What Do I Invest In: Media or Influencer Outreach?

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By Alex James

As the business owner of a small start-up, you likely wear many hats. From overseeing your business model to ensuring your product or service continuously delivers value to managing day-to-day operations…it can be difficult to balance it all – especially regarding your budget.

However, with the current direction of marketing trends and customer relations, you know you need to start interacting with the digital marketing world. Building brand awareness is the foundation to getting consumers to recognize your brand, engage with it and hopefully recommend it to others. At this point, an online presence is what can make or break your business.

Beyond a digital presence, you also know you should have had a PR campaign and initiative in place to generate ‘buzz’ around your offering. Unfortunately, with overseeing other responsibilities to keep your start-up afloat, the truth of the matter is: you didn’t.

The good news is you have time to start. It’s time to play catch up and put resources into the digital PR space, but the question is, which strategy should you pursue?

A major challenge in small businesses is managing marketing costs and PR efforts and assessing which will yield the greatest ROI. If you have a tight budget and cannot afford to invest all of your current revenue into a variety of word of mouth (WOM) PR and influencer marketing campaigns, you must weigh the costs and benefits of which direction to choose. Which type of campaign efforts will have the greatest impact on your target audience? How should you approach new digital marketing strategies?

What is The Difference Between PR and Influencer Marketing?

According to Entrepreneur, the encyclopedia for small businesses, public relations is the initiative to use the news or business press to convey positive stories about your company to build relationships with local press and customers. Essentially, PR is a traditional, tried-and-true approach to fostering outside relationships for businesses.

Meanwhile, influencer marketing focuses on certain individuals to drive a brand’s product or service to a larger audience. This strategy is primarily driven by social media and individuals with a certain ‘influence’ or following to generate more one-on-one engagement.

So which approach, PR or influencer marketing, will yield the greatest results for your business? While the success of your outreach efforts with either of these tactics depend heavily on your target audience, your business should ideally combine the two. The most effective approach will utilize both these forms of outreach as they can work together and elevate one another’s efforts.

Try finding a sweet spot in your strategic planning that will combine influencer marketing with PR initiatives. In this case, influencers can support PR activities and help increase your reach amongst targeted consumers through multiple channels to ultimately provide the greatest impact.

However, this ideal combination may not be realistic for your small business’s budget. In fact, it may be likely that you only have the budget to invest in one of these things. If that’s the case, you must identify your goals in your consumer relations and outreach and try to determine which marketing effort is best suited for your business.

Here a look at the goals one should have in mind when approaching the two outreach strategy types and what you can expect to accomplish when pursuing each one:

Media Outreach Strategies and Benefits

Traditional public relations tactics use media outlets to get in front of the consumer in a way that seems organic. It is up to PR professionals to coordinate opportunities with these media outlets to gain brand awareness and develop positive relations with the community.

Typically, these outlets are also more traditional such as television, radio and newspaper. As outlined by the Huffington Post, types of PR methods that are pushed through these channels include event coordination, crisis communication, reputation management, tradeshows, sponsorships and press release distribution.

While some digital marketers may write this approach off as antiquated, media outreach can provide a lot of value for your investment depending on your goals and industry. If your main priority is increasing brand awareness, media outreach is a tried-and-true method for reaching consumers. Working with big players in the media will get your message to a more general, larger audience.

Additionally, as traditional public relations use more “old school” means of outreach, you are more likely to reach an older target audience. Generally speaking, older generations consume traditional media and entertainment and are more trusting of brands that have a reputation that is endorsed by mainstream media. If this is the group you are hoping to communicate to with your business, this is a dependable means of doing so.

Traditional media outreach is also helpful in fostering B2B relationships. For B2B industries, word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t go as far as it would in B2C. So, using established media channels to reach out to B2B prospects can help cut through the noise of other marketing messages and build your brand’s credibility.

However, media outreach’s effectiveness with older audiences and business does not mean it can’t help your business online. Outreach can be useful in driving traffic to your website and enhancing your overall SEO when consumers are seeking related information. As a smaller business, your website will not have the same SEO power that large companies may have due to your smaller customer base, fewer years in business or other inherent factors of owning a small business. Therefore, using the trusted voices of mainstream media channels can help put some power and credibility behind your brand in the eyes of search engines as well. When competing for space on the first page of Google, established outlets linking back to your website can be crucial.

For more of an organic “PR hit”, media outreach can also prove to be useful. Using popular media to get eyes on your brand helps build your brand relevance to target audiences and associates your brand with the positive feelings consumers about the media channel. For example, if a story about your business gets picked up by a major local TV news channel, you are reaching potentially thousands of consumers and building trust as a credible company.

As media outreach tends to reach larger audiences, it’s best for your business to have more time to generate those media hits. Take the time to plan out these PR efforts and spend wisely on the right media, the right messaging and the right timing. All of these factors can play significant roles in the success of your efforts.

Employing Influencer Outreach

While traditional media outreach employs mainstream channels, influencer marketing communicates with consumers through social media such as Instagram, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. As explained by Forbes, platforms such as Facebook, are deprioritizing business/brand generated content in their algorithms to provide a better user experience. Due to this, influencer marketing has been a major trend in digital PR/outreach.

Influencer outreach primarily caters towards a younger demographic – especially on Instagram. If your target audience is mainly composed of Millennials or Gen Zs, social media influencers can be the best way to reach them.

Along with the many benefits of collaborating with influencers is encouraging user-generated content. The more authentic the influencers are with their own messaging about your product or service, the more likely their followers are to engage with their post or execute the call-to-action such as using a discount code.

Additionally, while media outreach can promote your brand and increase overall brand awareness, influencer outreach is product-based. There is less of a story behind an influencer taking a picture with your product or using your service and describing how much they like it. If your goals are more direct and sales-driven, influencer outreach can be highly effective.  

Often time additional budgeting is required, but it is a guarantee and you have more control over the content that’s shared.

One initial drawback to influencer marketing versus media outreach is finding the individual influencers to promote your business. This may require additional budget or time to secure these contracts compared to using well-known media channels. However, once you do have influencers willing to post branded content, it’s a guaranteed deal and as brand, you have more control over the content that’s shared. You determine the guidelines of how and when posts are generated.

Related: The Art of Pitching Your Brand to Influencers

Social media moves a lot faster than other traditional media such as print or radio. Social feeds require constant, immediate content. Therefore, influencer outreach is helpful if you want to see immediate action and are less concerned with long-term results.

Summary

Both media and influencer outreach are essential for growing your business. Reaching target audiences through as many channels as possible will help improve your brand awareness and authenticity. The two strategies complement one another and can support your communication efforts on a large scale and more one-on-one basis. If done effectively together, you’ll make a mark in the industry.