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June 27, 2017 // Opinion  //       //  Opinion

How Tapping Authentic Influencers Can Create Impact for Causes

By: Scott Pansky

 “You are a mistake and you should never have been born”

-- Brittani Louise Taylor, 1.3 million YouTube subscribers

As a father of three girls, hearing a statement like this taken from the Ad Council’s “#IAmAWitness” anti-bullying campaign hits me right in the heart. My daughters follow several of the people in the video, which features YouTubers who have been cyberbullied, and it hurts to think my kids might be exposed to online bullying. However, I have come to appreciate the authenticity of the campaign, as it was directly targeted to an audience of 11-17-year-old teens. I don’t know if all my girls were ready to hear the messages, but it came from sources they trusted, created dialogue and empowered them to tackle the issue.

Having served in the social impact space for more than 25 years, I have seen how the industry has evolved from putting a charity logo on a product and calling it cause marketing to developing very strategic and impactful campaigns. Digital influencers like Brittani now drive interaction between brands and the issues they champion, allowing them to reach their target audiences more directly and in a more authentic and powerful way.

The key to the effectiveness of this relationship is authenticity. In Allison+Partners’ latest Influence Impact Report released this week, we note that 60 percent of those who follow digital influencers are more likely to trust information from a digital influencer if that influencer has an authentic connection to the issue. This could mean that they or someone they know have been personally affected by the issue, or that they donate time or money to the organization.

But today’s consumers aren’t waiting for information from brands to be pushed to them, as they are constantly bombarded by marketing, publicity and advertising campaigns. Instead, as we addressed in our inaugural Influence Impact Report, consumers have flipped the old marketing model and pull information from sources that they follow and trust. This is the “magic sauce” and a huge opportunity for brands to identify and select the right influencers to speak directly to their target audiences. The influencer does not have to be a celebrity with a large reach, but someone who connects with audiences in their own voice.

That’s what made the #IAmAWitness campaign so powerful. By featuring influencers like Brittani that had been cyberbullied and had an authentic connection to a large audience of teens, the campaign generated more than 30 million video views and won a 2016 Cannes Lions Award, among several other accolades.  

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share more insights from our “Powerful Connections: How Influence, Empathy and Engagement Have Transformed Cause in the Digital Era.”

Scott Pansky is a co-founder and partner at Allison+Partners, who leads the agency’s Social Impact group.

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