At a time when Americans’ confidence in information sources is at an all-time low, it’s more critical than ever for marketers to find trusted messengers to help communicate effectively with their audience. After all, if the audience doesn’t trust the source, they won’t receive the message in the way it was intended—and they definitely won’t be inspired to take action.
So how can you find the most trusted messengers for your brand or campaign? During the Ad Council’s recent COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative, the largest communications effort in our history, we engaged with more than 1,250 influencers, and the lessons we learned led us to completely reimagine our newly relaunched influencer-engagement program, Creators for Good.
Based on our research and learnings, here are five essential steps we now follow to make trust central to our influencer strategy.
1. Do your homework. People trust different experts on different topics. So it’s not just about what influencer has authenticity but rather who has built a trusted reputation on the issue at hand for the specific audience you’re trying to reach. Conduct marketplace research to help identify the types of messengers to use on your campaigns, and then map the results of the research by reach and degree of trust.
2. Listen to social media. Your most effective advocates just might be the people who are already out there doing the work on your issue. Use social listening to find those people who create content that already is driving the conversation around your topic, brand, event or issue. You’ll likely find that people who have a reputation for voicing their support and passion about your chosen issue will produce better overall results.
3. Prioritize reach and credibility. Don’t pick your messengers based on reach alone. Reach is only part of the package. At the Ad Council, we often pair messengers who have substantial reach, like celebrities, athletes or TikTok stars, with subject-matter experts like doctors and scientists. The pairs then co-create the content so the message delivered is both credible and at scale.
4. Deliver the goods. Make sure your call-to-action delivers on the value you promise. If you’re directing people to your website for more information or to take a specific action, take the time to make sure the user experience delivers. Don’t waste the valuable inspiration you can generate with your messengers before you have a compelling call to action in place for people to take in the moment.
5. Be a good partner. Campaigns evolve and needs change over time, so it’s important that everyone feels they’re benefiting from a continued partnership. Make sure to regularly reevaluate what you and your team are bringing to the table. While there is often a commercial relationship between brands and the celebrities and influencers who work with them, the trust they accrue is still earned, and it can be lost through poor execution.
By writing clean briefs, being respectful of everyone’s time and creating a collaborative environment, you’ll go a long way to ensure that the trust you generate together will show up in the results, driving the kind of action we need.