How To Get Value from Influencer Relationships


For some organizations, working with bloggers and other social influencers is new, maybe it’s even uncharted territory.  Other companies have ideas about how to approach these media creators and may even have tried a few things.  A third group of companies has sophisticated programs with high visibility.

If your company is new at this, or tried a few things that may or may not have worked, it’s a fair bet you are seeking ways to demonstrate the value of working with social influencers.  Here’s how to demonstrate value in the future.

Clear Expectations

Create clear expectations of what you want the results to be.  Are you asking the influencer to do social media on the go — spontaneous posting on social networks  — as they experience your product or service? Or are you looking for a thoughtful report or image stream after the fact?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I hope to get out of this relationship?
  • What volume do I expect?
  • Are there deadlines I hope to meet?

Fair Exchange

A fair exchange is “I’ll give you X and I expect Y.”  What “X” and “Y” are for your organization could be different. If the social influencer is creating content for your digital properties, fair exchange might include compensation and credit for the content. If the content is created on the influencers’ blog or social network, then fair exchange may be your ability to promote that content on your organizations’ channels.  Making sure that the “deal” works for everyone and that everyone’s intellectual property is protected, might include an actual contract. Or a clearly defined email. Or as the organization, you might use the photos or works under Creative Commons licensing. There are millions of variations of these ideas and organizations and content creators should always consult professionals related to contracts and other legal matters.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Have I been clear about what I expect?
  • How have I communicated my expectations?
  • Do I need a contract?
  • Should I consult a lawyer or contract administrator for assistance?

Nurture The Relationship

Getting to know influencers that may align with your brand takes time and research.  There are many ways to find those influencers organically and many tools that help identify influencers using tags and  algorithms. Even if you have the best tools, it’s still important to get to know each influencer, their expertise and how they approach brand relationships.  It’s no different than joining the local chamber and getting to know other chamber members at networking events.  The relationships need to be built over time.

Some things to consider:

  • How can I develop influencer relationships?
  • Are there groups to join?
  • What tools should I explore?


If you want your future influencer relationships to be professional and ethical, they must include elements of disclosure. The influencers, by law, must identify brand relationships with disclosure statements on blog posts, and identify paid relationships using hashtags like #ad and #client on networks such as Instagram and Twitter.  

  • Have I discussed disclosure with the influencer(s) I’m working with?
  • Are we meeting my organizations ethical and professional guidelines?
  • Are we in compliance with current laws regarding disclosure?

I’ve matched brands with influencers on a wide variety of promotions and campaigns, and it’s easy to get off track.  By creating clear expectations, nurturing the relationships and developing clear expectations including strong elements of disclosure, you can develop value for your organization with influencer campaigns.

Blogger Compensation: What’s Right For You?

If your social media team is working with influencers locally, regionally or nationally, it’s likely that the topic of compensation has come up.  As more and more brands work with influencers, the discussions are becoming more tangled.  Some of the questions I’ve heard from PR practitioners at recent conferences go something like this. Should they be paid?  Should you treat them like journalists?  Can you offer unique or custom experiences in exchange for their social output?  What can you require them to do?  What should you be required to do? How do I explain this to my boss? Here are some typical blogger/brand models that we’ve seen and how they might work for brands and bloggers.

The Advertising Model

In this model, bloggers get revenue through paid ad words campaigns or affiliate marketing. Amazon is the best example of this model but there are many popular to bloggers including BlogHer, AdThrive,The Blogger Network and Ad Sense. This story from Elayna Fernandez, The Positive Mom, talks to bloggers specifically about making money from blogs.  Below is  an example of affiliate marketing from Tori Foster Johnson of The SToriBook.

Example of how bloggers use affiliate links and promo codes


Sponsor Model

In this type, bloggers (or other influencers) are approached by a brand with a request to create content for a blog post or other social network.  The brand offers a fee based on the request and the exchange is not unlike a freelance writing agreement. It may include deadlines, word count, hashtags or links and may be on the brands’ networks or the individuals or both.  Examples of this type are easy to find and are most popular with consumer products, particularly those appealing to families. Below is a sample of a sponsored post from Colleen Pence at San Antonio Mom Blogs.

