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Amy Summers IdeaXchange column image

What to think about when choosing a brand spokesperson

Yes, brands need to have influencers as spokespeople at the ready. Here's what to consider when selecting such a brand representative.

No one can tell your story better than you, but can someone else expedite the process? Absolutely. The best time to consider finding a spokesperson for your supplement is when you are ready to expand your audience and add credibility to your brand.

Who is the ideal influencer for your brand?
Without a spokesperson, it’s difficult to expand on the value of your product with only the written word. You may think the owner of the company, or perhaps the marketing or public relations director, is the obvious choice to speak on behalf of your brand, but from a news perspective that’s only sufficient enough for a business story. An in-house scientist or nutritionist at your company may seem appropriate, but the public perception is that, of course, this person thinks the supplement is great because they are being paid by the company. When you use a spokesperson to speak on behalf of your product, the credibility factor goes up. Even when that spokesperson declares his or her relationship with the company, consumers are still walking away with the message that this expert, whom they trust, vetted the product before they got involved. That’s much different than someone with a CEO or sales and marketing title promoting the product, where they’re clearly biased.

How many influencers/spokespersons should represent your brand?
Does it make sense for brands to have more than one spokesperson or does that dilute the message? It’s actually smart to use more than one spokesperson or influencer. Every influencer has his or her own fan base so you’ll reach more audience segments this way, plus one spokesperson might appeal more to women or men, while another spokesperson may have more influence on younger people or professionals. Your message will go further into diverse circles if you do not limit yourself to one influencer. I also like using a variety of spokespersons on a publicity campaign, because they each have their own approach for delivering the message, which is unique to them, giving your product more depth and interest. Committing to one spokesperson can be risky, as the identity of your product could be too closely connected to one individual. What happens if that person is not available at some point in the future, or does something scandalous that you don’t want your brand to be associated with? If you have more than one spokesperson it shows that many experts are advocates of your supplement and if one of those experts tank, you don’t tank with them.

What’s the best channel for your influencer?
The first thing to consider is who is your audience and where are they consuming their information? The other factor you need to consider is what channel does the influencer excel on? Both are important, and you can make general assumptions based on this information as far as where you should target. But if you are not sure, then it’s always a good strategy to take your message to multiple channels, because media tends to feed off media and you never know where your message might really take off. Plus, many channels are using multiple platforms to cross-promote content. For example a local TV studio in Chicago may air a segment online and on Instagram TV (IGTV) too. A podcast can be heard on the Internet, but also on smart speakers or through individual apps that people use on a daily basis. By taking a multichannel approach you’ll be covering all of your bases for exposure and maximizing the use of your spokesperson.

How do you select an influencer?
When I’m looking for a good spokesperson for a supplement brand, I’m obviously looking for someone who has the proper credentials to discuss health issues related to the specific supplement. Having a cardiologist talk about heart health, a pharmacist talking about cold and flu season or a nutritionist talking about weight loss, for example. However, it’s not enough for the spokesperson to have the right title and resume, I’m also looking for someone who is entertaining. By entertaining I mean they need to be charismatic, energetic and be able to explain complicated subject matters in easy-to-understand soundbites. This is why I never choose someone on resume alone. It’s not enough to be smart, you also have to engage an audience quickly and be flexible with the media. Your spokesperson should have a lot of confidence. If someone is camera shy or doesn’t like talking about him or herself then being an influencer is going to be excruciating. You also have to look the part. If you are an expert on health, then the public and the media will expect you to look healthy. And you have to be readily available. Media interviews can be at odd times and on short notice. If your spokesperson has a busy schedule and can’t set aside time for media opportunities or the amount of time it will take to create quality and timely social media posts, you may be wasting your money. Especially if you have spokespersons on retainer and they are not available when you need them, it can be a disaster. I once lost a “TODAY” show booking for a client because the doctor they had on board as their spokesperson could not accommodate the interview in his schedule. A national media outlet like the “TODAY” show is not going to wait on an expert. If a story is planned they are doing it with or without you because there’s always another expert lined up waiting for this type of opportunity.

After you hire an spokesperson, then what?
Once the spokesperson passes this initial assessment test of being available, presentable, entertaining, confident and has the right credentials, sign him or her up, but know that in order to maximize your investment, the work does not stop here. No matter how seasoned or media savvy your influencer may be, positive and constructive feedback is essential to getting the most out of your spokesperson relationship. During the publicity campaign, I evaluate every media interview the influencer conducts or social posts that are made, to make sure the brand message stays on point. This requires a lot of time, but is important to monitor. If you don’t take time to do it, you could be wasting your money by not directing your spokesperson to become better on messaging for your supplement. You also want to provide positive feedback to your spokesperson. I see a lot of companies making this mistake, in which they hire a spokesperson and never give any feedback, good or bad. Perhaps some executives feel that if they hire a professional to do a job then that person should just do the job and payment is enough. However, if you positively reinforce to your spokesperson the things you like about his or her delivery of your brand message, this encouragement is only going to charge up an influencer more to do an even better job of being an advocate for your brand. If the influencer enjoys working for you, most likely you will get additional promotion from him or her that you aren’t even paying then for, simply because it’s fulfilling to work for you.

Think outside the box when it comes to influencers.
Hiring a spokesperson for your brand does not mean you have to hire a celebrity. There are many non-obvious options that can be explored before selecting an influencer, that might save you money and give you a better and more targeted return on investment. A good example of this is when I worked with the branded ingredient called Celadrin, used in many supplements to reduce joint pain and increase mobility. My client, who owned the ingredient at that time, decided to sponsor a senior women’s basketball team called the Tigerettes. The Celadrin Tigerettes were the only sponsored team in the National Senior Games and became the team with the most wins and gold medals in the Senior Olympics. These six Southern women ages 67-77 would share with the media that Celadrin was their secret weapon for winning games! We were able to secure tons of press for the Celadrin Tigerettes including ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” and the “TODAY” show where they challenged and beat the show anchors in a full-court press match on Rockefeller Plaza. The Celadrin Tigerettes were a unique and original influencer choice that spoke directly to the target audience of Celadrin, by showing how Celadrin worked to improve their performance and quality of life in every media opportunity.

Anyone can potentially be a great influencer for your brand, but being strategic with your spokesperson can be critical to the success of your campaign.

Listen to the interview Amy Summers did with Natural Products Insider's Sandy Almendarez for SupplySide East. Then join her "Syncing public relations and marketing through a pandemic" webinar from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Tuesday, July 14.

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