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Chatting with web strategist, Jeremiah Owyang, I asked: “You know how to get the attention of influencers?” “How?” he replied to the non-sequitur. “Be one.” Without a moment’s hesitation, Jeremiah countered: “You know a better way?” Pause. I said: “Create one.” That’s the most important lesson in influencer relations: Prepare to get schooled. Every industry is ruled, at least tacitly, by a handful of observers – consultants, analysts, authors, users, enthusiasts, bloggers, even vendors – whose opinions reach farther and dig deeper than the rest of the market’s voices. Their authority is earned, bestowed upon them by their hard-won following. If you think you are going to convert these opinion-shapers to your company’s worldview, think again. The best you can do is earn their consideration. Although influencer relations is no more algorithmic than the soft sciences of media and community relations, there are some practices that tend to work.

Tip 1: It’s not about the money Swapping cash for endorsement sends the wrong message to the person you are priming. It implies the influencer cares more about your money (or freebies) than his or her audience. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, think nonmonetary ways to create intimacy between your organization and the finite group of people you want to get to know you. For example, the 20 influencers (including LEWIS PR’s own Adam Singer) who contributed content to Eloqua’s Social Media ProBook received a custom avatar of themselves. Offering the illustration as a thank you sends a very different message than promising the cash value.

Tip 2: Don’t target. Involve Avoid targeting influencers in the way that you might pitch to the press. It’s more effective to imagine ways to involve influencers in your awarenessgenerating efforts. In other words, they are the means, not the end. Offer them a sneak preview of a new product – even before the analyst community. Give them unfettered access to your product development team for a day. Carve out one-on-one time with the CEO. Give them an exclusive all-access pass to your event. Let them pick your keynote. Create a ‘Board of Influencers’ that adds value to your organization and networking opportunities for one another. Ego, it turns out, is valuable currency.

Tip 3: Know when to move on You will never convert everyone. Know this at the onset. If you aren’t able to connect in a meaningful way with an influential figure, you need to determine the cause. Was the person too busy (possible) or is he/she uninterested in your story/company/ product (probable). Diagnose quickly and move on immediately. You can spin a lot of cycles trying to convert the unconvertible. I know I have. And I regret every moment wasted on the unwilling because it was time I could have spent nurturing those genuinely interested in getting to know my company. Follow these principles and you’ll be off to a good start.

Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing, Eloqua

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