Doug Simon (@DSSimonDoug), CEO of D S Simon Media spoke with John Walls (@whereswalls), Director, Brand PR, Luxury and Lifestyle Brands for Hilton Worldwide at the PR News Media Relations Conference in Washington, D.C., about the role of influencers and how brands work with them.
In today’s vlog post, Doug spoke with John Walls, Director, Brand PR, Luxury and Lifestyle Brands for Hilton Worldwide about how to identify influencers who actually make sense for your brand, making sure to put out the right message through the influencers you hire and how influencers are the face and personality of your brand. John goes into how authenticity is key for your brand.
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Doug: Hi I’m Doug Simon, D S Simon Media. I’m here at the PR News Media Relations Conference. My guest, John Walls. He’s director of brand public relations Hilton Worldwide. Thanks so much for being with us.
John: No, thank you. Thank you for the invitation.
D: Now you just gave a great presentation on the role of influencers and how you work with them. Why don’t you share some of your top line thoughts.
J: Well, I think that working with influencers is a natural part of what we do from an external communications perspective nowadays. I’m a little bit of a traditionalist when it comes to press relations. And I think that as the intersection between digital, and social, and marketing has kind of gravitated towards, it’s more important than ever to consider influencers as part of that integrated marketing communications mix. We now integrate influencers into every campaign that we do, whether that be a press trip, whether that be a brand program. Really, they’re a critical piece of exactly how we message our brands and what we put out to the marketplace to represent us.
D: And travel and luxury market were among the first because were doing press junkets way back. Not necessarily you personally, but as an industry. How is that evolving and changing?
J: Well, it’s a little bit different. I think that traditional media relations individuals, members of the press, I think that their needs are changing just as much as influencers are. And I think that while we’ve combined many of these press trips with influencers as well as members of the media they have different needs and different wants.
J: We’ve certainly noticed a number of best practices over the years to actually kind of evolve those press junkets and those press programs to actually become more either focused on press or focused on influencers, and treat those audiences differently. The types of content that those two audiences want is very different. Instagrammers just want to go to a destination, shoot a beautiful photo of this gorgeous church in Reykjavik, Iceland, while an actual member of the media wants to go into the church, and introduce themselves to the caretaker, and get to know a little bit of the things about the gorgeous organ that’s there. They’re storytellers. They’re just different storytellers. One’s more visual and one’s more actual contextual.
D: What’s the growing role of video in all of this?
J: Well, visual is– everything is going visual. I think that’s why you have platforms like Instagram as well as Snapchat, for instance, that people are gravitating to. I think that from a video standpoint though, we’re seeing more involvement with video Instagramers, as well as opportunities to partner with influencers with significant followings and integrate our brand into stories, as well as Snapchat opportunities.
J: So I think that’s, from a digital perspective, that’s definitely happening more. And especially, when press actually attend many of our press visits or press junkets, they’re going to be using their own social channels to talk about the amazing destinations that are in to build their own profile and to build a lot of trust between their own readers, as well. So it’s both press and influencers that are using video a tremendous amount.
D: Obviously authenticity is key. Just want to touch some pitfalls. Disclosure. We know you guys are obviously disclosure hawks, have proper contracts and– right. What are some of the rules people need to be aware of, because not everyone is doing that and could be putting their organizations at risk?
J: Well, I think authenticity boils down to two things. One, it’s about the type of content that exists. If you go to a regular Instagrammer for, let’s say, fashion advice, or you’re going to a regular Instagrammer that you trust for recommendations on an amazing destination, you know their specific eye. You know what to expect from a visual perspective. They have a certain tone that you’re kind of gravitating towards. It’s very obvious, very quickly if there’s forced content in that type of channel.
J: So one, from a visual perspective, you know if that’s sponsored content or not. I think that the best relationships that we’ve been able to develop though, are with influencers, though, that are very transparent about their engagement with brands from a content perspective but as well as a messaging perspective.