A good communications program is like a basic food chain. Assuming your message is the right one, you educate key spokespeople and influencers on that message, and then the message flows down through the chain and ultimately reaches your publics through a variety of credible sources.
Which means that the most critical group in many communications programs are the early champions and influencers. These are the first people to try new products, and you hope they become the source of countless crucial recommendations.
Every industry has its analysts, consultants, financial analysts, key customers, academics, and leadership figures that others turn to for advice and recommendations. In cosmetics it is hair stylists, in the medical community it is doctors and nurse practitioners, in high-tech it is the key industry consultants, in automotive it is the car enthusiasts. Every marketer is currently targeting them with varying degrees of success. Despite recent efforts to automate this process, it still requires human relationship building. In fact, it is a fundamental skill of successful communications professionals.
Communicators need to make these early influencers their friends by including them in early briefings for new products. A beauty product could, for example, release new makeup products to makeup artists or beauty salon owners under an early release (almost like a beta program), and then gather quotes for their website to promote the product.
How do you know if you are on good terms with these early adopter influencers? The ultimate measure of a successful relationship is if they recommend your product to reporters, editors, and customers.
Before you attempt to measure influence, review the standards developed by The Conclave and the "Influencer Handbook" created by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). After that, here are 10 tips to get you started:
Tip #1: Find out what they’re saying.
Use Google Alerts to set up tracking of social and traditional media for mentions of your key influencers. Collect their Op-Eds, articles, transcripts of their speeches, and any other mentions in publications that your customers pay attention to.