Influencer marketing is facing an authenticity crisis. A study recently found that 43% of social media users believe influencers are inauthentic and likely work with brands they don’t believe in. 

It’s clear that a new approach towards influencer marketing is needed – one that puts the spotlight on authenticity.

That’s where influencer relations comes in.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this strategic approach that puts the focus on authentic influencer relationships, and how to succeed at it.

Let’s get started!

What is influencer relations? 

Influencer relations is a long-term approach to building relationships with social media influencers who are a good fit for your product and brand. 

The ultimate goal of influencer relations is brand advocacy. You’re aiming to turn influencers in your industry into brand advocates by building long-term relationships with them organically, rather than simply paying them.

This is the key difference between influencer marketing and influencer relations. The former is a transactional relationship. You’re approaching influencers as a media platform and paying for one-off posts.

With influencer relations, influencers are seen as brand partners and fans, not as advertising billboards. You’re aiming to appeal to their emotions and forge a real connection with them over time in the hope that it’ll pay lasting dividends in the future.  

The idea is to engage with influencers, have positive interactions with them on a day-to-day basis, and become part of the conversation in your industry. In that sense, it’s perhaps less of a marketing exercise and more of a communications exercise. Think of it kind of like networking.

Taking this natural, relationship-focused approach has many benefits:

  • It’s cost-effective. Forging valuable connections with relevant influencers can turn them into brand advocates that promote your products or services to their followers for free.
  • It’s more authentic. Consumers are getting better at detecting paid brand partnerships. Building a relationship first will make future campaigns more authentic and lead to better results.
  • Improved brand perception and awareness. By becoming part of the conversation and “circle of influence” in your industry, you’ll bolster your brand perception and awareness.

Challenges of influencer relations

As you can see, there are lots of advantages to influencer relations. But like any other strategy, it also has its drawbacks, and it might not be the right fit for every brand. 

Here are some of the main challenges you need to know about.

No immediate ROI 

Unlike influencer marketing, an influencer relations strategy takes time to execute. 

You can’t put a deadline on forging human connections. It can take a long time to build up relationships with influencers in your industry and start to see the benefits of your efforts.

If you’re looking for immediate results, this might not be the way to go.

Attribution difficulty 

Even when you do start seeing results, it can be tough to attribute them to the influencers you partner with. 

Unlike influencer campaigns, influencer relations don’t always involve agreeing on set timelines and specific promotional campaigns. This means the results aren’t as easily trackable and measurable. 

The influencers you’ve built a relationship with might talk about your brand to their followers frequently. Their efforts might lead to sales further down the line, but it can be tough to know where those sales came from. 

Even if you give the influencers trackable links to share with their followers, there’s no guarantee that they’ll use them. Their followers might eventually buy something from you directly from your website instead.

Without being able to attribute results to your efforts, it can be tough to know whether you’re meeting your key objectives.

Influencer relations tips 

So now you know what influencer relations is, and challenges you might face with this strategy.

Now, let’s talk about how to do it. Here are 3 expert tips on how to nail it!

Identify good fit influencers 

The first step in the process is identifying the right types of influencers that would be a good fit for your brand. Developing relationships with relevant influencers will give you the most value for your efforts. This is arguably the most important step in the whole process.

Making sure the influencers you approach are relevant to your brand is crucial. Remember, it’s all about building genuine connections – and that’s just not going to happen unless you’re a good fit for each other.

But identifying relevant influencers doesn’t just mean looking at their Instagram feed. 

It means carefully evaluating their audience and values to make sure it aligns with your brand. Look at their insights and make sure their audience demographic matches your target audience.

Build your relationships 

The first email you send to reach out to influencers should be professional, friendly, and personalized. Generic, bulk outreach emails won’t cut it here. 

You need to tailor your message to each influencer. Do your research first and make it clear you’re familiar with their work and what they stand for. Try not to send too many follow-up messages and spam their inbox if they don’t reply straight away. Remember, this is a long-term strategy.

If you’re negotiating a campaign with them, make sure you clearly lay out the terms and expectations, and always be professional and respectful in communications. It’s a good idea to use a contract for this.

Be open to questions and negotiations so that you can come to an agreement you’re both happy with. After all, this isn’t just a transaction. The goal is to build a positive relationship, which means making sure you’re both happy with the arrangement. 

Once you’ve launched the campaign, don’t just disappear. Show your support by checking in regularly to make sure everything’s going smoothly. It’s also a nice gesture to like, comment, and repost any material the influencers share. 

Remember that things don’t always go smoothly the first time around. If something goes wrong, check in with them to see what went wrong, but be prepared to hear them out. Stay friendly and polite. Mistakes happen from time to time! 

Once the campaign is over, thank them for their hard work and keep in touch. Continue to engage with their content and communicate with them so as to nurture your relationship. This will make future collaborations go more smoothly and can help turn them into brand advocates.

Be authentic 

The most important tip is to always be authentic. Only work with relevant influencers that share your brand values and truly believe in your products or services. The whole idea is to create a relationship where it’s natural for the influencer to promote your brand. 

If their followers suspect the collaboration is motivated solely by money, it’ll damage your brand image and negatively impact the results of your collaboration. 

Most professional influencers will only work with brands they love or feel they can promote authentically.

They don’t want to risk losing the relationships they’ve built with their followers. These are the influencers you want to work with – avoid those that’ll work with anyone who sends them a juicy paycheck.

Final thoughts

There you have it, everything you need to know to succeed at influencer relations! 

If you don’t feel this is the right approach for you and you’d prefer to take the more traditional approach to influencer marketing, check out our guide on how to build an influencer marketing strategy while you’re here.

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