3 Influencer Marketing Rules of Thumb for Trusted Messenger Strategies

3 Influencer Marketing Rules of Thumb for Trusted Messenger Strategies

By Mary Aviles and Mobolaji Ayeni

For those of us working on the 2020 Census, the primary challenge is not new: a complete and accurate count is vital for communities. Yet, historically, some populations go undercounted. For example, in 2010, only 64 percent of Detroiters completed their census, amounting to 220,000 uncounted residents. According to the City of Detroit, for this census, each uncounted resident represents $40,000 in lost federal funding for essential programs like Medicaid, education grants, Section 8 housing, food assistance, and more. US Census Bureau research finds that when people understand what the census is, how information is used, and how they can get counted, it translates into higher participation. Census Bureau research also shows that messages about personal agency and the role of census in providing funding for community services, like roads, safety services, hospitals, and schools are most effective.

However, many communities lack trust in the government and fear repercussion associated with completing their census forms. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, only 40 percent of respondents trust the government, and only one in five believe the system is working for them. Black or African American, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, Middle Eastern or North African, Hispanic/Latinx, and Chinese respondents ALL cited fear of repercussion as a top reason NOT to respond to the census. And, unsurprisingly, the specifics among these populations are nuanced. As a result, the primary strategy for addressing these nuances is to rely on trusted messengers. A trusted messenger is a respected community member who has established relationships or platforms from which they can reach otherwise hard-to-reach people.

In fact, a trusted messenger strategy can be useful in many circumstances challenged by systemic distrust. Kristin Lord posits that,“Trust builds when people feel they are part of a community- or society-wide enterprise that takes their concerns and voices into account — particularly in circumstances where trust is low.” Influencer marketing is a term typically utilized in the for-profit sector, but while attending a Complete Count Committee convening in Wayne County, it occurred to us that trusted messengers are influencers. Thus, the following influencer rules of thumb can also apply to trusted messenger strategies—in census outreach, and beyond: 

  1. Influencers are a key component of message dissemination and can help optimize campaigns. They are closer to the stakeholder and are able to make adjustments to message content, delivery, or format on a case-by-case basis.

  2. They understand their community members best. They can share these valuable, deep insights to refine messaging, approach, tone, voice, etc.

  3. Authenticity matters and this is accomplished via genuine interactions, stakeholder familiarity, and repeat, consistent messaging. Successful influencers already have access to a platform and, with flexibility, can personalize content delivery—making it their own.

We are applying these learnings to our census work and equipping trusted messengers with influencer-quality tools and support, like the Census Bureau’s 2020 Predictive Models and Audience Segmentation study. Another example is a tactic from the Be Counted Detroit 2020 campaign which includes identifying and recording area messengers and sharing their videos via YouTube and Facebook for Neighborhood Ambassadors and others to use in mobilizing their communities.

Notably, when influencer marketing fails it’s often because of a lack of authenticity or the lack of a reciprocal relationship with the influencer. Partners dictate to instead of collaborate with influencers. The American Marketing Association shared research that found that, “influencers are self-admittedly bashful about sharing their unsolicited opinions,” which suggests that there is an opportunity to specifically build in time to collect and synthesize influencer insights into campaign timelines and project plans. This also suggests a need to operationalize informal relationships among your most connected messengers, as this is often associated with improved outcomes. Like the stakeholders they represent, trusted messengers need to feel heard, see demonstrated results, and know there is a real commitment to their needs and to their communities.

For more information about how we can help you mobilize your trusted messengers and jumpstart change in your work, contact us.

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