Setting Up Your Influencer Marketing for Success, with Colleen Onuffer

Episode 119

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Colleen Onuffer is a consultant at Break the Ice Media and vital part of the team. She uses her passion for writing and storytelling in her role here to make a big impact for her clients. Since her start in 2016, Colleen has helped her clients find their essential stories and develop targeted messages. Colleen enjoys making new travel media contacts by participating in travel shows, like Discover America Day and I Love New York Media Marketplace. She loves exploring travel trends by attending conferences likes the one provided by the New York State Tourism Industry Association. This episode of Destination on the Left is a team cast, in which I talk with Colleen about influencer marketing. What is it, and how can you best use it to bring more visitors to your destination? Colleen has literally written the book on this, working with the Break the Ice team on a new ebook on the subject.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why working with an influencer is different from working with a traditional travel journalist
  • How to understand and set expectations for an influencer you work with
  • Why the number of followers is not the best metric to use in deciding which influencer to work with
  • How to find the right influencer “match” for your destination
  • How influencers can help you reach a new or underserved market for your destination

Is Your Destination Right for Influencer Marketing?

Working with influencers may or may not be a fit for every destination. But it can be an incredibly powerful way of making a big impact through the social media pull of that influencer. Colleen and I talk about how to vet influencers to match the audience you are trying to reach. Who is their audience? What is the level of engagement they receive? If they post content and don’t get much response, they might not deliver the bang your buck that you are looking for. Understand that sometimes an influencer will come to a destination for the comped travel package alone, but some will be looking for financial compensation. This is how they earn a living, after all. Be ready to know your own budget for the project and be willing to discuss the deliverables you expect for an agreed-on price.

Working With An Influencer

Influencers are looking for a different experience than a traditional travel journalist. Understanding each other’s expectations will make the experience a benefit to you both. For most influencers, capturing great images is the key, so itineraries tend to be more fluid. They need time to get a shot of a gorge or a sunset, or whatever they find interesting about your destination. To make the most of the opportunity, make sure to supply them with hashtags and links to deals or resources that point the influencer’s followers back to your destination. The impact could be felt months or even years after the influencer has come and gone. Being able to track who expressed interest and who actually booked a visit will help you measure the success of your influencer marketing projects.


Nicole Mahoney: 00:18 Hello listeners, I’m Nicole Mahoney, host of destination on the left. Today’s podcast is a little different from a regular episodes. Today we are talking to one of the break the ice media team members and another team cast episode. I am excited to introduce Colleen, who was one of the authors of our recent ebook that was just published on influencer marketing in the ebook. Our team takes you into the nitty gritty of influencer marketing, sharing all of the tools that we use to find that pitch, manage and measure influencers. Today’s episode, we’ll provide you with some of those tools and I encourage you to visit, break the ice forward slash influencers to download the full ebook. First, let me introduce Colleen. Colleen uses her passion for writing and storytelling and her role as a consultant at break the ice media. Since her start in 2016 Colleen has helped her clients find their essential stories and develop targeted messages.

Nicole Mahoney: 01:18 Kelly and devotes her time to collaborative campaigns, utilizing travel public relations to attract Canadian visitors to the u s and drafting engaging content to encourage visitation along a year long on it. History, tourism trail. Colleen enjoys making new travel media contacts by participating in discover America Day. And I love New York media marketplace and can’t get enough of travel trends from conferences provided by the New York State Tourism Industry Association. Kaleen brings with her demonstrated successes and proactive media relations, travel, public relations, content development and crafting strategic marketing plans. Her enthusiasm, attention to detail and commitment to exceeding stakeholder expectations are reflected in her work. And then the results she drives for her clients. As a progressive professional committed to learning, Colleen and joy’s attending educational and professional development opportunities, especially prs A’s annual travel and tourism conference locally in Rochester, New York. Kaleen sits on the board of the PRS, say Rochester chapter as secretary and chairs.

Nicole Mahoney: 02:25 It’s communication committee. Eileen, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m looking forward to, uh, sharing your knowledge about influencer marketing with our audience. Thank you for having me. But we’re going to dive right into these questions. As I mentioned earlier, uh, the team here at break the ice media, he has written a book all about influencer marketing. And with today’s episode, I’d really like to kind of hone in on a couple of the key points. Of course, our listeners can always go download that ebook for more information, but I know you’re going to have a to share today. So

Colleen Onuffer: 03:00 listeners, get your pencil and paper ready. And we’re going to start with our very first question for Kaleen, which is what makes an influencer, how are they different from, you know, traditional media that you might work with and why would you want to work with them? So one of the key things about an influencer is that they have a loyal social media following. So these people follow influencers and trust their opinion. They’ll take action as a result of what the influencer posts. So an influencer can influence your potential customers and build awareness around your destination. Um, encourage them to come visit your destination and, and get them excited. You want to work with them because they can show off your destination to perhaps an audience that you’re not already attracting through traditional media or through any advertisements. This, this opens up your destination to a new audience and you do it in a unique way, a very visual way, um, through photographs and videos.

