When Does a Blogger Become an Influencer? Where Is the Line When Paying for Their Voices?

In the PR industry, a new trend is to “create” ambassadors sometimes with well-known South Africans and more often now bloggers. The objective is to drive conversation online among the targeted audience.

Much like pitching a story to the news editor, we relay these stories to the identified influencers, who have strong social networks, with the aim that they will in turn tell the story through their own personal experience.  And so the new form of word-of-mouth starts to spiral.  In the end, we want to create advocates of the highly engaged consumer.

The question arises how do we do this? Recently there has been quite a bit of online debate around whether bloggers should be paid for their opinions – but then does it remain an Earned opinion or is it a Paid for endorsement?  Bringing into question the value of the influencers’ opinion and therefore their reputation?

This is where PR comes into its own right. It is our job to craft the stories on behalf of our clients; capturing the product or experience that will convince these influencers to want to get on board to tell our clients stories rather than be coaxed into it by a cheque.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times and situations when putting your money where your mouth is can be appropriate. One such example is a competition where the influencer runs a series of blogs on a topic we provide. As long as it is clear to the consumer that this particular competition or article is essentially paid for then there can be no misunderstandings.

However, this type of engagement should be the exception rather than the rule.  By telling the right story to the right audience we can turn influencers into advocates and by providing them with the right tools and information they can then express their own opinions.