Erika Heald

Consider Influencer Relations to Amplify Your Next Product Launch

By: Erika Heald | September 20, 2017 | 

Consider Influencer Relations to Amplify Your Next Product LaunchIt used to be sending a news release and pitching journalists on coverage were the primary product launch plan PR deliverables.

But these days, news releases are showing a significant decrease in effectiveness, according to recent research from Shift Communications.

Organizations are distributing 1,092 news releases per day, at a cost of $200 to $1,200 per release.

If they work, that’s a pretty minimal cost for spreading the word about your product launch.

But increasingly, they’re not.

The research found the following dismal results from a random sample of 1,052 releases during 2016:

  • The median number of clicks: Zero.
  • Median number of social media shares: Two.
  • The median number of inbound links to releases: One.
  • Median MozTrust score (how trusted a URL is, 0-10 scale): Zero.
  • The median MozRank score (how well ranked a URL is, 0-10 scale): Zero.

So, if your news releases don’t pull their weight from an SEO standpoint, what’s a PR pro to do instead?

The answer seems to be investing in building deep influencer relationships.

Influencer Relations Picks Up for News Releases

There’s clearly a dwindling pool of journalists to pitch news releases to and an ever-increasing number of people pitching them.

Now, it takes something much different to build excitement and awareness around your product launch.

More than 83 percent of global respondents to Nielsen’s latest research on consumer trust in advertising say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family.

This trust of non-branded content sources even extends to people they don’t know.

Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said they trust consumer opinions posted online—the third-most-trusted format.

This is why we’ve increasingly seen the shift in marketing and PR budgets towards increased influencer relations.

If you’ve been building your influencer relationships, product launches are a prime opportunity to collaborate on content which can rise above the noise.

Here’s how.

Give Influencers VIP Pre-Launch Access

Brand-created content continues to decline in consumer influence.

But third-party reviews continue to be considered the most relevant and authentic source for product information.

That’s why it’s important to seed your launch with influencer social content and reviews.

Popular video game publisher Electronic Arts has embraced influencer marketing and has even diverted marketing dollars from many traditional PR and marketing channels in favor of this.

Work with five to 10 industry influencers for your top social media channels.

Create social content that plays off your product launch announcement.

Have everyone work to create social content around a common theme.

For example, what your new product empowers them to do.

Or maybe saving time so they can take their dog to the beach.

Or maybe it gives them back time to go to their middle schooler’s baseball practice.

Encourage influencers to create social content that’s on-brand for both of you.

The content should also reflect what they are most excited about with your launch.

Natural cosmetics and skincare brand Lush is great at doing this.

They regularly hold VIP blogger events in their stores with a dozen or so micro-influencers.

Bloggers are encouraged to share photos and reviews of new products they get to sample.

Once the content is launched, further amplify these influencer social content efforts by putting the paid pro option behind their content sharing social media posts.

Sure, you could share the links through your own channel and syndicate it from there.

But, your efforts will pay off greatly if you amplify your influencers’ work instead.

Partner with Influencers for Ephemeral Social Product Launch Content

It used to be a full-page ad in each industry’s top publications was the best way to garner hype for your product launch.

But as the media landscape has become fragmented, influencer relations has proved itself capable of doing a better job, at a potentially lower cost.

Brands from the NBA to Mountain Dew found it makes more sense to work with influencers on Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Periscope to create some ephemeral content in conjunction with their launches and announcements.

Encourage influencers to create social content that shares their point-of-view and excitement over your product launch.

You’ll also want to consider having them on-site at your headquarters during the launch to live stream the announcement and even produce on-the-fly how-tos and Q&As.

Launch an Influencer Tutorial

Brand-created product manuals are useful, but they lack the punch an influencer byline can manifest.

Co-create or commission a tutorial on how to get the best out of your new product with a social media influencer.

If possible, work with your top industry publication to publish as an exclusive for launch day.

Influencer-created tutorials don’t need to be comprehensive.

Rather, they can focus on the highlights of how they (and your typical user) plan to use your product.

You can also work with an influencer to create a simple overview infographic.

It should be focused on how to make the most of your new product.

If your audience is B2B, create a SlideShare on best practices for using your new product.

Include tips and examples from 10-15 influencers who are likely to re-share the content.

The old way of managing product launches via news releases is dead.

But when you harness the power of influencer relations, you increase your potential to get more out of big company announcements.

No one will even miss that product launch news release.

