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Engaging Influencers in Global Health Advocacy

By Bernice Morquette

Media advocacy is an important part of successful public health advocacy campaigns. Media can be used to raise awareness about public health challenges and inform stakeholders about evidence-based solutions. The Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s (GHAI’s) Road Safety program provides regular workshops for our partners to share best practices and tips on using media to advance advocacy goals.

Social media has a growing influence on the way and means through which the world communicates. It’s not surprising that those who have been able to rally an impressive following through these platforms – also known as Influencers – have become an integral aspect of communications and public relations outreach.

The term “influencers” cover a diverse group of people: celebrity influencers can bring broad public visibility to an issue, while “micro-influencers” — those with smaller but strategically-important audiences — support communications and advocacy strategies in more targeted ways. Regardless of their reach, an influencer has generally earned the trust of those who follow them on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, putting them in the perfect position to convey an organization’s cause and message. And when conducting advocacy work, what better group to enlist as supporters than influencers who will call on their followers to take action?

In January, we held a workshop for our partners on The Dos and Don’ts of Influencer Management. Alongside advocates from Tanzania’s road safety coalition, GHAI shared top tips and best practices for engaging, sustaining and leveraging these relationships.

Engaging an influencer network

Godwin Assenga, from the road safety advocacy coalition in Tanzania, shared how the group identifies and engages micro-influencers to advance road safety policy change. To do so, Godwin and colleagues used WhatsApp and other social media platforms to support and network with them over time.

He shared some of the coalition’s tactics for engaging their network of influencers:

  • Provide trainings and mentorship opportunities for the influencers to become more familiar and learn more about road safety issues
  • Involve influencers in events and meetings with key government officials and sharing their statements on social channels holding them accountable to the public
  • Create a WhatsApp group to share coalition updates, materials and communications and equip influencers with tools to lead robust conversations on social media.

Managing relationships with influencers

The road safety communications team at the Global Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) followed Godwin’s presentation with a workshop on influencer outreach and management. The team gave an overall look into influencers: who they are, types of influencers, how to leverage them in a communications campaign, as well as the value they bring to any digital outreach.

In addition to a proposed roadmap for building a robust influencer network, road safety advocates left the webinar with some key tips on how to manage their relationships:

  • Know and follow country-specific rules for paid media: Each country has its own set of regulations around using talent for social and corporate causes; familiarize yourself with laws and regulations around advertising and sponsorship at the forefront of any outreach
  • Learn to give up creative control: Organizations must learn to trust that the influencer will share the correct information through their own unique voice
  • Support with data and information: Provide influencers with data and, if possible, check their post before they go live; you’ll want to make sure information is correct, and they will want to avoid any public missteps
  • Measure results: Calculate the impact by asking questions and having baselines for engagement in mind. Are you reaching a broader audience through this type of outreach? Who do you want to reach? How did you reach? What came out of this relationship?
  • Share feedback: Influencers generally sign on to support social causes because they care about them. If they are having an impact, let them know! And if there are ways they can have more of a positive impact, be sure to let them know that, too

As technology evolves, it will continue to impact the ways in which we communicate. The prevalence of social platforms is proof of that. Influencers have been successful in rallying a significant following on these platforms, earning their trust and building their reputation based on knowledge and expertise of a specific topic. As we continue to grow and expand our communications and public relations practices, engaging with this group will present new and exciting opportunities.