1. Tony Lima says:

    I really like what you said about putting yourself in the shoes of the influencer. I think by taking that perspective you would be much more likely to get there help. I have not solicited the help of anyone online yet but I know win/win solutions always work the best. Both parties must benefit. : )

    Thank you for your insight Heidi.