Anyone who follows trends in marketing knows that influencer marketing is the marketing and PR trend of the future. Companies all over the world are taking notice and starting to divert their marketing efforts into the influencer field. However, companies choosing to work with influencers are facing a common dilemma that really no one knows the answer to. Is influencer marketing a form of marketing, or is it public relations? Basically, should the influencer marketing be handled by the public relations team or the marketing team? While there is no right answer, it is possible to break this question down to hopefully provide some insight into fixing this dilemma.
Paid Influencer Marketing
One answer that is pretty easy to provide is what umbrella paid influencer marketing falls under. Simply put, paid influencer marketing should always be handled by the marketing team. This is because paying influencers is really not much different than straight up advertising. There is no connection or engagement with the influencers, companies are literally just paying accounts to endorse their product. Since there is no real communication with the influencer outside of paying them or developing what the post will look like, paid influencer marketing should definitely be handled by the marketing team.
This post by Cristiano Ronaldo is a great example of paid influencer marketing. Notice how it is barely any different than a normal advertisement.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) March 30, 2017
Earned Influencer Marketing
This is where things get really complicated. Earned influencer marketing definitely involves elements of both marketing and PR, which leaves many companies confused about who exactly should handle it. Earned influencer marketing is all about developing a relationship with micro-influencers in order to get them to endorse your product to their followers. The relationship development aspect makes it sound like this would be a perfect venture for the PR team to work on since they are skilled in relationships and communicating with customers.
However, the end goal is still to get the brand or product marketed by these influencers, so it is almost required for the marketing team to also be involved. Another reason this falls under marketing activities is that companies need to be able to identify these potential influencers, which is a task much more suited to marketers than PR people. For these reasons, earned influencer marketing could also very well be considered an activity for the marketing team.
So do we have an answer?
It seems apparent that paid influencer marketing should fall under marketing activities. Where the problem lies is deciding which team should front the earned influencer marketing. There are aspects to earned influencer marketing that cater to both the PR team and marketing team, meaning theoretically a company could use either of the two to head this venture.
Part of who is in charge of earned influencer marketing may come down to who is in charge of the social aspects in the company. Some companies have already established who is in charge of the social aspects, so whatever team that is should probably head influencer marketing. This could bring up another question about who should be in charge of social, but thankfully a lot of articles have been written about that topic already.
If there is no pre-established social team, the best bet for a company would probably be to appoint a couple of members from each team to work on earned influencer marketing together. This allows companies to ensure that all their bases are covered when it comes to earning influencers. A joint venture between the two teams would allow PR to use their communication skills and the marketers to use their identification and product marketing skills to get the most out of earned influencers.