Influencer marketing in thought leadership: How B2B content can benefit from big ideas
Claire Fowler, FT Longitude’s new influencer relations executive, tells us why brands are incorporating influencer marketing in their thought leadership campaigns, and explains how to use it to best effect.
Claire works alongside our editorial team to source and identify global B2B experts, executives and influencers to feature in thought leadership campaigns for our clients. She develops and maintains long-term relationships with these individuals and industry leaders to help build their profile, as well as the profiles of our clients.
This is a new role for FT Longitude. What impact do you think it will have on our clients’ thought leadership campaigns?
Influencer marketing may be synonymous with B2C, but influencers now play a large part in B2B content strategies too – and increasingly in thought leadership. In my role I help manage those relationships in order to connect the right people with the right client and the right campaign.
The roles of these influencers in the business world mean they are keen to share their expert insight with existing and new audiences. Not only does this add credibility to our clients’ stories – it also helps to generate awareness of the content and brand among a different following, and therefore increases the reach of the campaign.
How does a qualitative research approach compare with a quantitative survey-based approach? Can they complement each other?
Surveys are great for gathering and comparing large amounts of data on specific topics at a specific moment in time, whereas in-depth interviews with experts and influencers provide detailed subject analysis and perspective on what that data means for businesses – not just now but also in the future.
Both methods add value and credibility to thought leadership, and are especially effective when used together. Interviews can help bring survey results to life on a personal level, generating the unique stories that thought leadership needs to engage with audiences. And they often provide provocative soundbites that can be particularly useful when promoting the campaign.
What do you look for when you source interviewees? Are there criteria they have to meet?
Each campaign is different, so there are no set criteria. When I think about who to approach influencer marketing for campaigns, first it is crucial for me to understand the client’s goals for the interviews. I then use my skills and experience to find subject matter experts who will help to achieve those goals.
For example, a client may want to investigate the role of cutting-edge technology in their industry. In this case we may look to secure researchers and academics who are at the forefront of these advancements. Sometimes, a client wants to explore perspectives outside their own sphere of influence, in which case we would reach out to senior executives at a range of leading companies, using or building on our range of expert contacts.
Which interviewees are the hardest to source, and why?
It probably goes without saying, but the more high-profile an individual is, the harder it can be to secure an interview. These individuals are always in high demand, and since their time is at a premium they are often quite selective about the opportunities they will commit to. This is why my role is so crucial – securing these conversations is time consuming, and persistence is key.
Having the Financial Times brand behind us really helps us to approach influential and hard-to-reach individuals. That in itself carries significant weight, and often helps to persuade interviewees to take part in our clients’ projects.
How do you use expert interviews to best effect in thought leadership campaigns?
I talked before about some of the key benefits of a qualitative approach, but those benefits don’t automatically bring results – they need to be managed well to maximise their effect.
Our editors put a huge amount of work into the questions in order to tease out the most relevant stories and produce the most effective quotes. Doing this makes sure that the interviews contribute towards the overall narrative, so the fewest words go to waste.
In our experience, interviewees’ neutrality helps to ensure the final campaign is not too self-serving or inward-looking. This is often a worry for clients as they try to balance their internal marketing objectives with the broader role of thought leadership – these qualitative interviews help to quash that worry.
At a more practical level, using direct quotes from influencer marketing on social media and in PR will provide those all-important soundbites that make audiences sit up and take notice. Interviews with the right influencers and external contributors can quickly and easily be turned into extra campaign materials, such as Q&A interviews, case studies and personal profiles. These are just a few of the ways to get the maximum mileage from an interview programme.
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