With mainstream media dwindling at the same time the number citizen publishers is rising, it’s not surprising that individual influencers are becoming a promising target. Even professional editors and reporters are increasingly turning their attention to the blogosphere and Twittersphere as a source of expertise and even news. The first place a reporter goes when looking for sources these days is Google. As a result, popular bloggers are suddenly inundated with media inquiries. This is an opportunity for marketers. Some publications are going even recruiting bloggers to contribute to their branded sites. These financially driven actions are having the effect of amplifying the volume of individual voices.
That’s all very true in the technology world in general, in the enterprise IT world in particular, and very particularly in my own experience. For example:
- I blog for pay for two of the three major tech publishing groups, IDG and TechWeb.
- I am quoted quite a bit by some of the remaining true tech reporters.
- Those quotes can be delivered on the phone (least likely), by email, or just in one of my blogs (usually DBMS2).
To [bloggers and the like], their online outpost is a display of their passion for the topic that they cover. They care deeply about the subject matter and they usually know at least as much as the PR person who contacts them. Often they know quite a bit more.
In the longer form of that, Paul lumps in analysts with overworked and necessarily-superficial journalists rather than thoughtful, reviewer-like bloggers. I wouldn’t wholly endorse that, in that I think the best analysts can combine large aspects of the old-style analyst and new-style blogger worlds. But otherwise, I agree with what he’s saying.
You’d better come prepared to this engagement, because some influencers will take lack of knowledge on your part as an insult. This can capsize junior agency people who aren’t prepared for the depth of questions they will get or the scorn they may endure if they can’t answer.
I’d say that a mouthpiece who pretends more depth than he has — whatever level that may be — is the one who’s in trouble. If you use PR people as glorified appointment secretaries, that’s fine. And if you go into a call or meeting unaware of how the influencer wants to to engage — which, realistically, happens a much larger fraction of the time than it ideally should — you’d better be prepared to adapt quickly.
While journalists are expected not to share any biases, bloggers often do what they do precisely because they have opinions to share. Fortunately, a little advance reading can often clue you in to someone’s agenda and even help you decide if they’re worth contacting all. You don’t want to come in with a strong Windows pitch, for example, to a blogger who’s passionate about the Mac. You also don’t want to be blindsided by someone who has made his or her opinions clear and who is offended by the fact that you don’t know them. Again, 15 to 20 minutes of reading can save you a lot of aggravation.
Amen! Worst is when somebody insistently tries to “educate” me on something I already — often visibly — know, or even disagree with. or perhaps just don’t care about.
Unlike journalists, [influencers are] probably not interested in analyst quotes or customer case studies. It’s more likely they’ll want to talk to the VP of engineering or the CEO than to the head of marketing.
Paul overstates that point a bit. However:
- Few things companies do annoy me more than when they present quotes from my competitors as some sort of authority or, worse, suggest I call those competitors to be educated.
- I absolutely want to talk to somebody who actually understands the technology, rather than being relegated to people who are in “Well, this is what I’m told by the techies” mode. (Ditto “I’ll check on that and get back to you” — that’s a guarantee of obfuscation and lack of opportunity for follow-up.)
The right influencers have as much credibility in their community as product reviewers or analysts.
I’m not sure analyst-vs.-influencer is even a meaningful distinction any more.
- An example-laden interview with Paul Gillin