Scott Guthrie’s blog focuses on informing PRs on everything to do with influencer marketing, alongside content around wider comms topics. Scott Guthrie is one of our Top 10 UK PR Blogs and we caught up with him to talk about influencer marketing issues in 2019, top tips for pitching and why The Body Shop is winning at influencer marketing so far this year.
What’s in store for the blog in 2019?
More of the same. I wrote 47 articles on influencer marketing for my blog in 2018 plus a dozen or so covering public relations in general. Increasingly my aim is to peer over the brow of the hill at the issues influencer marketing is likely to face in the near and midterm.
Last year I foresaw three major issues for the nascent industry: influencer fraud; lack of transparency in disclosing advertisements; and a media backlash. These issues will rumble on throughout 2019 but we will also look beyond compliance to consider the ethics surrounding influencer marketing. For example, we will consider why it’s not okay to promote gambling sites to young, impressionable audiences, and why ‘merch’ shouldn’t be so oversold. The industry will also start to ask questions about kidfluencers, image manipulation and virtual influencers. I’ll be writing about these issues and how the industry approaches them via regulation and trade body codes of conduct.
How has PR changed since you first got into the industry?
I can still (vaguely) recall foot messengers delivering financial results and press releases by hand to the City editors. While in newsrooms rip and read printers spewed out headlines from the Press Association. Press releases were usually faxed to newsrooms. The importance of a good story told well from a trusted source hasn’t changed. The technology surrounding news acquisition and distribution has. Technology has splintered the entire media landscape.
How much is Brexit affecting comms in the UK?
Brexit is affecting comms in two ways: by seemingly keeping all other news from front page for almost two years; and, by heightening a sense of anxiety. My clients are typically small businesses. Small business accounts for over 99% of all private sector businesses in the UK. Yet, just 6% of small and medium-sized businesses feel the Government is listening to their concerns about Brexit. That is causing them anxiety and preventing them from making any significant business decisions.
What’s the biggest issue facing the industry (outside of Brexit)?
Influencer marketing offers an amazing opportunity to the public relations industry. The discipline can transcend ‘selling stuff’ to embolden positive reputation, communicate an organisation’s purpose, assist in a crisis situation, or scale subject matter expertise heightening employee advocacy in the process. The biggest issue is the risk that these opportunities are passed up by the PR industry. The risk that these opportunities are squandered; handed over to the other creative industries only for us to look back in future years and realise our mistake. The same mistakes of missed opportunity that we saw with failing to shape the future of social media, SEO or content marketing.
Are traditional media outlets losing their importance to the industry?
There is no secret that the media has fragmented from print, to online and social media. In turn influencers have emerged on every media, in every market. This does not mean that traditional media outlets are no longer important. It does mean that, as effective communicators, we need to know which mastheads, broadcasters and individuals are influencing the important people we are seeking to influence on behalf of our clients. Our opportunity is to work with these organisations and influencers and to engage with their networks in the way we have traditionally done solely with journalists.
What’s the best campaign of 2019 so far?
The Body Shop works with influencers in two very separate ways: to sell product; and to affect positive social change. For its Forever Against Testing campaign, the cosmetic company sought to gather eight million signatures in the form of a petition to take to the United Nations. The campaign over achieved its objective in under the time allocated: 8.3m signatures in 3/4 time. The campaign demonstrated a fundamental element of influencer marketing – that influencers can help affect change in behaviour and opinion. And that the change needn’t be confined to a purchase decision. The campaign also highlighted the importance of an integrated communications programme.
What advice would you give students looking to join the PR industry?
Read widely and read deeply. Acquire a firm understanding about how the PR industry is put together and look to specialise in a particular area. Follow relevant hashtags on LinkedIn and Twitter. Start to form your own opinion then codify and collate those opinions into your own blog. Writing about a subject is a wonderful way to better understand that subject. It is great way to showcase your mastery of the subject and mark yourself out from other graduates looking to enter the industry.
What’s your best pitch tip for PRs?
Never pitch blind. Know who you’re pitching to. Know what they’ve written or broadcast recently. Know their point of view. Understand their audience. Attempt to establish a degree of relationship before you need to pitch. That might mean following the journalist on social media, sharing their articles and commenting on them. My best pitch advice is to be useful to the journalist.
What other blogs do you read?
I am a major fan of Richard Bailey’s work at PR Place. He edits the site and his Friday morning round-up posts are a must-read for PR practitioners regardless of whether they are just starting out or well-established in their careers. I also enjoy talkinginfluence.com, stedavies.com, influenceonline.co.uk,orlaghclaire.com, and the Vuelio Blog natch!