Understanding the Industrial Technology Influencer Niche
Influencers and thought leaders are a topic that sparks the interest of many B2B companies, but the question marketing communication professionals have is: how does it work? The answer is all about finding the right connection.
One example is our relationship with Rachel Park. Rachel is a freelance writer and influencer in the additive manufacturing (AM) sector. She is well-respected in the industry, which is why we reached out to her to host an interview series on the future of AM during the recent MTC3 conference in Munich.
“I actually don’t see myself as an influencer, not really. But maybe I am. I tend to see myself differently from how others see me,” she said, when asked what she thought when we told her about the project.
This is a common response from industrial technology thought leaders. In B2C, influencers could have millions of followers and include minor celebrities and athletes. Industry influencers, on the other hand, appeal to niche audiences and as a result their following is less. But they do exist in the form of editors, company spokespeople, freelance writers, bloggers, engineers and speakers at conferences. And what they do for you depends on what they are known for within the industry – and it often has nothing to do with social media.
“I do some guest writing and ghost writing for the industry, as well as consulting and advising. However, I don’t want my name on anything too commercial,” said Rachel. “I take that into consideration when accepting a project, and I am lucky that I can be picky in this respect.”
When asked if she would accept payment for posting on her social media account, the answer was a strict ‘no.’ “Paid for social media posts are not something I would consider — it should be independent, but I realise that’s not how it always works these days & I recognise there are grey areas. From my own perspective, if I’m working with clients I believe in, I do want to share their work and success, not because they’ve paid me for something else, but because the work has merit and is worth sharing. Personally, I find social media rather a minefield now. It’s all subjective, but all I can do is try and maintain my own integrity, the bottom line of which is I am free to post — or not post — my opinions, and money is not involved in my decision,” she explained.
Nurturing Mutual Growth
Rachel has over 12,000 twitter followers and another 2,800 on LinkedIn. Plus, as a writer and editor in the additive manufacturing area for 23 years, she has written countless articles, interviewed the movers and shakers of the industry and has in-depth knowledge of the challenges and potential growth areas facing the industry.
However, her following wasn’t the core reason we selected her. The MTC partners were looking for someone with in-depth knowledge in the industrial AM sector, a professional attitude and most of all, charisma. With this new video series, they wanted someone who would be objective and ask questions that would be interesting to the audience. They did not want a corporate spokesperson. Rachel more than fit the criteria.
“I was surprised at the call from EMG. I'm used to interviewing people, but it's usually one-on-one. I've also done a lot of camera interviews, but I’m always standing behind the camera and not in front of it – so this assignment was taking me well outside of my comfort zone,” she said.
When approaching Rachel, we took her lack of on-camera experience and nervousness into consideration. Yes, her expertise and journalistic voice were the perfect match for the project, but we also liked her as a person and wanted to grow her as an influencer. To make this successful for both parties, we used it as an opportunity to develop her skills in that area.
“I agreed to host the series because we spoke about it before so I knew what you expected from me and I felt comfortable with you. Plus, it was something new for me to try,” she said. “I admit the experience was terrifying and exhilarating — I like my comfort zone, but pushing myself beyond it is a good thing sometimes. Plus it was a great opportunity to talk to new and interesting people from across the AM industry.”
Building the Relationship
Leading up to the conference, Rachel worked closely with the EMG team. We wanted her to have the journalistic freedom to ask the questions she thought would be interesting. To give the guests she would interview some peace of mind, she provided the topic areas in advance so that they could prepare.
In addition, we provided Rachel with on-camera training during the shooting to help her natural talent shine and were there to make sure there were no glitches or surprises. We wanted the experience to be as positive and stress-free for her as possible so she could focus on her role as the host.
“Now that it’s done, I'm grateful for the chance to do it and that you were there to help me get through it. I think it is something I would consider doing again,” Rachel said.
Working with someone like Rachel to help her succeed is also rewarding for us at EMG. Not only do we help our clients find industrial technology influencers that work for their brand in the way of guest writers, conference coverage, video and podcast hosting, and more, we also work to develop their internal influencers – whether it is writing thought leadership pieces for corporate spokespeople, media training or helping build a following on social media.
Five quick tips to remember when working with an influencer:
- Choose influencers that make sense for your audience. Just because someone is available or has a large twitter account, it doesn’t mean they are the right fit. People shouldn’t wonder why they are there or hosting your event. They should be thinking “Wow. This person is speaking/hosting/talking about the event.”
- Be upfront with what you want. Don’t force them to do anything last minute they didn’t agree to beforehand.
- Do not leave them on their own to fend for themselves. Meet them when they arrive, and make sure they are comfortable and have what they need to do their role. If you want them to interview or talk to specific people, make the introductions for them. If they are speaking, help them test their presentation, etc.
- Brief your influencer on the message you want and objectives, but give them the artistic freedom to communicate it their way. If you are worried about what they are going to say, then they are not the right fit for you. Their voice should be a natural match to yours.
- Finally, an influencer is not your employee. They agree to work with you because they feel your brand or organization is something that resonates with them and their own audience. Treating them as a partner will help make it win/win relationship.
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