Influencers have enormous power to influence public emotions, opinions, and decisions. Thanks to their authenticity and the trust they place in their communities, they can help brands to emerge from crisis situations. However, this requires early preparation for a crisis and constant attention to maintaining positive relationships with key influencers.
With the declining importance of traditional media, the face of PR as we have known so far is clearly changing. Today, in crisis situations, it is often better to use the support of well-known influencers than – as it was the case so far – to use only traditional press releases and own social channels.
Before the era of social media and multidirectional communication, in which everyone talks to everyone, press releases went the straight way from sender to recipient – in this case from the company to recipients and consumers. The official, top-down press release and the spokesperson's statement were the only weapons of a struggle for companies, or rather a shield to defend in crisis situations.
Today, we can still use the same shield, but at the same time, we are aware that official announcements are often ignored by those concerned, or received critically. Therefore, in crisis situations, in addition to traditional defense tools such as official press releases or spokespersons' speeches, it is worthwhile to reach for the support of influencers, because their voice can change the perception of the situation and help to restore a positive perception of the brand.
Cooperation with an influencer is an additional activity which, in synergy with the activities carried out so far (press releases, spokesperson's statements, corrections in the brand's social channels, etc.), will help the company to get out of image oppression and return to balance faster.
What can an influencer offer a brand in a crisis situation?
Let's take a look at some of the attributes of influencers that justify their support in difficult situations. The aspects listed below are the characteristics of influencers with a strong impact on our target group. In order for the following justifications to make sense and to actually have a positive impact on the situation, it is important that the brand is aware of who is the key influencer for it.
When an Influencer speaks in its own name about a brand, the message becomes more authentic and has a greater impact on the audience than the information provided through a spokesperson.
Influencers have a real impact, supported by research and sales results, on the opinions and actions of customers. For many recipients, the media created by Influencers is the last instance that verifies their opinions about a given brand.
The information provided by the Influencer – a person "unrelated" to the brand and officially speaking in his or her own name, not bound by any agenda, communication strategy, or company policy – translates into increased transparency. Let us remember that everyone can make mistakes, and the desired ability is to admit them. In such a situation, Influencer can refer to the way a brand operates in a crisis and thus support it.
Support and context
Cooperation with the crisis manager can help PR professionals to find a closer perspective on the problem and a more natural, authentic context for the recipient.
The inclusion of the Influencer in crisis operations strengthens confidence. As a non-brand person and acting on his or her own behalf, he or she has a greater influence on the audience than a spokesperson.
The influencer knows his community and knows the language he speaks. This allows him or her to choose the words more accurately. Thanks to the Influencer's statements, PR specialists themselves can understand more easily the perception of the situation by someone not related to the brand, as well as the consumers themselves.
An influencer that refers through its own communication channels to a crisis situation (or the way the brand deals with it) can attract more media attention than the press release itself, which the brand distributes to journalists.
Find key influencers even before a crisis occurs
Cooperation with Influencers in crisis situations has its justification and can only be effective if it is included in our action plan before a crisis occurs.
Part of PR is not only reacting in current situations but also developing a strategy in case of a crisis that sooner or later affects most brands.
To be able to include Influencers in the crisis strategy, each brand should create a list of key Influencers and maintain a continuous relationship with them. The key influencer for a brand is the one that brings together a community that is identical to the brand target group.
Before a crisis occurs:
- Create a list of key Influencers – determine which Influencers have the greatest impact on the brand target group. Don't be tempted by shortcuts and don't just follow the range of a particular influencer. Remember that the larger the community, the more dispersed it is and the less overlap with your target group. Also, take into account the smaller range of influencers, but the better the community matches your target group.
- Take care of good relations – take care of long-term good relations and stay in touch with key influencers. Having a good relationship doesn't have to mean ordering campaigns or sending gifts on a regular basis. It should be understood primarily as communication and a "do no harm first" strategy. Be careful what the agencies you work with and how they communicate with the influencers (not writing on emails, disappearing orders and orders, not answering phones – this is an agency standard that damages your brand). Provide the agency with a list of key influencers so that they know which relationships you care about most.
- Monitor the occurrence of potential problems – follow conversations about the brand and analyze areas of weakness. React on an ongoing basis. Constantly look for the first signs of an upcoming crisis.
- Engage your brand's supporters in communication – if you already work with influencers who are supporters of your brand, engage them as a priority to help in a crisis situation.
In the face of a crisis
In a crisis situation, you can reach for the help of influencers, with whom you have developed good relations. Remember, however, that their role is different from that of a press officer. Of course, you cannot ask anyone to publish a positive message about a brand or to defend it. Instead, you can inform about the problem, consult, or invite them to cooperate in the joint search for solutions.
A crisis is usually caused by an inappropriate or ambiguous action of the brand or company. If the brand has made a mistake, the only effective line of defense and solution will be to admit it. While a spokesperson and official announcements are a good way for a brand to defend itself and apologize, this is not always enough to bring back positive associations to the brand.
Influencers can help to present a situation in a natural (and for their target group) language, putting it in an authentic context. They can help you explain the situation, but also refer to the very way you respond to the crisis.