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A Conversation With Peter Shankman on Influencing Corporate Reputation

How long term engagement with influencers is helping major corporations shape their overall reputation

Walter Jennings
May 02, 2020

Walter Jennings, Global Head of Influencer Engagement, The Tantalus Group, spoke with author, futurist, and keynote speaker Peter Shankman to learn how one influencer engages corporations to build and support their reputation

High-profile social media influencers have been helping consumer branded products for over a decade. Their sharing of photographs, videos, reviews, and articles have been seeding and building brands. From overnight sensations to long-term engagement programs, the branded product space has made Mom bloggers celebrities and allowed celebrities to blog like Moms. 

But how does that change in B2B? What is the landscape of influencer relations at the corporate end? How can your company start working with and getting to know key opinion leaders for B2B and corporate reputation? 

Business-focused influencers are present in every industry and across every specialized area of business, from cloud computing to aeronautics. They are professors and professionals who have built up loyal audiences by speaking to them about what they care about most – their areas of expertise. Many of these overlap with your business.

Walter Jennings: Let’s start by understanding when and how you choose to engage with a company. Why do you get involved?  What are your motivations – and if I wanted to work with you, what should I do to start engaging you?

Peter Shankman: I have to like the company. I have to believe in them and their product. Remember the Brady Bunch episode where the advertising agency wanted the Bradys for a soap commercial, but they had to make sure they liked the soap first? Same thing. 

WJ: Tell me about a few of the companies you have worked with. What worked? What should they have done better?

PS: I’ve worked with global companies and small mom and pop stores. The first thing to make sure of is that the audience of the influencer matches the audience the client is trying to reach. Without that, anything they do will be pointless. 

I had a company that reached out to me because they saw I was a single parent. Except all of their marketing and advertising messages were centered around moms. Oops. 

I’ve worked with road bicycles, several telecommunications companies, grooming product companies, airlines, hotels, etc. Again, companies where the product works, I like it, and my audience matches theirs are the biggest winners.

WJ: Today we’re facing unprecedented disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic. Does this make influencer relations more or less important? What can an influencer achieve that other marketing channels cannot during the pandemic?

PS: Influencer relations will continue to rise in importance. As we’re bombarded with more advertising from more unknown and untrusted sources, trusted, transparent communications will lead the way. Influencer relations are poised to be that form of communication.

WJ: How does a brand or company keep engaging you over the long term? 

PS: As long as they’re being innovative and continuing to come up with new ideas and products, I’m more than willing to continue to engage. I worked with one telecommunications company in Asia who had me out every time they had a new phone launch, which was great. There were always ways I could integrate that into my content.

WJ: How do you position your work with these companies with your followers? Does the company just start appearing in your stream – or do you talk about your onboarding experience? 

PS: I usually talk about how excited I am to work with a new brand, and from there, focus on the “newness” of it until I start getting content into my streams. 

WJ: Can you share 2-3 examples of great approaches – programs or companies that got it right? Also are there clear examples of inappropriate behavior – things companies or agencies need to steer clear of? 

PS: Huawei did a great series of events for influencers. I loved their onboarding and engagement. Specialized bikes did a good job as well. 

I’ve been approached by companies who want to micromanage the whole process. I usually tell them “no thanks.” Nothing good comes out of that – I don’t get to be myself, they don’t get to be themselves, and they’ll never get the results they want.

WJ: Finally – how does your audience respond? Do you see them inquiring or engaging with the brands you represent? 

PS: As long as I’m honest about what I’m doing and as important, keep my audience first and foremost, everyone wins. Remember – it’s all about my audience. If they’re happy, the client will be happy by default.