The Importance of Influencers in Luxury Brand Marketing

For those of us not familiar with Issa PR, please tell us a little more about your agency and background.

Issa PR ( is a luxury brand strategy and public relations agency founded 18 months ago, as marketing to prestige brands is profoundly different from traditional CPG or consumer brands. At the agency, we deliver unparalleled strategy and creativity for all the clients and campaigns we’ve worked on. From Absolut’s luxury vodka, Elyx, DAVIDOFF Cool Water with Scott Eastwood andNational Geographic, Vogue Italia, and Def Jam Records to smaller companies and artists, such as Out There, a creative agency who works with Ferragamo, Zegna and Michael Kors; and Jonathan Rosen, a conceptual artist who launched an exhibit at Colette in Paris last year.

As part of our commitment to philanthropy, Issa PR also handles one pro bono client ever year. Last year we represented START – an NGO that helps orphans displaced by the war in Lebanon, Syria,Palestine, Jordan and the UAE. This year, we collaborated with Many Hopes – a non-profit who rescue children in Africa from poverty and prostitution – on their annual gala to raise money to build a school for 900 children in Kenya. Prior to setting up the agency, I was an SVP at Edelman, the largest international independent PR firm in the world overseeing luxury and lifestyle brands, such as Tiffany & Co., Maserati, Bowers & Wilkins, Heineken, Volkswagen, Hakkasan, The EDITION Hotel and Empire State Building.

You work with a lot of influencers on campaigns for clients, to reach micro-audiences and engage them in the most compelling way possible. What type of influencers do you typically work with? (social media influencers, bloggers, youtube stars)

We typically work with a range of influencers from celebrities – actors, musicians, fashion designersand artists – through to notables within relevant industries. Creating campaigns that are unique, unexpected and disruptive are often the most memorable, and can be the most successful in an oversaturated and fiercely competitive market. Digital influencers, which include social media influencers on Instagram, bloggers and vloggers continue to grow, and have an important role in the marketing mix. With million+ followers and persuasive influence on trends, social influencers are becoming more and more prevalent.

What are your main methods for finding influencers – social media, vloggers, or bloggers?

Finding influencers can be organic via word-of-mouth, reputation and notoriety. Established institutions and media outlets also recognize powerful influencers in sector-specific features and analysis. Being a voracious consumer of media and trends can also help to identify influencers. An important consideration for social influencers should be looking at second tier powerhouses with hundreds of thousands of followers. These groups are arguably more pivotal in forging a relationship with brands, as they are the influencers of tomorrow.

Is there a certain threshold of followers or fans an influencer needs to have for you to reach out directly to them?

Influencers we work with usually have hundreds of thousands of followers. However, smaller influencers who may have prominence within relative sectors can start from 50K+ to 100K. There are a huge number of influencers brands can partner with, so those who have more compelling content, a unique POV or vision is always more appealing and may drive greater success.

What is your take on “Influencer Marketing Platforms” like Instabrand, Famebit, LittleBird, Tapinfluence, Revfluence, etc?

The number of influencer marketing platforms has increased exponentially in recent years due to the evolving media landscape – traditional print publications have contracted and shuttered combined with the move towards 24 hour journalism and consumer-generated content. All of these platforms provide paid for influencers on social media and within digital communities. However, their uses can be limited. While they are a quick solution in providing a direct plug for a brand, it’s more difficult to createcustom campaigns where bespoke messaging and compelling content can be more effective. Their reporting can also be limited about the quality of influencers – they only measure following. Instabrand created Dynamic Network Analytics to review engagement before and after a post. Tapinfluence boasts 25,000 registered influencers and “strong” ROI while Little Bird had a stream of early investors when it first launched, including Mark Cuban and others who believed in the business model.

What is typically involved in Brand Strategy? Could you share more on how PR works when it comes to publishers, or news outlets?

Brand strategy can include defining or deconstructing a brand – looking at what comprises their heritage and DNA through to what is essential to brand architecture, and how this disseminates to audiences. Traditional agencies collaborate with media outlets to create stories for brands and campaigns. Forging close relationships are critical to achieve this, as well as developing breakthrough programs for clients in order to create news. Issa PR also helps to revitalize and re-energize brands, who have a long legacy but have lost their relevance and connection with audiences. Whether brands are targeting consumers, influencers, advocates or NGOs, understanding a brand and helping to develop a path to success is paramount today.

How do you track the success of PR or influencer campaigns? Is it just number of views, likes, comments, or direct purchases tracked from a unique link? Are there other success metrics that you’ve used for clients?

KPIs and metrics are critical to define the success of a campaign. In PR, agencies typically measure results through media impressions, AVE (advertising equivalent cost) and message/branding pull-through. Increase in sales through specific URLs, coupons and code(s) certainly help to track uplift in sales related to a campaign. For social media, tangible ways to measure success can include views, likes, comments, overall engagement, as well as increased followers.

These days we see the blending of PR and advertising with the advent of native advertising – things like branded content, and sponsored posts. Has this type of promoted content become a significant part of your strategy?

While native advertising has certainly increased over recent years, it has not become a significant part of our PR strategy. Clients still prefer editorial coverage, which may work alongside advertising to provide a holistic 360 campaign. Consumers are extremely well informed and autonomous in making purchasing decisions today, so they also understand when content is paid for. Relying on this mechanic to drive campaigns should not be considered in isolation.

What is your biggest challenge in running a PR and influencer agency? 

Spearheading a new agency will always have challenges. Issa PR grew exponentially in the first year doubling team members and clients within six months of operation. Every client approached us through word-of-mouth and recommendation, which is unheard of for an agency representing 10+ clients, including some of the biggest brands in the world. Scaling the company and building new offices internationally is the current focus. We’re excited to open the London office this year, and continue to work on global and multi-market campaigns.

What would you consider non-traditional PR? What are some of the most interesting, well-executed PR stunts you’ve seen during your 10 years at Edelman, or throughout your PR career?

Non-traditional PR includes experiences and activations beyond pitching traditional media. They may include but not be limited to guerrilla marketing, unexpected strategic collaborations, stunts, dynamic events and compelling content creation. Some of the most engaging or disruptive campaigns over the past few years include Calvin Klein’s augmented reality campaign for the launch of X – long before others utilized AR technology through to Lexus’ “Darker Side of Green” campaign, which combined clever content – an interactive film noir short starring Norman Reedus with a series of influencer and consumer events, including a climate talk. Red Bull always does great stunts – space free fall diving in “Stratos” was pioneering.

Lastly, what is your take on the future of PR / Strategy / Influencer Agencies?

There’s a clear nexus between luxury brands and philanthropy that we continue to see. Brands and organizations are becoming socially conscious, which may be personified through philanthropy, sustainability to general corporate social responsibility. Agencies across each industry – particularly advertising, PR, content and digital – will concurrently grow and fracture creating new opportunitiesfor others. Partnerships will be key to deliver best-in-class thinking and execution for clients. Finallyinfluencer engagement will continue to grow with the advent and power of social media, so understanding the landscape will be critical for success.

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