JournalismMarketing

Finding Your Voices

As CEO of a software vendor actively involved in developing solutions for PR and Marketing professionals, I am in a unique position to listen to and participate in debates going on around the industry. One such debate which continues to rage is around “Influencers” and influential voices. Are they real? Do they matter? Who are they? And should marketing professionals even care?

Our answer is, “Yes, they matter – a lot.” And they always have. But unfortunately, most of the “Influencer” tracking tools in the market ignore some very important ways to find these voices. And that has caused confusion in the market.PR and Marketing efforts have always centered around identifying and engaging with the voices which can best amplify the core messages a company sends into the market. Traditionally we have referred to these voices as “the media” and we targeted the most highly influential journalists, analysts, and other voices who were capable of moving a market around the topics and key messages that matter.

During my stint as North American CEO of Mi liberty, global marketing, and PR agency, we developed a framework that helps clients visually work through their various target audience segments, and identifies the direct and indirect channels of communications and voices that reach them.

As shown in the graphic below, a group of voices called “Influencers” plays a critical role in amplifying the direct communications sent to them by PR and marketing. In their role the objective is that these Influencers magnify the message as they editorialize on the information sent; and hopefully reinforce the core messaging to customers, employees, and even financial markets.

Properly managed, these influential voices can be a tremendous ally to your marketing efforts by positively amplifying your core messaging to the masses. Here we show Indirect Messages because we as marketing professionals cannot guide what is ultimately said. And of course, the opposite is also true – these influential voices can also have a negative effect, by negatively reflecting core messages or going “off-deck” and saying things that we have no input into at all.

Finding these voices amongst the cacophony of voices talking today on the web in blogs, articles, Twitter, Facebook, etc is a very real problem. The voices are no longer contained on neat and orderly “A-lists” of journalists derived from stated beats. Instead, the voices can come from anywhere, at any time. They may be traditional journalists, or they may be a blogger we’ve never heard of who is able to move our market with one blog post.

So how does one tackle this problem?
We’ve blogged here and on our own blog about a series of steps one can take to Listen / Monitor, Measure, and Compare, and then Engage with these Influencers based on the topics that matter to your market. These steps are rooted in the fundamentals of how PR and marketing professionals have always approached the challenge of discovering the voices that matter.

If you are marketing “sailboat sails”, you will find the influential voices your market cares about actively talking about and discussing sailboats, boating, sails, wind-based-movement-across water, and other key topics – and having an influence and impact on the market when they do.

Much of the confusion over influence today is caused by tools that ignore this concept of topic-based discovery and measurement and assign generic Influencer scores to people without any consideration to what they are talking about or how influential they are on the topics the market cares about. It’s only by finding influential voices based on topics that matter that we can really start to use these influential voices to help accomplish our specific marketing objectives.

Today, we launched a free online software tool that will get you started, where you can find the top voices with one click for almost any keyword or phrase you enter. Go to http://www.mblast.com to start exploring. We’d love to hear from the readers of this blog.

Is Influence a topic being discussed inside your practice areas? How are you finding and tracking potential influential voices today? How do you keep the monitoring practices in your practice’s current? How often are new influential voices popping up for your clients and competitors? We welcome a healthy discussion in the market on best practices for finding and measuring these influential voices.

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