Example of a Sponsored Post on a blog


Consultant Model

 In this model, bloggers are approaching brands that they are interested in and offering or negotiating a contract or consultation which could include identifying and approaching other influencers and working as a go-between for the brand and the bloggers to a mutual end. Similar to hiring a subject matter expert or celebrity and usually involves a specific timeline or project. Many in this model have media or communications backgrounds so they can be quite sophisticated but others bring only enthusiasm for the project or the brand.

Fam Tour Model

This capitalizes on the brand’s need or requirement to NOT pay for coverage and the bloggers need to develop great content for their networks.  It also plays into the bloggers desire to develop content for growing audiences to build their network. It is dependent on the individual passions of the bloggers and the reputation of the individual brands.  There is also a certain amount of prestige to working with a specific brand. For this model to work, the value proposition needs to be high for the blogger – the brand must offer something great! This model is often used in the hospitality industry and by destination management organizations as it aligns with how they work with travel writers.

Scarcity ModelBadge from a Disney Moms program

The brand in this model creates a competition to create alignment with bloggers and to build attendance. The brand identifies and approaches bloggers but creates a competitive environment to draw in the best candidates.  And the brand often charges a nominal rate to recoup the expenses incurred from hosting them on the trip or experience. These usually have large WOW factors! The SeaWorld of Texas AdventureCon program is in this category and so is the Disney Moms program.

The Passion Model

In this model, the brand or cause reaches out to bloggers based on their personal convictions –bloggers participate because of their personal beliefs. Local causes leverage the fact that bloggers want to contribute in their communities and are vocal when doing so. The project that Step In Communication managed for Cardboard Kids falls in this category.

Using bloggers and other social influencers as part of overall marketing goals is evolving. And there is no ONE way for bloggers and brands to work together. With so many models out there, it’s no wonder that some marketing and PR teams are confused. What models have you seen? How are they working? Share your examples here.


Mobilizing My Community to Fight Child Abuse

two-foot high cut out of a child FACT: In 2013, there were 5,846 victims of child abuse in MY COMMUNITY. 10 children died at the hands of their abuser.

FICTION: There’s nothing I can do about this.

When you think of your social media channels, do you ever think of how you can use the networks you’ve built to help your community?  This is an often-overlooked area when it comes to bringing attention to community causes.  This month, I’m using my networks on behalf of ChildSafe. 

ChildSafe and the Burden of Child Abuse

Earlier this year, when I was asked to be a volunteer with ChildSafe and help them advance their cause using a more strategic approach to social media, I had no idea where it would lead. Child Safe provides a range of services for child survivors of abuse and neglect and their protective family members, including forensic interviews, crisis intervention, case management, individual, group and family therapy and even adventure therapy to aid in healing child victims. They work with dozens of organizations in San Antonio but there’s more work to do. Only 1 in 10 cases of abuse is reported, so we need to create an environment to bring the problem to light.

Introducing Cardboard Kids

Cardboard Kids is a new program of ChildSafe, which should bring attention to the problem. 5,846 two-foot-high cardboard cutouts decorated in every way imaginable, will appear around San Antonio on April 3, which is the official start of Child Abuse Awareness Month in our city.  One Cardboard Kid for every case reported last year.

How I am Using My Online  Community

Bloggers from the Coffee Hour Holding their Cardboard KidsFirst, we invited bloggers who participate in a chat group on Facebook to meet the ChildSafe team and hear about Cardboard Kids. We asked them to participate, and dozens have already contributed. We created sample messages on a Google Drive document to make it easy for them to share messages and included important links and hashtags for easy retrieval.

Next, we scheduled a Thunderclap, a tool which combines the power of many voices in a simultaneous message delivery on a designated date and time.  Here’s a picture from our Thunderclap page.  You can add your voice to the “thunder” for our April 3 “clap.”

As our message begins to build momentum, we are seeing traction in many channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  But it’s hard to be everywhere at once, so we’re going to set up some keyword monitoring and we’ve created a Tagboard to collect everything in one place. We have so much more we can do between now and April 3, when we expect people who see these cardboard cutouts all over town will start posting pictures and questions.  We are encouraging citizens to take a picture, tag it #cardboardkidssa and reading about what ChildSafe does.  We have no idea how many tagged photos we expect to see next week, but it should be thousands.

thunderclap march 27There are lots of different ways we could mobilize our community, but this is how it evolved for us. Have you ever used your community for a special cause? Share your ideas in the comments. I’ll be back to share how we did in a couple of weeks.