Colleen Onuffer: 04:09 And you get it from that first person point of view, which makes it different than a traditional writer who’s writing on behalf of a publication and showing it from the publications point of view. Yeah, I think that that’s a, that’s a really great point. So when you’re talking about working with the influencers, you’re talking about reaching their audience and really them talking about what they’re doing in the first person versus, um, you know, maybe maybe being a journalist who’s on a, on an assignment. Is that right? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think that’s great. And so how can you determine if I’m working with influencers is right for you? Well, there are a few things that you should look at. One being your budget, whether the influencer wants to be paid or not, you still will be providing a hosted trip. So you need to know if that’s within your budget.

Colleen Onuffer: 05:02 You also need to understand your own capacity. Do you have the time and resources or does your office have the time and resource to escort them around? We’ll the influencer need to drive themselves around and show themselves around are they allowed to bring a friend or photographer or another influencer with them? Those are all questions you need to ask ahead of time. And then when the big things that you need to focus on is your assets. So your partners, are they active on social media? Do they understand when influenced her? Is Do you have photographic assets to show off? You know, if you are known for a lot of great museums that don’t even allow photography, well then maybe an influencer is not right for you. Um, so you want to determine if your destination can first host an influencer and an influencer and able to provide all those different angles and shots and views that an influencer wants to show off on their social media channels.

Nicole Mahoney 06:06 That’s great. So those are really good points. So you’re, you’re wanting to understand your budget and even if you’re not paying the influencer, are you still have to take into account the cost of hosting them and the overnights and perhaps their travel? Correct? Correct. Yeah. And then I love this whole idea about your capacity because, um, you know, we might want to, to host and an influencer, but it takes time. And to really be successful, you need to have that time to be able to invest. And then finally those assets, making sure that you have those, um, picture, ask and picture worthy, uh, assets available, um, for the, for the influencer. So, so let’s say that you’ve taken into consideration those, uh, those things and you decided, yes, we do have some really great assets that we want to show off to an influence or how do we find the right one? So first you want to

Colleen Onuffer: 07:00 decide how big of an influence or are you looking for? What target audience are you looking for? So different influencers, we’ll focus on different things and therefore have different audiences. Are you looking for outdoor adventure? Are you looking for foodies? You know, who do you want to work with and what assets do you want to show off?

Nicole Mahoney 07:20 And once you kind of narrow that down,

Colleen Onuffer: 07:22 you want to start vetting some influencers. So focusing on what their tone is, how to they show off different destinations on different channels, including their blog if they have a blog as well. Um, does that tone align with your destination’s town? If they are kind of silly and goofy and your destinations more formal than it might not be a good match, you also want to pay attention to what their photos look like. How do they show off that destination to the use? Any filters, how, how do they edit their photos?

Nicole Mahoney: 07:59 What is their aesthetic

Colleen Onuffer: 08:01 and does that align again with your destination? And one thing that you should check out is how many followers they have. Just because they have a whole lot of followers does not necessarily mean

Nicole Mahoney: 08:13 that

Colleen Onuffer: 08:14 they’re the best influencer for you. It’s, it’s not all about the numbers, but you do want to know how many people are following them. And again, going back to is that your target audience and how many of those followers are actually engaging with the content. It’s one thing to have a lot of followers, but if none of them are liking, commenting, sharing, then it’s not that big of a deal. It won’t help you get that message across.

Nicole Mahoney: 08:39 Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s a really good point because a lot of, a lot of times folks might go just right to that follower number, right. To make that determination. And a lot more goes into it than just the followers. And especially if those followers, um, we’re, you know, purchase, there aren’t actually true followers of, of that, um, social influencer, is that right? Correct.

Colleen Onuffer: 09:05 And as I mentioned, it’s not just the number. There are great micro influencers, so they have a small following. But that following is very engaged and trust them and we’ll purchase things that the influencer talks about or we’ll take these trips to places. So definitely don’t discount a small following. It really matters on that engagement and if that’s the audience you want to speak with.

