The Endorsement Debate
The idea of third-party endorsement used to generate a lot of heat in my Public Relations classes. The debate is: is it believable when someone is ‘touting’ a product or service as great, after being paid for saying so?
Granted that in PR, companies approach agencies to generate earned media for them and their products, it is now a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
In the true sense of the term, third-party endorsement is the solicited or unsolicited recommendation or testimonial from an entity other than the manufacturer and seller of a product or service. Certain tools found in PR then deliver content in the form of features, quotes or sound bites that generate positive mentions on platforms accessible to potential customers.
Who are Influencers?
Nowadays, with the growth of social media and other online platforms, PR practitioners and marketers alike, have seen the value in getting individuals to ‘endorse’ or ‘vouch for’ particular products and services after using or ‘experiencing’ them.
The key focus here is on the popularity and reach of these personalities to a targeted audience that will be turned into, at best, buyers or at least advocates.
Pop stars and athletes come to mind, and all this makes more sense if the products being touted are linked to their active pursuits.
Brands seek individuals or advocates who can ‘help move the needle and gain buyers’ trust.’ The reason being that these influential personalities can engage potential customers in ways that brands can’t.
This has led to growth of billion-dollar endorsement contracts for athletes with immense achievements on the field of play. So you have Serena Williams and Tiger Woods endorsing Nike and the likes of Usain Bolt’s sponsorship deal with Puma. Their famed prowess has paid dividends for both themselves and the brands they represent.
In the alternative field of modelling and fashion, Victoria and David Beckham quickly come to mind.
However, influencer marketing has taken third-party endorsement to yet another level. Influencers are not just celebrities. Ordinary people who have built a more than decent following on social platforms are influencers. PR strategy now incorporates influencers as part of earned media strategies.
Influencer marketing is partnering with individuals who have a significant audience and sizeable influence with a particular consumer segment. Influencers can help you drive scalability via consumer reach, engagement, and content. Brands often use influencers to generate or create awareness, affinity, and loyalty.
Influencers can be experts, quirky bloggers, speakers, authors, or analysts with an established online presence and a loyal audience in a particular niche. Because they have a broad online presence, they can expose brands to receptive audiences via the content they create.
Why are Influencers Valuable?
Recent research shows that consumers trust a referral from their personal network at a rate of 90%, and referrals are found online 81% of the time. About 92% of consumers rely on referrals from people they know, the results indicate.
Freshy Orprecio on Prime Influencers platform, lists three reasons why influencer marketing works.
“People believe someone who already has an established credibility. (They) always look for opinions. We, as humans, it is our nature to look for more options before deciding,” Orprecio says.
“We always look for: Where to go? What to eat? What to wear? And hearing those opinions from an authority we look up to, the decision making is much easier.”
The second reason is that people don’t want to be sold to. A shop assistant breathing down our neck at every step one takes in a shop is irritating.
“As a business owner, you start your business with all marketing and sales strategy. The end goal for these efforts is to sell, but your target market don’t want to be told what to buy.”
Customers are always looking for products or services to pay for or buy. An endorsement from other people sets their mind in a frame to buy. They are even more likely to buy when they are already familiar with your business.
“PR brings instant trust and confidence to prospects. This might even help them get off the fence if they’ve been thinking about working with you for a long time,” Orprecio continues.
What influencer marketing rides on is that fact that people tend to believe whatever a VIP, celebrity, or influencers say. When conveying your message to the public it’s easier to spread it through them to their network.
Public relations, by giving publicity, will help introduce your brand to the public. It is, in effect, third party endorsement, according to pundits. What also counts is that the impression made comes from a position of trust. People should trust the people that rust the brands. Subsequently, they become comfortable doing business with you.
Lenox Mhlanga is a consultant with Magna Carta Reputation Management Consultants. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org