Make it Easy for Brands to Find You

Make it Easy for Brands to Find You

Are you a blogger with a story to tell? Do you think you might want to hear from brands who align with those stories? Then make it easy for us to find you.

You might think you’re “visible” because you have a Facebook page, Twitter channel and a Pinterest and Instagram account. But is that where you want to do business? Most brands want to reach out (at least in the beginning) in a more business-like fashion.

There are a few simple things that bloggers can do to be more discoverable to brands, to public relations people and to other bloggers.

My good friend and colleague Jennifer Hatton paused from a recent research project to post a “public service announcement,” which you can see below. She was reaching out iJen Hatton on Mom Bloggers Groupn a bloggers group to which we both belong. There are more than 300 in the group – representing everything from diaper discussions and tourist destinations to marketing principles, home schooling and photography. We are bonded by the fact that we live in the same city. Some of us in the group are also communications pros who often connect with bloggers on behalf of a cause or brand. Jennifer is one of those “connectors.” And you can see by her post that she’s full of great ideas.

This really got the group talking about best practices. So here is a combined list from Jennifer Hatton, Colleen Pence and Stacy Teet, of the best ways for bloggers to be discovered.

How to Help Brands Find Bloggers

  1. Have your actual real name on your blog.
  2. Better yet, have an “About” page with your real name and your preferred method of contact.
  3. Update your social channels to include links back to your blog or website
  4. Claim your Facebook page so your URL looks professional when copied.
  5. Provide a strong comment option on your blog; allow readers to leave name and URL as part of the commenting platform.
  6. When uploading photos to your media library, make sure to put titles and alt tags on all your photos, so when people share them on Pinterest, they are catalogued and linked to you.
  7. If you are researching bloggers in an area you don’t know, ask the bloggers you DO know, as you never know where their networks might reach.

The best tip from the group is worth a whole paragraph. And it came from Stacy.

Find Your Colleen

In San Antonio, we have an awesome resource in a very generous and giving blogger, Colleen McGinley Pence.  She runs the San Antonio Mom Blogs which aggregates blogs from moms all over our region. At last count, she was indexing between 150 and 200 blogs and bloggers. She’s one of those people who thoughtfully and instinctively knows how to connect people online and in real life.

I have mined her site frequently to research and identify bloggers for outreach on behalf of several of my clients. If you’re really trying to discover and be discoverable, find that person in your industry, city or circle who will connect you to where you need to go.

Take a Moment and Make an Update

Take it from the bloggers who participated in our discussion yesterday—being discoverable is important for brands AND for bloggers.

Do you have a tip to help make great relationships with brands and bloggers?

3 Things to Do Before You Start a Blogger Outreach Program

Colleen Pence, Debi Pfitzenmaier and Fran Stephenson at PRSA Luncheon

Colleen Pence (from left), Debi Pfitzenmaier and Fran Stephenson at PRSA San Antonio.

If you think that reaching out to bloggers might be important for your brand, then you are joining hundreds of companies who consider bloggers a vital component of their marketing plan.

But before you get started, here are three things to consider to make the engagement worth your while.

The first consideration is to make sure your efforts are integrated into your overall marketing plan.  It may sound boring, but if you can’t answer the question “Why are we doing this?” with a sound answer that reflects sound business objectives, it’s quite easy to miss the mark.

Just last week, I sat on a panel with two of the smartest local bloggers in San Antonio which addressed this topic to the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Colleen Pence of SA Mom Blogs and Debi Pfitzenmaier of SA Busy Kids have built strong regional blogs and each has their niche, even though both address elements of family life. Within hours of our presentation, one of them got a pitch that was so far off the mark from what they would consider appropriate for their blogs, it reinforces my second point.

The second thing to do before you start a blogger outreach program is to research your targets. This key element is often forgotten or ignored by many brands when dealing with bloggers.  You need to find out who they are, what they are interested in and make sure they are a ‘love match’ with your brand.

The third thing an organization should do before incorporating bloggers into their marketing plan is PLAN.  Bloggers are different from reporters in that sometimes they do it for love and sometimes they do it for money. But they almost always have built their blog presence in addition to something else they do.  A cursory phone call to the blogger a day or two before the event is not considered advance planning. Spending time on their blog, reading their posts and finding out what interests them is more relevant research.

Integration, research and planning. If you do these three things before you begin a blogger outreach program, your program is destined to be successful.