Nicole Mahoney 09:29 Absolutely. So I know a lot of folks, um, ask me the question quite often actually, how much do you have to pay an influencer and, um, are there influencers that you could get without paying them? So can you talk a little bit about how that works?

Colleen Onuffer: 09:48 And that is always the question. And I want to start by saying, if an influencer wants to get paid, it’s not an automatic red flag. Like this is what they do for a living. So it’s a, it’s a common question and you just need to be prepared to answer it when it does arise. So first you want to look at if they are a fit. MMM. Again, going back to their tone, voice, a static, the quality of their work, is it right for you? Um, if the answer is yes, then we can keep going. Otherwise, you might want to take a step back and think if hosting an influencer in general is even right for your destination right now. Yeah. Then you want to look through what are those costs involved. So most of the time you will be hosting them. That means covering their transportation accommodations, food entry fees, and to different attractions.

Colleen Onuffer: 10:41 Um, and that may also depend if they are traveling with a photographer, mmm. Spouse, children. And that’s where you have to figure out are you willing to also cover it for other people who are coming? Yeah. And then you want to see what are they looking to provide for that compensation. So Do they have specific deliverables? Instagram posts, stories, a certain number of Facebook posts, certain number of blogs, will they use your Hashtag? Um, and then you have to decide what can your destination of Ford, so taking into account all those different fees and costs, figure out it works with your budget. And if it doesn’t be very straightforward with them right away and say that you might not have that kind of budget to host them, but figure out how you can work together, be very transparent with it and figure out what is the minimum that they need you to cover.

Colleen Onuffer: 11:43 Sometimes they’ll meet you halfway or they’ll offer a package deal of providing coverage for four days for the cost of only three days. So they’ll really work with you and figure out if you think that relationship could be maybe a longterm thing. Perhaps you bring them in now for just a hosted trip, but later down the road you want them to come in and write an ebook on hiking trails from a first person perspective and maybe that you’ll pay them for it. So it really is just figuring out what works for you now and how you guys can work together in the future and you know what you want to determine for your destination, what you’re looking to get out of it. Yeah, I think those are really great points and you don’t always have to pay. Correct. Sometimes they’ll come just for the trip, the costs of the trip alone, right?

Colleen Onuffer: 12:36 Absolutely. Sometimes they’ll come just for the hosted trip and then you will get the posts that they post about you. And other times it is a paid opportunity. Okay, that’s great. And so now we’ve kind of determined, you know, which influencer we’re working with, we’ve negotiated how they’re getting paid, whether it’s just for the trip costs or there is a fee associated. Um, the next step I imagine would be building an itinerary. Where does one start when they’re thinking about building an itinerary? Because I know it’s different than when you build an itinerary for a travel journalist. Correct? Correct. It’s, it’s pretty different. It begins by thinking through visuals. So as I mentioned earlier, you want to show off the photographic, photogenic places of your destination. So you want to think through what are the different assets that they can show off that might be colorful or have quirky wallpapers.

Colleen Onuffer: 13:37 Something that really lends itself to good photography. Think through places that have good lighting, good angles, and things that really speak to the influencer. So understanding what their interests are and what they will want to show off to their followers. And then throughout every step of the process, be sure you’re touching base with them and you’re providing options. So come up with a few different places that you want them to visit. Talks through these different options with the influencer. Give them an idea of what they’ll see there, what the setting will be like, what time of day they’re visiting so they understand what kind of lighting they’ll get and understand if this fits with their vision from the moment that they decide to visit your destination to the time they arrive. They have already started thinking through different stories they want to tell through their photos, different angles they want to cover.

Colleen Onuffer: 14:37 So each step of the way, check in that you guys are on the same page. Give them the ideas, let them pick which options will work best for them and which ones they think their followers will like as well. And then start mapping out the itinerary. And unlike a traditional travel journalists itinerary, you want this to be pretty loose. So you want extra timing in between stops because it’s pretty common for them to be driving from stop to stop and noticing something on the way and stopping and getting pictures or catching a sunset that they just saw on their way to the next stop. Um, and perhaps skip timing altogether if your partners can let that happen. If you can work something out, just skip the timing so that the influencer can come when they’re ready. When they’re available, some stops, they may take more time than they expected, mostly more time.

Colleen Onuffer: 15:36 I was going to say sometimes they might take less time, but it’s usually more time because they were finding all those cool quirks and angles and finding something new around every turn and they just want to capture photos of everything. Um, so try and skip the timing. And then the one thing that I highly recommend is making sure that you share any relevant hashtags and social links in the itinerary that makes it so easy for them to take their photos and posts them sometimes in real time knowing that they have all the hashtags, they know who to tag, they can easily get it up on social. Absolutely. It seems to me like that is going to be a very important ingredient of this itinerary. Absolutely. Right. So let’s say that we’ve hosted, you know, we’ve done our itinerary, we’ve hosted a, the influencer and they’ve, you know, they’ve provided whatever it was that they promised, whether it was Instagram posts or blog posts or what have you.

