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Influence This! The power of influencer partnerships in PR

Posted: Apr 2024
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Embracing influencer partnerships for maximum results

If you're interested in PR and B2B marketing, you'll want to keep reading. We're diving into the world of influencer partnerships and how they're becoming more important than ever in the business-to-business sector. To help us out, we have some valuable insights from Ellie Neville, Associate Director at Teneo, who shares her expertise on why influencer collaborations are a game-changer for B2B companies looking to boost their brand reputation and reach new audiences.

Understanding the rise of influencer partnerships

The rise of influencer partnerships has been nothing short of remarkable. Just a few years ago, social media platforms were seen as simple tools for staying connected with friends and family. But today, they have transformed into lucrative spaces for brands looking to reach their target audiences.

As we discussed in our recent blog, The Rise of Digital PR, social media has become a crucial tool for reaching and engaging these communities. Creating engaging content, monitoring conversations, and responding to comments and messages in a timely manner can build strong relationships with followers, establish your brand as an authority, and even boost your SEO. The days of traditional advertising are numbered, and companies are increasingly turning to influencers to promote their products and services more authentically.

How did we get here? In the early days of influencer marketing, it was all about finding someone with a large following and asking them to post about your brand. But as the industry evolved, so too did our understanding of what makes an effective influencer campaign. Today, brands are adopting sophisticated, measurable strategies that prioritise engagement over follower count. They're working with micro-influencers who have smaller but highly engaged audiences, running contests and giveaways to encourage user-generated content, and leveraging data analytics to track the performance of their campaigns.

So why is this shift happening? For one thing, consumers are increasingly sceptical of traditional advertising. They don't want to be sold to; they want to feel like they're part of a community. And that's exactly what influencers offer – a sense of connection and authenticity that can't be replicated by a TV advert. Additionally, the rise of e-commerce has made it easier than ever for people to purchase products directly from social media platforms, making influencer marketing a powerful driver of sales.

The growth of influencer partnerships in the social media landscape has transformed the way brands connect with their target audiences, as highlighted by Ellie Neville:

The meteoric rise of social media platforms has created a genuinely lucrative space for brands, thanks to the strength of creators, who work extremely hard to gain and retain our attention. These individuals have adapted to suit new platforms, new tastes and new trends and continue to evolve at pace. At the same time, the influencer industry has become infinitely more sophisticated than the 'Wild West' it used to be in the early days. It's much easier now to track and measure ROI via reporting and analysis tools and partnerships are based on much more official transactions and processes.

“Influencers receive their fair share of criticism for portraying unrealistic versions of life”, says Ellie, “but collectively they have managed to build and sustain a reputation for authenticity when it comes to brand work, by favouring honest reviews and keeping control of the content. This, combined with better guidelines from platforms on the labelling of sponsored content, has helped to bring the consumer on board. We now expect to see the people we follow promoting brands and products. It's also a flexible space, as a brand you can invest in an influencer partnership with £300 or £300,000. And most importantly, it works, people listen to influencers. Subsequently, the early adopter brands are now going far beyond one-off product placement partnerships and are placing influencer work at the heart of promotional strategies. Smaller and B2B brands have been encouraged to enter the space too.”

The art of selecting the right influencer

When it comes to selecting the right influencer for your brand's campaign, it's essential to strike the perfect balance between reach, influence, and budget considerations. It's not just about partnering with someone who has a large following, but rather finding an influencer who truly resonates with your target audience and campaign goals. Here are 2 of the most important things to consider when you’re planning which influencer to work with:

  • Their values – it's vital to identify influencers who share similar values and interests to your brand. This ensures that their audience will be receptive to your message and that the collaboration will come across as authentic. Look for influencers who have built a reputation in your niche or industry, and whose content aligns with your brand's messaging and tone.
  • Their influence – consider the level of influence the influencer has over their audience. While having a large following is certainly important, it's equally crucial to look at engagement rates and the quality of their interactions with their audience. You want to work with influencers who inspire trust and loyalty among their followers, as this will ultimately drive results for your brand.

    “As with any communication tactic, the key is to have a thorough understanding of your target audience and a clear end goal for what you want the partnership to achieve”, emphasises Ellie.

    “Reach is important to consider, since the bigger the reach the more potential impact, but the bigger the influencer the more budget is required. If you are speaking to a niche audience, a micro or mid-tier influencer may be more effective. There are many agencies out there who can matchmake brands to relevant influencers, so it's worth enlisting the help of an expert if you're not sure.”

