Make Room for Influencers in Your Next PSA or Community Outreach Campaign
The novel COVID-19 pandemic forced many brands to rethink their social media and promotional strategies. For branded content to be successful at this time, it must feel appropriate, non-frivolous, and actionable.
Brands across the lifestyle, hospitality, and travel sectors dialed back spending for influencer campaigns that promote products or services customers are unable to currently use due to restrictions on travel and public gatherings. On the flip side, the pandemic emphasized a need for local government entities, public health and social service providers, and pharmaceutical companies to spread informative and educational messages quickly and effectively. These industries are emerging as major opportunity zones for influencer campaigns during the pandemic and beyond — and we’re already seeing creative content and promising results pop up as a result.
The New Influencer Hot Spots
Often considered reserved when it comes to public outreach tactics, state and local government entities are now deploying influencers as the face of a number of public safety and awareness campaigns. Many of these initial campaigns are tied to COVID-19 and use influencers to help spread the word about everything from the importance of adhering to social distancing guidelines to where to turn for resources on mental health and coping. However, we’re also seeing these entities adding influencers to their marketing strategy for a number of ongoing initiatives in their communities, including seat belt safety and vaping risks — aimed at reaching local youth who consume the majority of their information online and through social networks.
State and local family services departments can use influencers to bring awareness to available resources. Some influencers are “regular” parents promoting information that’s helpful and relevant to them, while others are subject matter experts from the department or local organizations who can offer professional opinions. The overall goal in these influencer campaigns is to bring attention to pages and forums managed by these departments, where residents of all ages can find information and discuss issues like peer pressure, baby safety, and children’s emotional health.
Pharmaceutical companies also have an opportunity to begin using personalized, influencer-inspired messaging in campaigns, educating people on topics such as elder care and the health of aging parents. Advertising through influencers isn’t as widely used in this industry yet, but educational campaigns are perfect for them, and we expect to see an increase in influencer activity from these companies in the near future.
Influencer marketing is no longer relegated to exercise shakes, fashion accessories, or other consumer goods. When done correctly, influencer marketing has become an authoritative strategy to pass on important and relevant information to audiences through the social platforms they use every day (especially with rampant misinformation spreading wildly).
Looking at Value and Creativity Under a New Lens
For these industries and companies, the goal of a campaign is to raise awareness — not sell products — making influencers and their platforms very powerful tools. In awareness campaigns around health, safety, and emotional support, influencers must be relatable and believable for each audience. Teens may be more likely to listen and respond to a PSA warning of the dangers of vaping if it’s delivered in a catchy way by a teen influencer on TikTok, rather than in a TV advertisement or by an adult who sounds like they are lecturing. By using influencers representative of their target audience and who share common interests, government entities, social services departments, and others can more effectively promote awareness campaigns on platforms where these individuals spend the most time.
These campaigns should prioritize influencer creativity wherever possible. You want an influencer who can apply their real-world thoughts and experiences to their branded content. An Instagram post or video from a local mom sharing resources she found helpful for balancing online learning and work will resonate better than a sponsored photo from a Department of Family Services account. If agencies and marketing teams in these industries are willing to let influencers get creative with how they present their messaging, it can drive meaningful results and even improve a user’s perception of the company or cause.
Meet Customers Where They Are
For government entities and corporations looking to disseminate an important health or safety message, it’s all about offering native, genuine content on platforms where users already spend their time. TikTok is the perfect platform for achieving this goal. Users can consume massive amounts of content and dish out engagements in an authentic way that can’t be matched on other platforms right now. One trendy clip, dance, or song can go viral quickly and easily. TikTok is built for participation, so by giving influencers freedom to weave educational messaging and calls to action into broader trends, a campaign has the potential to gain even more organic traction.
Similarly, influencers on other platforms, such as Instagram, can have freedom to add their own personal flare and story to the branded content on health, family resources, and safety. Again, it’s always about customizing the content to the platform and audience. For the same anti-vaping campaign mentioned above, a mom blogger might post a longer-form Instagram video discussing her personal thoughts, approach to educating children on risks, and where to look for more resources. No obvious product placement here.
Selecting the Right Influencers
With these campaigns, influencer research and targeting are everything. By now, most marketing professionals and agency executives are aware of the value that micro-influencers can bring by reaching a smaller, yet more appropriate and engaged audience. But for local government, pharmaceutical companies, and social service entities who are just beginning to wade into the world of influencer marketing, these are new concepts.
Entities working in public safety, health, and social services at the local level don’t need to stray too far from their community when engaging potential influencers. For a PSA campaign, it’s worth looking for one with a dedicated and loyal following of local individuals who are likely to pay attention to and share their sentiment on important issues. Most mid-to-large communities across the U.S. now have micro-influencers living in or around them, making them ideal channels to reach citizens in the area.
Across the board, we’re seeing industries that historically relied on more traditional, rigid forms of marketing and promotion warm up to the benefits of influencers, particularly those who can make an authentic case around a campaign’s core issues. Not only can companies gain new channels of exposure by adding influencers to their marketing plan, the influencers receive the benefits of creative freedom and activism, a trend that will certainly continue in the post-COVID world.
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Sarah Ware is co-founder of Markerly, an influencer marketing technology partner focusing on identification and tracking for some of the world’s largest brands. Markerly partners your brand with influencers to create original and authentic content. Influencers share this content to their social media communities to inspire interest, engagement and ultimately drive purchases.