Krista Webster knows what makes an influencer powerful, and as a well-versed and effective communicator, she can sum it up in just two words. As the president and CEO of Veritas Communications, she’s constantly pushing the boundaries with her clients to create an experience for consumers more authentic than traditional advertising.
We connected with Krista to learn more about the world of influencer marketing, and who has influenced her over her career.
How does one succeed at ‘influencing the influencers?’
There are many measures of success when it comes to working with influencers. And with the uptake of social media, there are more quantitative ways to demonstrate influencer value than ever before. At Veritas we are constantly looking beyond impressions – we want to know the number of real people within a target demographic that we are influencing.
But we can’t overanalyze the power of influence either. The best measure of success is when someone endorses, suggests, recommends or acts without being asked to – and this happens because of relationship building. When a brand has connected with an influencer in a meaningful way, based on trust and a shared interest, those influencers will be inclined to support this brand. Nothing is more telling of this than when a company falls under attack during an issue, and influencers rally around the company without even being asked.
You’ve written extensively about the importance of analyzing earned versus owned media when it comes to PR success. How does the involvement of influencers in a PR campaign tie in?
There is confusion in the industry when it comes to defining ‘influencers’ versus ‘content creators.’
Influencers, regardless of a brand paying them, are still an earned relationship. The content or review they give for a product or brand should be unbiased. Brands often believe they have a right to dictate content because they have ‘paid’ the influencer, but if the influencer is using their own channel to promote, the brand really should step away and allow an arms-length point of view.
If, however, influencers are being used to drive content for a client’s owned channels, the rules change. In this case, they really are paid content creators that are providing an interesting, educated, third party point-of-view on subject matter they are experts in, and have a shared passion for.
There is and always should be a place for both earned and owned influence. Both work to build something more authentic than advertising.
What do you think about the future of influencer marketing?
We have barely scratched the surface of what influence can do to help propel brands.
Ultimately, those that can navigate the rapidly changing landscape of influencers from micro to macro while being strategic at each stage of brand development will stand out amongst the rest. Everyone else will continue to use ‘influencer’ as a buzzword. But they may never appreciate what makes influence powerful – and that is unaided recommendation.
How will chatbots affect the future of PR and communications?
Chatbots at minimum will have a place in marketing at a customer service and at a product information and education level. They may be influential as part of driving action or purchase, but they will never replace the power of a trusted influencer.
Who has influenced you over the course of your career?
I always have an ear to the ground of the perspectives and viewpoints shaping our global discourse. In my business, it is important to remain open and neutral for my clients so that at the time of decision-making, I’m making the best choice for them and their business.
Paradoxically, it is important for me not to be influenced by any one thing, so that I can apply logic and strategy to my counsel.
But I have had many sources during my career that applied their influence to helping shape mine professionally. At a young age, I found that the leaders who were more apt to seek out change seemed to take a keen interest in my less traditional approach. They were the ones who helped me see my potential in advancement.
What is the most important skill set that you look for in a potential new hire, and why?
I look for humility and someone who is a good listener. The strongest people stand out by not trying to stand out. The best minds are built on taking the initiative to be educated and immersed in subject matter before they profess to be an expert. They are open to the world, and expose themselves to everyone and everything. Then, they process what they have learned into real insights. They ask smart questions. These people are PR unicorns, and they are hard to find. But they are out there, and they are born for client service.