I’m always asked about analytics and metrics when it comes to my earned media micro-influencer marketing campaigns, the campaigns that Dan Krueger and I produce for our clients every day. We respond with too-long awkward pauses because we’re always afraid that our clients don’t get us at all, and that maybe they just wanted to throw some money at Google AdWords and not us. Then we remember that paid advertising based on clicks and views and direct conversions is what everyone is throwing their money at these days — and for quite some time!

It’s About Narrative, It’s About Storytelling

So, while I need to call what I am doing social media marketing and micro-influencer marketing, what I am really doing is public relations and public affairs — and it’s always been this way. Done right, both social media engagement and influencer outreach are personal, person-to-person. Done right, it’s old school. Done right, it’s discovering and meeting the unique needs and wants of individual people and not Uniques, Visits, Hits, and Views.

It’s about the narrative, it’s about storytelling. It’s about creating an environment that is exciting enough to get busy people with busy lives to take a beat, bring their High Speed Bullet Train to a quick stop, and engage them long enough to explore what we have to offer and compel and beguile them long enough to get them to jump on our client’s bandwagon — all for the price of a ticket.

The Product or Service is Almost Never Enough

Some few Unicorn products and services are so amazeballs that they speak for themselves — they just naturally sell like hotcakes — they sell themselves. Most products and services are either so new, niche, or in enough of a competitive environment that simply saying, “I have a nice pen, I’d like you to review it on your blog” is not nearly enough. And even when you do have a Unicorn, like I think we did with Skinny Coconut Oil, it never hurts for even the sexiest products with the best timing (coconut oil is really hot!) to have an amazing founders’ story (two brothers from Indianapolis traveled through Vietnam, meeting coconut farmer Kim Vo. They connected with and Skinny was born). It also doesn’t hurt when you can easily explain away complaints (why is it called Skinny? I am body positive and think the name is body shaming) with truth and answers (the brothers’ mom chose the name, and who doesn’t love their mom?).

There’s no such thing as a client, a company, or a product of service not having a story and there’s no such thing as any product or service being able to survive in a vacuum. While we call all of these pieces “assets” for reason of collecting and distribution, they’re actually stories and narratives dressed up as content and, of course, assets.

Founder’s stories have their own interesting challenges along the way, interesting interactions with the market or the communities with which they’re interacting, and backgrounds and history of vendors, employees — combined with both the wins and the failures — can all help Dan and me with our campaign strategy. Not to mention the level of success associated with the outcome.

The most important part about having a grand biodiversity of story and narrative is because each and every nugget of story could potentially really connect with one or more particular influencer. In the case of Skinny, when the younger brother became extremely ill as a teenager, his mother began looking for alternatives to traditional medicine, which ultimately resolved his condition, therefore reinforcing their desire to make sure they produce and provide only the purest and least adulterated coconut oil possible.

Every piece of this true story is potentially a perfect bulls-eye when it comes to our outreach. While the quality and presentation of the high-end coconut oil might very well be enough to convince most people to accept a review bottle of the oil, the fact that the purity of the oil is the direct result of a personal suffering might make it personal enough. Or, that the owners are not part of Big Coconut and are just a couple of Midwestern brothers from Indiana. It’s all important and nothing’s too minuscule. That’s why we collect such an extensive amount of content into every one of our SMNRs.

It’s a Lot of Work, Both Up Front and All Along the Way

So, I spoke before about the salesmanship of influencer marketing. Sales, reporting, journalism, and public relations done right have one thing in common: personally engaging targeted individuals, soul-by-soul and person-by-person. While marketing and advertising is attempting to become so effortlessly targeted, using AI, that it will one day be able to dynamically repackage all marketing and advertising efforts for each individual’s personal preferences.

Marketing Uses a Spreadsheet but Public Relations Uses a Rolodex

Marketing trades in lists. They trade in automation. They trade in funnels and buckets and conversions. Advertising trades in targeting: geographic, demographic, psychographic, behavioral, and product-related targeting. It’s more about types of people, probabilities of people, potential people — not actual people.

Gesture SketchesOK, who uses a Rolodex? You know what I mean. Call it a contact list or a contact management system (CMS), it’s still a collection of hopes and needs and wants that transcends the impressionistic gesture sketch. A real social media and influencer relations campaign should take the time to fill in all the features.

A good PR artist needs to spend the time learning to actually draw the hands, if you will. Drawing out the hands are hard! Getting to know your subject well enough to be able to render their likeness as well as their movement, gestures, and even the way they carry their body and hold their head! Unlike marketing and advertising, online PR isn’t fire-and-forget. It’s not a thousand meters away; it’s belly-to-belly, it’s cheek-to-cheek.

Don’t (or Do) Compare My PR Campaign to Google Ads

We always make sure we prove all the metrics in the world that we can, post campaign. Sadly, in a post PR world, we need to be able to compete a little bit with Facebook Ads and Google Ads. We even need to compete, sometimes, with those heartless affiliates who care more about Google’s algo then they do making connections — getting good content and amazing information into the hands of passionate individuals who want to do more with that good stuff than just driving traffic, than just linking and forgetting.

Every Influencer Stands By Their Earned Media Mentions

When I identify and reach out to my Rolodex full of influencers and micro-influencers, there’s not expectation of outcome. Each influencer gets to make their very own creative decisions. Their reviews are only possibly adulterated by their natural tendency to not be dicks (quite a few influencers won’t blog if they don’t like the product or service) and the possible perception that drop shipping a nice shiny product to them — or giving them free access to something that would generally cost money — to personally test for their independent review may positively influence their review.

In my experience, bloggers and influencers are extremely proud and protective of their own reputation. They really must be because they’re always held accountable by their followers, watchers, subscribers, and readers. I am not bothered by any of that since, as PT Barnum said, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.”

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