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Theory: Boomers in PR don’t trust influencers or influencer culture

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I have a theory I want to test with you today: I think there’s a segment of our industry that completely detests–and doesn’t trust–the current influencer culture.

Note I said “segment of our industry”–I think this is a generational issue.

More clearly stated: I think most people under, say, the age of 40 get that influencers can and in many cases, should, be an important part of a company’s PR and marketing strategy. But, those over 40 (and especially those over 50), not so much. In fact, I would suggest many of these folks continue to think that influencer culture is a joke.

Before you dismiss that theory, let’s take a look at a few stats.

First, PR Week and Cision recently released their 2020 Comms Report which shared the following stats:

  • When asked how much of your current engagement efforts are focused on mainstream media vs. influencers, 74% of respondents said mainstream media and just 26% said influencers.
  • When asked which group had the single biggest impact on consumer behavior, 26% said mainstream media while just 6% said bloggers and 6% said micro-influencers.

So, judging from these stats, clearly PRs are putting much more emphasis on mainstream media vs. influencers in 2020. It’s not even remotely close.

OK, so PRs focusing on mainstream media. Let’s look closer at that current environment. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, only 49% of the American public trust the mainstream media in 2020. Less than half!

According to Pew, U.S. newspapers have shed HALF their newsroom employees since 2008. And, we’re seeing more community and local newspapers close shop every day. Locally, here in Minnesota, we’ve seen a number of community newspapers close just this year. And, if you’ve read the St. Paul Pioneer Press recently, you can see that newspaper is on its last legs.

Judging from these stats, we can safely say the media is getting smaller and there’s less trust in it than there was a number of years ago (sadly).

Meanwhile, on the influencer side, these are the stats we see:

  • 37% of consumers ages 35-44 have been influenced to purchase a product or service on TikTok
  • 27% of consumers have been influenced to purchase a product or service on YouTube
  • 24% of consumers have been influenced to purchase a product or service on Instagram

Keep in mind, these are stats showing PURCHASE DECISIONS influenced by influencers. When was the last time you saw stats around purchase decisions based on media placements?

This is what’s not adding up to me.

Influencer stats we see say they’re impacting actual revenue. They’re making a difference. Big time. Meanwhile, media relations efforts are tough to track–and have been for years. Trust in the media is almost at an all-time low. And, the mainstream media landscape is shrinking by the day (while the influencer landscape is bursting at the seams).

Yet, many more PR folks seem to put a lot more stock in mainstream media efforts vs. influencer marketing.

Does that make sense to you?

The only thing I can come up with as to why this is happening: The Boomers (who still control the purse strings) are relying on what they know–mainstream media relations.

They still trust the media. They know how the media works. It’s what they’ve known for 30+ years.

Meanwhile, influencer marketing is uncertain. They (largely) don’t know how it works. They rely on younger teammates for direction. And, they are probably reticent to sink budget into something they know little, or nothing, about.

Hence, the theory.

Does it check out? What do you think? In particular, I’d love to hear from some Boomers on if this tracks. Keep in mind, I’m not saying all this to take shots at Boomers. I have my doubts about the influencer culture as well, and I specialize in social media marketing! I’m merely making an observation–and I’d love to hear other perspectives.

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Theory: Boomers in PR don’t trust influencers or influencer culture

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