Friday, July 31, 2009

Influence Shift Marches On

I suspect more than a handful of marketing and public relations professionals wistfully yearn for the days when market influencers fit neatly into well defined categories.

You had journalists, both business and trades. Then there were a select set of industry and financial analysts. Sprinkle in a few thought leaders from academia and not-for-profits and…poof…you had a target list for your next PR campaign.

This methodology of influencer identification with the goal of shaping market opinion sure got outdated…and fast. The reliance by customers on social networks and online communities has resulted in a dramatic shift in influence, tilting power from traditional sources such as the news media to emerging channels.

Today’s super charged influencer could very well be a blogger, Twitter junkie or Facebook fanatic. Just ask the folks at Za’s Brick Oven Pizza in Columbia, South Carolina. An unflattering tweet by a prominent college basketball coach with more than 1,500 followers sent the restaurant’s business into a tailspin.

Unlike some respected pundits, I certainly believe in the continued importance and impact of the media and analyst communities. Most adhere to a peer review process that produces a higher quality and more credible content.

It’s just time for all public relations practitioners and corporate marketers to shed antiquated notions about where to find centers of influence. Strike a balance in your next promotional campaign, based on who your key audiences rely on.

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