    How and when to engage with influencers

    Ellie shared some useful information on how an influencer partnership works best:

    “Arguably an influencer partnership can work wherever you need to include a human touch to your campaign, but there are some key considerations compared to other communication tactics. Firstly, you need to be prepared to work collaboratively with the creator, which may mean relinquishing control of the content. Influencers build up a personal style, usually honed over many years, they know what works and what doesn't for their followers and fans. Partnerships work best when the creator is allowed to create. Secondly, you need to be prepared that content means comments, subsequently many brands opt to use influencers in fun and irreverent ways rather than as a tactic to address areas of reputational contention.”

    Influencer partnerships can be a powerful tool in a PR campaign, but it's important to use them appropriately. One scenario where influencers shine is when launching a new product or service. Influencers can provide valuable exposure and help generate buzz around your brand. Another great use case is during a crisis communications situation. If your brand is facing negative attention, partnering with influencers who have a positive reputation can help mitigate the damage and restore public trust.

    Influencers can also be useful for amplifying existing content, such as blog posts or videos, to extend its reach and engagement. However, it's crucial to ensure that any influencer partnership feels authentic and organic.

    Advantages of influencer partnerships in communications

    Influencer partnerships can bring a wealth of benefits to your communications strategy, particularly when it comes to building trust and enhancing brand reputation. By partnering with influential individuals who have a genuine interest in your industry or niche, you can tap into their credibility and authority to promote your brand to their audience. This can be especially valuable in situations where your brand is looking to establish itself in a new market or demographic, as influencers can help bridge the gap between your brand and potential customers.

    Here's what Ellie had to say on the matter:

    “Influencer partnerships provide an opportunity to benefit from the trust that has developed between an influencer and their followers. In the same way people listen to their friends who recommend to them this or that product, they listen to influencers they've followed often for years. It's the power of word of mouth and the opportunity to differentiate your product or brand from your nearest competitor.”

    Additionally, influencer partnerships can help to increase brand awareness and reach, as well as drive traffic and sales through strategically placed calls to action. Perhaps most importantly, influencer partnerships can help foster a sense of community and engagement around your brand, which can lead to increased customer loyalty and advocacy.

    Ellie shared with us a valuable example of a brand/influencer relationship that was a huge success:

    “When it comes to reputation, it's an opportunity to align yourself with someone who stands for the same values you do. A great example of a brand that does this extremely well is Dove via their Real Beauty campaign. Last year, Dove created a social movement called #turnyourback to raise awareness of the potentially harmful impact of social filters on the self-esteem of young girls. They launched this in the wake of a new hyper-realistic filter on TikTok called Bold Glamour. What's remarkable about this example is that no one at Dove had actually seen this new filter, it was their network of body positive influencers who brought the filter to the attention of the brand, calling on Dove's support to help them start a movement against it. By building a community of influencers, Dove was able to act extremely quickly in this scenario to spearhead a fresh and meaningful conversation about harmful online beauty.”

    What a powerful example of how influencers can become strong partners for the ongoing reputation and social responsibility of a company, as well as for its brand promotion!

    Navigating the challenges and criticisms

    Navigating the challenges and criticisms of influencer marketing can be tricky, especially when it comes to issues of authenticity and ethics. Some critics argue that influencers often present an unrealistic and staged version of life, which can be misleading for their followers. Furthermore, there are concerns about the blurring of lines between editorial and advertising content, as well as the lack of transparency around paid endorsements.

    To address these concerns, it's important for influencers and brands to adhere to regulatory and ethical guidelines, such as clearly labelling sponsored content and ensuring that endorsements are honest and transparent. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) provides guidance to influencers on the laws and rules that apply to them and how to make sure that they are following those rules for the benefit of their audience and the wider influencer marketing industry. Written with an influencer’s perspective in mind, the guidance is also useful for brands and agencies.

    By taking steps to maintain authenticity and transparency, influencer marketing can continue to thrive as a powerful tool for reaching and engaging with audiences.

    In summary, influencer partnerships have become a game-changer in modern PR campaigns. From building brand awareness to driving sales, influencers have proven to be a valuable asset for brands looking to connect with their target audience. As the PR landscape continues to evolve, one thing is clear: influencer partnerships are here to stay. Brands that embrace this trend and learn to leverage it effectively will undoubtedly see significant returns. So, whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, don't underestimate the power of influencer partnerships in your next PR campaign.

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