How to use influencers in your public health campaigns

It wasn’t long ago that the word influencer conjured up images of women selling diet teas, makeup, and workout gear. But digital creators and artists have emerged on newer platforms, providing eye-catching videos, graphics and art, attracting millions of followers and catching the attention of marketers.

As content has evolved, influencers have evolved as well. Now, influencers aren’t just people with millions of followers; sometimes they provide informative content for niche topics and industries.

Therapists on Instagram and TikTok talk about ADHD and trauma. Financial institutions use influencers during educational campaigns.

However, disinformation and disinformation remain a challenge for communicators. It has been a battle for platforms to convince users that the information comes from trusted resources. A September 2022 Pew Research Center study says that more than half of US adults occasionally hear from social media. From 2020 to 2022, the percentage of TikTok users who get news there increased by 10% and continues to rise. It is the only platform that has seen such an increase.

So it’s no longer just about the content being delivered, but who is delivering it for people to trust the message. Building relationships with influencers, mainstream or niche, is important to include in your overall media relations strategy, but how do you find influencers who provide consumer trust?

Healthcare resources and influencers

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Walgreens knew customers had questions, virtually and in person. They turned to neighborhood doctors and pharmacists for answers.

“Pharmacists [are] in the top five most trusted professions, and that couldn’t have been more true than in the last three years,” says Emily Mekstan, director of retail and merchandising communications at Walgreens. “During the pandemic, we have strategically used their profession, likeness, knowledge and influence to provide concrete and reliable advice to the communities in which we operate, [online and off].”

Eugenia Johnson, senior PR and engagement strategist at Brunet-Garcia, says her agency has used influencers in key HIV and Covid public health campaigns to distribute important messages.

“We’ve incorporated influencers into our public health campaigns…with government clients like the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” Johnson says. “Influencers serve as a trusted and recognizable voice sharing important public health messages with engaging content that resonates with our priority audience.”

Using consumer research

Topics like healthcare and finance require extreme scrutiny and trust to develop a fruitful relationship with the public. The information and advice people receive from influencers in these areas can impact lives.

Priscila Martinez, founder of The Brand Agency, says that while there are tools you can use to find a particular match like Tribe Dynamics or Dovetale, much of what her team does is just “good old fashioned research.” She says they are avid media consumers and keep a pulse on various industries and what audiences respond to.

“Funny enough, consumers do a lot of checking for us,” says Martinez. “When a particular niche influencer climbs to the top of the pyramid, you know he’s been through a grueling process of scrutiny by his followers.”

Algorithms provide clues

Martinez also says the apps’ algorithms help the quality content his team is trying to reach the top.

“As soon as you get interested in a certain niche, you’re constantly being served creators in that ecosystem,” he says. “Influencers who consistently deliver good and trustworthy content naturally grow in popularity and attract the attention of advertisers.”

Johnson agrees that using algorithms is beneficial.

“Tailor your search to topics and hashtags associated with the brand/cause you’re promoting,” she says. “This will make a list of content creators who are already posting content related to your topic.”

Enter the mind of an influencer

Johnson offers several ways to find trustworthy influencers. First, he says, hire an influencer agency because they have existing relationships and know how to handle outreach and negotiations, which reduces the overall risk of using flaky influencers.

However, not everyone has the resources for an agency partnership. Johnson suggests these three strategies.

  1. Your favorite influencer has a favorite influencer. Most influencers partner with and follow other influencers within their industry, so check who the influencer is following. Once you find one, you’re sure to find a handful of others.
  2. Go where influencers gather. Look for the best conferences and meetings for your demographic of desired influencers. Are you looking for blogger parents? Attend a conference for parent bloggers or review the lineup of their speakers, the majority of which are influencers, and see who has covered the event in the past.
  3. There is a “master list” for everything. Top Beauty Bloggers, Top Bloggers in enter your cityetc. Google a top list relevant to what you’re looking for.

Evaluation of public trust

Once your partnership is live, we recommend monitoring your audience to see if it’s a good fit. Mekstan uses several methods.

“Leveraging a brand attribute tracker and overlaying it with an influencer’s attributes is one way [to measure],” she says. “I would also recommend it [watching] click-through and purchase data to see long-term trends in helping determine if partnerships are working effectively.”

Johnson suggests monitoring sentiment and engagement.

“Beyond the vanity metrics of likes and re-shares, review the comment sections for sentiment,” she says. “Are the answers positive? Are there questions and good dialogue? Are people asking for more information? The influencer can also facilitate this type of engagement by using their platform to ask polls and questions.”

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