Using Commentary to Connect with Influencers

One of the challenges in our multi-faceted, digital media life is figuring out how to extend reach and increase audience engagement. As a student in Production Studio: Advanced Multimedia Storytelling, I helped take on this challenge for MCDM’s Four Peaks TV show.

Josh Henderson of Skillet

Four Peaks host Hanson Hosein with Josh Henderson, owner of Skillet (Photo courtesy of Four Peaks)

My solution was to connect with influencers by showing them a provocative clip from a Four Peaks episode, ask them to make a comment, and then share the commentary and clip to various social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Sounds simple enough, but how do you find influencers?

After reviewing a plethora of blogs dedicated to this topic, I created a “how-to” list to guide my work for Four Peaks. Here are the seven steps I took to reach out and connect with influencers:

1. Create a brief outlining the action idea, specific goals, target audience, platforms and tactics.
2. Identify channels of influence.
3. Personalize message to the influencer.
4. Be brief.
5. Make the ask compelling.
6. Create an influencer scorecard to measure, evaluate, and adjust.
7. Establish sustainable engagement models to build thought leadership and influence.

Starting with a brief helped me to stay focused on the overall project and make sure that the influencers and commentary were aligned.

After evaluating the media clips that I selected for provocative dialogue, I brainstormed for influencers that I could reach out to that met my criteria of having roots in Washington State. I identified influencers based on their subject matter expertise.

Four Peaks host Hanson Hosein with Christine Deaver of Teatro Zinzanni (Photo courtesy of Four Peaks)

For example, I reached out to John Keister (of Almost Live fame) to comment on a clip I selected from the Christine Deaver episode. Once I receive his commentary about the clip, I will post and tweet – encouraging both John and Christine Deaver to do the same – potentially multiplying the reach.

I personalized my request to each influencer. Reaching out to people I didn’t know wasn’t easy. LinkedIn became a handy resource, allowing me to identify potential influencers within my sphere of connections and reach out via InMail to those outside
my sphere.

Fortunately, I had Brian Marr (Directory of Strategy for Smashing Ideas, Inc. and a member of the MCDM faculty) within my connection base. I sent him a personalized, direct message via LinkedIn and he responded within the day. He was a perfect fit for commentary on a clip selected from the Josh Henderson Skillet episode based on his expertise in brand strategy.

Four Peaks host Hanson Hosein with author Rob Salkowitz (Photo courtesy of Four Peaks)

The MCDM faculty contains a huge pool of influencers that we are lucky to have within our reach. I plan to contact Rob Salkowitz for potential influencers in the publishing field for commentary on the clip from his show. Additionally, because of their “foodie” personas and food knowledge I’m going to reach out to Hsiao-Ching Chou and Anita Verna Crofts to get their commentary on the clip of Josh Henderson of Skillet.

My approach to finding a unique way to capture attention was through shared connections, creative introductions and sheer tenacity.

As part of my brief, I also created a spreadsheet to track the influencers. This will help me to measure and evaluate the content that has been shared. The ability to continuously monitor and tweak as necessary will further help strategy effectiveness. Documenting the project and tracking the commentary establishes a sustainable engagement model. Adding it to the communications plan for Four Peaks will ensure it is a ready reference for future planning.

Don’t forget to check out the Four Peaks Facebook page and follow #fourpeaksNW on Twitter to see the commentary in action. Four Peaks TV is on Northwest Cable News every Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. You can see Josh Henderson the weekend of December 22nd, Christine Deaver the weekend of December 29th, and Rob Salkowitz the weekend of January 5th.

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