About Erika Heald

Erika Heald is a San Francisco-based marketing consultant and freelance writer. She focuses on helping technology and specialty food start-ups define their content marketing strategy to drive lead generation and customer loyalty. Erika led and grew high-performance content marketing teams at Highwire PR, Anaplan, and Achievers. You can find her on her blog and , or hosting the weekly #ContentChat Twitter chat.

  • Great tips here Erika! I also find the great thing about influencer relations is you get some additional brains, brains who really, really understand their target marketing on an emotional level, as part of your team. While we “guide” the influencers in collaboration, there are alot of times that an influencer will proactively come to us with an idea….and as long as it fits in the overall strategy, we help them execute it. These are almost always a hit and a good reminder that with influencer relations, you should have a plan and clear measurable goals, but also be open and agile.

    • Excellent point, Laura. It’s great to involve influencers in the planning phases of your activities. They are a great outside point of view for how to reach your audience. And your influencer is going to be that much more invested in your collaboration when it’s something they thought up.

  • Dawn Buford

    I think these are great tips. I also think it’s very important to choose influencers who fully understand your brand/mission/goals and can sell that to the masses. As Laura pointed out, influencers may come to the table with other great ideas you hadn’t thought of, and those that do are the influencers you want spreading your message because they ‘get it’.

    • YES! Don’t waste your time and budget working with people who endorse anyone who pays. It’s much more effective to find people who are passionate about what you do and collaborate with them.

  • Howie Goldfarb

    Hi Erika
    I am in the vehemently against paid influencer campaigns foremost because I haven’t seen proof it works. Using existing brand advocates like Gini has in the past works because that falls in the trust category.

    I find paid influencer (which is the current fad) as insidious native advertising that dupes readers. It falls under paid advertising. That most aren’t legally disclosing any quid pro quos. To me even the ‘This blogpost is sponsored by X Company but thoughts are my own’ is not true disclosure and fines should be given.

    A direct sales rep which is best for trusted influence works obviously for high dollar transactions. It is transparent to the buyer that I am biased if I do direct sales. But when a brand like Pepi is looking at maybe making 10-20 cents 2-4x a week from me can’t afford direct contact, marketing is needed. Which by the way why big brands are pulling away from social media (Coke and Dove are two examples of companies who won’t post on Facebook for months at a time. Dove will respond to posters….Coke does not) because they can’t afford direct contact aside from advertising which they do lots of.

    So if I am already a big fan like I was in the past for Chobani….and I converted hundreds of people for them (maybe thousands since one of my blog posts about their marketing/social media tactics/success was right here) even many in the supermarket check out and dairy section back when they were the new kid. I wasn’t paid minus a few free $12 cases of Cho so my efforts were sincere, not profit driven, and believable. But paying someone who isn’t already a fan is just paid advertising and needs to be transparent and treated as such in my opinion to be ethical.

    I agree with your premise on the press release evolution for effectiveness. And I do believe in genuine brand advocacy but wonder if the fad jumping is because the digital evolution of media has broken the PR industry hold on media relations…just like it broke the Ad Agency hold on advertising.

    I just feel many businesses already do this on their own and don’t need to do this beyond their email marketing and current in person (online storefront/brick and mortar) reward programs.

    My friend owns an 4 room boutique inn upstairs, restaurant main floor and speakasy basement. Everyone who fills out a comment card gets a $10 gift certificate for xmas. 1200 sent last year up from 900 the year before. She gives away $50 gift certificates for local causes all the time. Local hotels and businesses who send her business get random deliveries of wood fired pizza. While she pays me in some $ and some barter to do her social media she has no need to discount, run contests, or pay for advertising on social. She got free media coverage on radio and the local tv news/newspapers when she opened her speakeasy a month ago. She is doing crazy influencer marketing offline that nothing can beat. The number of people referred by WOM trounces my social media work for volume and I’m bringing her plenty of business.

    I feel unless you are all digital brand you probably don’t need a paid influence program vs investing or evolving your offline in person customer relations.

    • Hi Howie!

      I don’t believe in paying for influence. But you *should* pay influencers for co-creating content with you. And I agree that often giving your biggest fans a freebie can be a great way to go.

      • I agree. You can’t expect influencers to help you out for nothing. In many cases, they’ve spent years and lots of sweat, blood, and tears building their communities. It’s not fair for brands to think they get access to that for free…nor is it fair to expect an influencer not to have to make money.