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6 Influencer Marketing Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Journalists

As some of you regular TopRank Marketing Blog readers may know, before making my way into the world of digital marketing, I was a journalist covering the wild news happenings in a handful of Twin Cities metro towns.

While I wore many hats during those days—from reporter to managing editor to social media maven—building strong community connections was probably the most important hat of all.

Truly, the people I engaged with were more than connections. They were lifelines. They represented untold stories, interesting perspectives, inside scoops and friendly gateways to new sources, allowing me to craft quality news pieces that people actually wanted to read, share and talk about.

Now as a digital marketer, my community connections and sources often go by a new name: influencers.

Influencer marketing is booming—and it’s not hard to see why. Influencers lend authority and credibility to your content, and connect you with new audiences. In addition, influencer marketing content delivers 11 times the ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing, according to a 2016 study by TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions.

But the secret in the sauce here is that your strategy, content and the influencers you choose have to be quality and relevant to your audience.

Thankfully, there’s a few pointers marketers can take from journalists to ensure that quality and relevance is there.

Let’s dive in.

#1 – Vet your sources.

As the old journalism adage goes, you’re only as good as your sources. Before reaching out to any potential influencer, you have to do your homework. This will ensure that you’re presenting them with a relevant ask, as well as help you personalize your message when reaching out.

Use journalism’s “5Ws and H” model (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) to answer essential questions for each influencer:

  • Who are they? (i.e. company, title, mutual connections, personal interests, etc.)
  • What expertise do they bring to the table?
  • Where are they on social? (i.e. networks, number of followers, level of engagement and consistency of engagement, etc.)
  • When would they be a good fit for my content? (Are they a good fit for a current project? Something down the road? Both?)
  • Why would they want to participate? (What’s in it for them?)
  • How relevant are they to my audience, brand and objectives?

“Before reaching out to any potential influencer, you have to do your homework.”
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#2 – Make influencers feel like an essential part of the story.

The most compelling stories feature unique voices that add insight, inspiration and a little entertainment. But in order to draw out those voices, you need to show them they play an important role in your narrative.

When reaching out to influencers, lead with the value proposition to show them what’s in it for them and that you see the value in what they can contribute.


When reaching out to influencers, lead with the value proposition
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#3 – Be present.

For nearly three years, every Tuesday evening you could find me at a local city council meeting, taking feverish notes on what was going down. I got to be a familiar face, which helped me further the phone and email relationships I had with many city officials. I also got to schmooze with concerned citizens and pick up new story ideas.

To get the most out of your influencer marketing efforts, you have to be present and engaged with your influencers. Follow, monitor and engage your influencers on social media. In addition, listen for opportunities to be thoughtful, send them referrals if you can and reach out with them with new opportunities for collaboration. The regular interaction will keep you or your brand top-of-mind, as well as maintain and grow your relationships.


To get the most out of your influencer marketing efforts, you have to be present and engaged.
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#4 – Be quick, but not aggressive or insensitive.

For a journalist, there’s nothing worse than losing out on an exclusive interview because you weren’t quick enough. For marketers, there’s nothing worse than reaching out to an influencer and hearing nothing but crickets.

As mentioned above, lead with what’s in it for them in your initial outreach, and keep your message clear and short, but compelling. In addition, if this is your first connection, don’t ask for too much right away and risk scaring them off.


“There’s nothing worse than reaching out to an influencer and hearing nothing but crickets.”
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#5 – Don’t misrepresent.

From clickbait headlines to misrepresenting facts and quotes, journalists sometimes find themselves in hot water with readers and their on-the-record sources.

When it comes to influencer marketing, be honest with your influencers about how their insights will be used and give them the appropriate credit, and don’t use their contributions to mislead your audience. If you fail at any of these, you could not only ruin your relationship with an influencer, but also damage your credibility in your audience’s eyes.


“Be honest with your influencers about how their insights will be used.”
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#6 – Never be content with the network you have.

Journalists can never have too many insightful and credible sources—and the same goes for marketers when it comes to influencers.

Below are some tips to help you grow your network of influencers:

  • Keep business cards handy. This may seem like a no-brainer or even unnecessary in our digital world, but you never know when you’ll meet someone new. In addition, a business card is something tangible, which can send a more personal signal.
  • Peruse your social channels on a regular basis. Again, this may seem obvious, but it’s something that can easily get away from marketers as we juggle all our other responsibilities. Make it easy by scheduling time for this in your calendar so you don’t forget or double-book yourself.
  • Attend industry events. While we’re living in a digital world, nothing replaces face-to-face communication—and industry events are huge networking opportunities.

Journalists can never have too many insightful and credible sources—and the same goes for marketers.
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When it comes to your influencer marketing efforts, where do you look to for inspiration? Tell us in the comments section below.


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