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WHO Researcher and Celebrity Chefs: Reconsidering What It Means to Be an Influencer

Influencer, blogger, key opinion leader, content creator, thought leader—whatever you call them, they are infiltrating social feeds and shaping the way brands engage and market to consumers.

Perhaps the biggest misconception about influencers is that they are solely on Instagram selling fit tea or hair gummies. But influencers don’t just sell products; some of the most successful influencer-PR partnerships involve endorsing a movement or driving a shift in perception. While a Bachelor star endorsing a FabFitFun” box on Instagram is, technically, an influencer, there are a variety of individuals in different consumer and business verticals making an impact on behalf of brands outside of Instagram feeds.

For example, take a key opinion leader: an individual with expert knowledge and impact in a field. This person is extremely credible, trusted by vital stakeholders and have an impression on consumer attitudes, behavior and purchasing power.

During an event for United Nations General Assembly, APCO introduced a client to a researcher from the World Health Organization. The client was seeking to influence the conversation surrounding a topic on which, the researcher had nearly 20 years of relevant research and policy development experience.

Following the introduction, a relationship was formed, and the researcher joined a panel on behalf of our client and continues to be an advocate and resource for them; this includes signing a statement on behalf of the company that they plan on disseminating to key stakeholders.

While the relationship was not promoted on the researcher’s social channels, the chief components of her influence were her expert knowledge, credibility and willingness to advocate alongside the brand in industry panels or formal statements.

On the other side of the influencer spectrum are individuals like food bloggers who are extraordinarily influential in their own and very different way compared to an employee of the World Health Organization.

These bloggers use search engine optimization, paid advertising and years of posting daily content to gain a loyal following—sometimes reaching millions of readers.

Last year a client wanted to increase consumers’ intake of deviled eggs around Easter. To do so we developed a two-pronged approach.

Primarily, we partnered with an array of mid-tier food bloggers, asking each to develop unique recipes and inspire their readers to replicate the ideas for their own tables. The second half of this approach included influencer partnerships, but this time, the influencers were celebrity chefs. These top-tier, Food Network alumnus also inspired their followers with original recipes and APCO leveraged their visibility to drive earned media coverage in local and national media.

Ultimately, using food bloggers and chefs—expert “foodies”—to highlight deviled eggs for Easter drove consumer engagement and led to an increase in recipe searches ahead of the holiday.

Today, consumers are constantly bombarded with advertisements and other promotional content. To rise above the noise, organizations must expand their scope of search for influencers beyond social media stars and internet celebrities. We challenge our colleagues and clients alike to continue to think outside the box in identifying people who are pertinent to an organization’s core values, mission and objectives and utilize partnerships in unique ways. Now, and in the future, the most crucial influencers may be hiding in plain sight among student activists, community leaders, think tanks and nonprofits, as well as start-ups and emerging entrepreneurs.

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