By Lisa Hester, Senior Account Manager

Working With InfluencersThe following is part I of a two-part series on the use of influencers and the results of a recent survey on the topic.

As the use of social media for visibility, engagement and reach for brands climbs among PR practitioners, the use of influencers is climbing, as well…but at a much slower pace, a new survey from PR News and Meltwater concludes. The survey of 400 responses from U.S.-based PR professionals shows some disparities about who an influencer is and if/how they are incorporated into PR strategies.

In addition to asking if, how and why brands are using influencers, the survey asked respondents to gauge the importance of influencers to marketing and communications and how much, if anything, companies pay them.

Before delving too deeply into the topic of influencers, let’s first consider who influencers are. As the survey points out, influencers can include a wide variety of individuals, not just independent bloggers with a large following.

* bloggers with a large following, 59 percent

* journalists at high profile media outlets, 65 percent

* customers, 54 percent

* external experts, 52 percent

* celebrities, 30 percent

According to respondents, even company CEOs can be influencers if they are accepted as an expert in their field. Some even go so far as to say company employees can be considered influencers.

At Rountree Group, we are among the 49 percent of PR firms who use influencers to share our clients’ key messages. Some 32 percent surveyed said they don’t currently use influencers, but plan to, while 18 percent don’t plan to use influencers.

As were the top two responses in the survey, the Rountree Group team uses influencers primarily to give our clients’ messages an authentic voice and provide third party credibility.

Total responses look like this:

* primarily to give our clients’ messages an authentic voice, 39 percent

* provide third party credibility, 38 percent

* help grow their audience, 11 percent

* enable them to target specific demographics they’re not reaching otherwise, 9 percent

At Rountree Group, we agree that all of these are important reasons to incorporate the use influencers in PR and communications strategies.