Colleen Onuffer: 16:36 Um, how do you measure the value of the influencer in their posts? So you want to start by looking at their stats. I’m looking through their number of followers, understanding that that is the potential reach the number of people who may have seen their content. Then you want to look through how many likes, comments, shares that a posts received. If they have a snapchat or Instagram story, that’ll be a little tougher to track because that does disappear after 24 hours. So you may have to reach out to the influencer and ask for that number afterwards and find out from them any other engagement that their stories may have received or any comments or shares of their blog that you may not have already kept track of. But then there are other ways to understand, um, if anyone takes action as a result of an influencer’s posts.

Colleen Onuffer: 17:37 So you can provide a unique link for an influencer to include in their posts. And that link can lead to perhaps a page on your website, a brochure request, or even a specific landing page you created specifically for that influencer. That’ll show you how many people follow the link and looked up information about your destination based on the influencers post. Another way you can track is through creating a code, a unique code that the influencer shares with his followers that gives them a specific product. Discounts. Pass this to an attraction deal on an overnight accommodation, even a newsletter sign up. You can see how many people reading that code and know that that number of people saw the post. And then lastly, you can create a package that is promoted only by this influencer and throw in some passes to an attraction, maybe an overnight at a nearby hotel, and ask the influencer to mention this package and explain to visitors how they can read at.

Colleen Onuffer: 18:50 And that’s one way they, you can see not only how many people looked up information, you can then keep track how many people actually came and stayed at your destination because of an influencers post. And these are all really good things that you can track for weeks, maybe even months afterwards. But when the cool things about influencers is that their impact is far beyond weeks and months after it. But that, yeah, we know the influencers like to share throwback posts of a trip months later, even sometimes years later or reshare an evergreen blog that every fall they share to their followers. Um, actually one of our colleagues just told us about a restaurant that she saw on a TV show. Yeah. That was a rerun from four years prior and she was in New York City and went to this restaurant because she finally was a New York City and had the time to go and see it.

Colleen Onuffer: 19:53 Okay. Even though she saw the episode four years previously. So that I like to keep in mind that just because an influence or came and went, not all their followers are going to be able to get up and go to that destination right away. But we put things on our bucket lists or even are Pinterest boards of places we want to go in the future and when we finally have the time or resources to go, that’s when we refer back to it. So people may be following an influencer for years and taking action years after an influencer has been to your destination. So it’s more a long term gain.

Nicole Mahoney: 20:34 That’s a, that’s a really great perspective and, and I’m glad that you shared that because you know, there are all these ways that we want to measure and report and of course we have, you know, stake holders and people that we need to a report to that need those early numbers.

Colleen Onuffer: 20:48 But this whole idea that this content could be evergreen are everlasting and have impact, um, for months or even years to come. I said I think is a really great point. Um, so Colleen, you gave us some really great highlights, uh, out of, out of the book, which I know you and the team worked so hard on him and put a lot of detail into and our listeners can certainly go to our website and download that ebook and get even more information. Um, but before we kind of say goodbye here and wrap up, um, I, I’d like you to just quickly talk a little bit about the types of clients that you have been working with and bringing influencers in a, you know, for, for their success and to help them with their influencer marketing. Are there any that kind of come to mind that you could share with us?Colleen Onuffer: 21:38 Yeah, so we have a co op public relations programs that we offer to dust destinations, counties, CPAs across upstate New York. And we’ve worked to bring in influencers and let them visit the different destinations. Specifically these are influencers from Canada, um, because that is the target market that we’re going after. Canadian travelers and influencers come and take photos along the way, especially in upstate New York. We have some beautiful scenic roots, so people take some nice drives, take photos along the way, stop at different shops that they see and, and share those out. And most recently we had some writers, we’re also bloggers and um, posted on social media for their channels, but they were posting their first, first person point of view of going fly fishing and, and having a good time that way. So it’s a really cool way to show off a destination, authentic to the, the influencer, the person posting and shows what you, all of us, any of us, um, visitors can experience how you can experience a destination. That’s awesome. I love it. Well, thank you so much for, uh, for joining us today and for giving us a glimpse into influencer marketing. And, um, we will look forward to checking in with you on a future team cast. Sounds great. Thank you for having me.

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