DS Simon Media launches division to turn internal spokespeople into influencers

NEW YORK: DS Simon Media wants to turn organizations’ leaders and experts into influencers. That’s the aim of the firm’s influencer marketing division, which launches this week.

The inspiration for the division comes from the firm's recent Brand Video Communications Report, which surveyed hundreds of agency communicators and in-house PR people about today’s challenges to earn media.

The majority of respondents agreed that internal spokespeople outperform third-party experts in helping to earn media. Seventy-four percent of agency communicators were satisfied or more with their client’s in-house spokesperson. In-house communicators were more than twice as likely to be satisfied (84% to 37%) when using their own expert and more than four times as likely to be very satisfied.

Doug Simon, DS Simon Media’s CEO, explained that having paid influencers speak for a brand on TV lacks authenticity and is filled with challenges and peril.

"We have been pushing clients to have more authenticity and clearly having your own person [as an influencer] is more authentic than if you partner with someone else," he said. "Paying outsiders to rep your brand has pitfalls and concerns — clearly they don’t have the depth of knowledge about certain topics, so if they are asked something off the planned questions, they are less likely to be prepared."

Rather than putting outside experts and influencers in a position to rep a brand, DS Simon Media’s new division puts those same people in the role of a media person who can interact with a brand’s in-house experts via video.

Influencer media tours are one common approach brands use to promote a product or message. In this case, Simon said, the anchor on a morning news show is, in effect, an influencer.

"People tune in to watch them and care what they say," he said.

DS Simon Media’s approach is to get social media influencers to take on the role of a media person, interacting with in-house experts who represent nonprofits or brands.

"Influencers are actually asking questions or aligning with someone in the audience who would want to learn more, as opposed to just saying, ‘Hey, I used this product and I loved it,’" said Simon. "They will be able to talk about stuff of interest that they can share with their audience as the conduit. I think that is more powerful."

By acting as media, the influencers with whom DS Simon Media connects clients will help amplify their internal spokesperson’s profile and by association build their brand.

This new division relies on video to raise the profile of an organization’s leadership to accomplish business objectives. Service offerings in the space include influencer media tours, influencer media packages, creating an influencer video series, and influencer junkets.

The DS Simon Media team heading the division includes Eric Wright, SVP; Sarah Katz, VP; Mike Bako, director, media and content strategy; and Drew Penkala, YouTube influencer.

The division has established key partnerships and joint marketing initiatives with financial news portal and investor community equities.com, consumer influencer marketing platform House Party, online advertising leader Looksmart, and Cat Schwartz and The DGTL Advisors, which has an influencer network sharing content through Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat.

"In this time — when there is so much attention focused on spokespeople and leaders and the country is so divided — making sure your people are out there as influencers is so important given that it is such a volatile environment," said Simon, regarding the timing of the division’s launch.