With social media becoming the new newsroom, influencers have now overtaken journalists as the primary source of news and information among young audiences.
A survey of 96,000 people in 46 countries by Britain-based Reuters Institute revealed that 55% of TikTok and Snapchat users and 52% of Instagram users get their news from social media personalities – compared to 33 and 42% from mainstream journalists on those platforms.
Besides typical news about politics, economics, and international relations, young audiences turn to social media influencers, particularly for conversations about lifestyle, culture, arts, and technology due to their personality-based, participatory, and personalized nature.
This shift in news consumption didn’t happen overnight, though. A white paper published by Vero in 2019 found that influencers are the most trusted communication channel in Southeast Asia, with 70% of followers saying that influencers believe in their endorsements, whether sponsored or not. This is because trust among influencers is a kind of currency – the primary thing that separates them from ads and, therefore, at the core of their value.
As more young people turn to influencers for news and information, a new pathway is emerging for brands to harness the command they hold. The authenticity and relatability that characterize influencers can serve as valuable assets during PR crises, as these qualities can be readily employed to effectively address and navigate the public relations challenges that brands may confront.
Tapping influencers for PR crisis
In PR crisis management, where once traditional strategies like crisis announcements, media interviews, and op-eds on mainstream news channels held sway, influencers may now step into the spotlight as “alternative voices.” With their flair for the unconventional, these influencers can infuse crisis management with a refreshing new perspective that rewrites the rules of engagement.
A beverage company’s equity valuation dropped sharply after a popular football player snubbed its product, saying everyone should be drinking water instead, during a pre-match presser in 2022. To mitigate the impact of the PR embarrassment, the brand quickly introduced a new campaign that involved micro-influencers, gamers, and athletes.
A sportswear giant faced a much bigger crisis last year after it launched a campaign showing 25 pairs of bare breasts – uncensored though without faces. While the campaign was meant to celebrate women’s body types and promote inclusivity, negative sentiments about women objectification overshadowed its original intention. Remaining resolute, the brand reiterated its objective and sought the help of an Indian influencer to be the face of the campaign. Following this strategic move, the brand experienced a notable surge in sales, even within countries that had initially opposed the campaign.
“When a PR crisis emerges, influencers can play a pivotal role in defusing tensions by delivering messages with empathy and transparency,” says Umaporn Whittaker-Thompson, Vero’s Group Vice President of Consumer Communications and InFluent lead.
“Their ability to put a relatable face on the brand can quell concerns and misconceptions, fostering a sense of understanding and unity. The synergy between influencers and brands creates a two-way street of communication, enabling influencers to provide real-time insights into public sentiment while allowing brands to respond promptly with genuine solutions.”
Harnessing authenticity in crisis communication
Influencers’ authenticity and relatability can resonate more powerfully than traditional PR messages, so they’re invaluable for providing honest insights, explanations, and even heartfelt apologies. Their credibility with their audience makes it easier for them to uphold or rebuild trust; in the process, they humanize the brands they work with.
On the other hand, audiences can quickly detect inauthenticity, so any collaboration between a brand and an influencer should be as transparent as possible. Rushing to bring on unprepared influencers with no prior brand connection to face the public during a crisis will smack of desperation and whitewashing. Instead, it’s important to proactively prepare influencers for potential crises the brand could face, ensure they understand any sensitive issues at play, and provide guidelines on how to respond in different crisis scenarios.
In doing so, brands should select influencers who align with the brand’s values and messaging and make an effort to cultivate trusting relationships with them that go beyond transactional endorsements. This sort of genuine rapport can lead to influencers being more eager to lend their credibility and voice when they’re most needed and more convincing when they do so.
As brands and influencers partner up beyond mere product endorsements, their approach to managing reputational challenges is undergoing transformation. This shift prioritizes authenticity and real-time engagement, placing trust, transparency, and strategic collaboration as pivotal to steering through PR hurdles.
Bilibili Watch Party with Andre Knite CASE STUDY
Bilibili is China’s leading ACG (“Anime, Comics, and Gaming”) video community that provides full-spectrum content serving diverse interests. It is known as an online home for anime, comic, and gaming fans, not only in the country, but also around the world.
When Bilibili came to the Philippines, Vero was tasked with increasing follower growth on local social media channels by promoting its Summer Anime Releases.
In recent years, the Philippines has come to be known as the social media capital of the world due to the number of active social media users and the hours spent using mobile apps. It is for this reason, that the term “Pinoy baiting” was created. “Pinoy baiting” is an online Filipino cultural reference to attract more engagement. The “Pinoy baiting” strategy requires influencers to interact with Pinoy audiences and create more content about the Philippines. This is one of the main reasons why influencer marketing is such a hit for local and international campaigns.
The Summer Anime Release is a major event in the anime world, where specific well-loved anime titles are launched for viewing. To help boost Bilibili’s social media growth in the Philippines, and as part of its Summer Anime Release campaign, we worked with Andre Knite (they/them), a professional cosplayer, model, and streamer, to throw a watch party on Bilibili Philippines Facebook page.
Knite’s debut at Bilibili’s Facebook watch party was a hit, driving many people to sign up and use the platform.
We chose Andre Knite as our influencer for the campaign because of their popularity in Southeast Asia’s anime scene and the way they engage with their fans on social media. Anime fans deem Andre Knite as friendly and down-to-earth, which matches perfectly with Bilibili’s fun, outgoing personality.
Despite being an experienced streamer with many social media channels, this collaboration was Knite’s first takeover.
We granted Knite access to Bilibili’s Facebook page and let them stream on the platform as if it were their own. During the takeover, viewers interacted with Knite and watched the new episode of “The Devil is a Part-timer.” It was an intimate and exciting experience for Knite’s fans and Bilibilivers.
