Why storytelling is at the centre of influence

Sarah Munnik, Pead PR managing director

August 2018

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Are there any constants in a world which continually changes? With new ways of communicating, sharing, collaborating and engaging, is there a common thread between the past, the present and the future? If there is anything, then it is storytelling, which sits at the very centre of humanity. It even extends to the growing practice of influencer marketing.

We’ve come a long way since the invention of the printing press. We’ve navigated the introduction of newspapers, tuned in daily to hear our favourite radio stars, seen their demise when video and TV came along, and observed the impact of the internet on communications.

The once mind-boggling 24-hour news cycle has been reduced even further, to a mere 60 minutes, and what’s driving it all? Technology.

The world is changing. Fast. And so is the way we create, share and consume content.

However, there is one constant throughout the change. Irrespective of new platforms, mediums and channels, the bottom line is that storytelling always has a place.

Storytelling enables influence. It’s built into all of us. From our childhood listening to nursery rhymes and bedtime stories, we bought into those stories. They influenced us. Was it Jack who jumped over the candlestick? Or did Peter leap a fence? Opinions, ideas and images were formed, and our view of the situation was shaped by the narrative. This is influence.

We may be far from the kindergarten now (except for those with small children!) But the essential concept is the same. We use influence in PR and we always have.

More recently, the concept of ‘influencer marketing’ has emerged, and PR arguably invented it. That’s when individuals with large followings are recruited to bolster your brand. And now that it has a name, everyone wants to incorporate it into their communications strategy.

But there are some fundamentals and some learnings that should be considered when embarking on an influencer campaign.

No free lunches

In the early days of influencer marketing, there wasn’t a great deal of subtlety. You’d just get an influencer to do a social media post in exchange for products.

But those days have mostly come to an end. Influencers have turned their appeal into lucrative careers and, just like the rest of us, they want to get paid.

And while some have rate cards that could be considered unrealistic, we believe in carefully assessing value for money and investing in the right influencer for the right reasons.

Less really is more

Or, rather, fewer is more. It is preferable to work with a select number of influencers for longer periods of time. It works both ways; those influencers who spread themselves too thin can dilute their influence. And your brand could disappear as just another tree in the woodwork.

Smart influencers are being more selective about the brands they partner with. They too are looking for a good fit and alignment with their personal brand. They know better than anyone what it takes to build a base of followers and the risks they face by alienating their audience.

A word on followers

As influencer marketing evolves, so to do our tools and insights. Let’s be honest. For a country of 4.5 million people, an influencer with 100,000 or more genuine, NZ based followers is a big ask.

Influencers with these kinds of numbers typically have a high percentage of offshore followers. They might also have any number of fake followers and bots (arguably a blog post of its own).

The bottom line is analysis is essential in selecting the right influencers with whom to work.

And right back to storytelling

When embarking on an influencer campaign, it is essential to remember that common thread which runs through past, present and future. With the select influencers identified and on board, remember that you want a storyline playing out, rather than mere randomness. Followers love to be taken along for the ride. We all enjoy a good yarn; our inner child never really tires of the fairy tales (OK parents of young kids, I hear you…the 100th Jack and the Beanstalk can get tedious).

The point is, the essence of PR – storytelling – should be baked into your influencer campaigns. That way you don’t just get reach. You also achieve impact.