To make the watch party even more fun and engaging, we also had mini games where viewers engaged through chat box to win special prizes and giveaways from Bilibili.
With Knite’s existing influence in the anime community, the live stream was a success. We were able to reach more than 500,000 people on the platform without any paid ads.
Choosing Knite as our influencer was pivotal for the brand and helped establish our presence in the Philippines. People who did not know about Bilibili before discovered how powerful the platform is for anime, comics, and gaming content.
TrueCaller Ramadan Campaign CASE STUDY
Ramadan is all about family, togetherness, care, love and prioritizing kindness through generosity and charity. However, in Indonesia, scammers usually take advantage of the season by pretending to be someone victims trust and convince them to send into digitally sending money.
According to research by TrueCaller, Indonesia is one of the top six countries affected by spam calls, with an average of 14 spam calls per user per month. Working with TrueCaller in this campaign, our goal was to spread awareness to limit the chances of Indonesian consumers being scammed during such a meaningful season of the country.
We ran a social media campaign by collaborating with influencers from lifestyle, medicine, police authorities and financial institutions to educate Indonesians about spam calls, the care they should take when answering unknown caller IDs and creating more brand exposure to the market.
To elevate our message during the Ramadan festival, we worked with a total of 15 influencers from both Instagram and Twitter and provided them with a series of infographics to talk about cyber risks. Through this influencer campaign, we were able to help Indonesian consumers stay alert when they take action online. This includes online shopping, clicking unknown links, or trusting allegedly real institutions.
For consumers, influencers are raw, authentic, relatable, and therefore trustworthy Like all tools developed by Vero, InFluent maximizes results for clients, thanks to the organized regional pooling of resources and insights, as well as the unique expertise of its local consultants.
Last week, we announced our latest influencer marketing stack: InFluent, a combination of products and services designed to help brands in Southeast Asia achieve their business and reputational goals.
Vero created InFluent as an integrated and regionalized approach to influencer marketing featuring standardized guidelines and tools designed to resonate with brands and creators in the ASEAN region. InFluent was created to replicate the unified processes and workflows powering some of the most successful cultural industries such as A&R, publishing, and distribution in the music industry.
Citing challenges within the influencer marketing industry, such as fraud, measurement, and an increase in misinformation, Vero executives built InFluent to bring more vigorous processes and methodologies to influencer campaigns – as well as assure the authenticity and credibility of each campaign’s content and conduct cohesive and comprehensive reporting to measure the campaigns’ effectiveness.
“InFluent was designed to benefit both creators and brands to ensure that collaboration is healthy and successful for all of the campaign stakeholders,” said Umaporn Whittaker-Thompson, Group Vice President of Consumer Communications at Vero. “Vero created InFluent because we believe more innovation is needed in how brands and creators collaborate. Our goal is to create a win-win scenario for both parties that leads to more authentic online experiences.”
InFluent contains four integrated components.
The first element is KOL LAB, a regional database of influencers, contract templates, and scoring metrics for a qualified pool of influencers in Southeast Asia. With increasing numbers of creators invested in various fields and entertaining diverse scales of audiences, it’s now necessary to conveniently access curated profiles across the ASEAN region. This can be done via third-party tools with support from the vast influencer database Vero has built over its years of working with influencers. The goal of KOL LAB is to share knowledge and insights about influencers regionally to identify the most suitable influencer profiles for clients.
The second element is TrueVibe, an influencer identification tool that scores an influencer’s brand fit across six categories. To help audiences connect with more authentic brand and influencer collaborations, TrueVibe provides a data-led process and leverages the influencer list from KOL LAB to help brands identify and engage with influencers who can deliver optimal impact and results for their campaigns. Since it launched last year, TrueVibe has received positive responses from clients seeking a data-driven method for finding the right influencers to work with.
At the core of successful collaborations lie moments of cultural bonding and celebration. With those moments in mind, Vero created the third element, Happy Hours, a program designed to nurture relationships with influencers through creator bootcamps, networking events, and an ongoing influencer gifting program to recognize important milestones and events.
The fourth element of InFluent is called ECHO+.
ECHO+ is designed to measure campaign success, help brands achieve their campaign goals, and ensure media buy plans support campaigns so that the contents reach the right audience on a broader scale. ECHO+ includes both quantitative and qualitative measures which are based on online conversations, sentiment, and brand mentions, different from the common social media metrics that focus mostly on reach, engagement and impressions. ECHO+ is supported by Vero’s Media IQ team, which integrates media planning, buying, data and analytics, and platform partnership.
InFluent is a product of Vero’s years of experience at creating and implementing influencer marketing campaigns across Southeast Asia for industries such as entertainment and streaming, automotive, e-commerce, beauty and lifestyle, finance and banking, technology, travel, and education.
“More than ever, brands view cultivating relationships with influencers as the most credible and trusted way to reach their audiences and convey messages in an independent and authentic way,” said Ms. Whittaker-Thompson.
Ms. Whittaker-Thompson’s team comprises influencer specialists across Southeast Asia specializing in services such as strategy, influencer identification, content creation, and integration of influencers across marketing functions, including live events.
Vero will conduct training for all Vero consultants and launch the InFluent stack across the ASEAN region before the end of Q1 2023.
“We created InFluent using input from our experiences with both brands and creators, and it aims to solve challenges that are common to the influencer marketing industry,” said Claudia Pusung, a senior digital account executive with Vero in Jakarta. “At Vero, creators are our valued partners; we want InFluent to create meaningful connections between brands and creators in the region. InFluent will create better results and better partnerships for brands and creators in Southeast Asia.”