When consumers look for the latest in food policy news, information on how to decipher nutritional labels and food packaging, or details on a food recall, they turn to the Internet. With growing concerns about “healthwashing,” (like greenwashing, but for health and nutrition) consumers are more likely to search for information or look to their peers and trusted experts, rather than simply visiting a company’s website for education. For food brands to reach online audiences, consider the sources consumers trust most – bloggers who have established expertise in health and nutrition. However, before outreach, brands should be aware that these experts are as wary of food marketing and PR gimmicks as their readers are. This means brands should be approaching partnerships with full transparency, a readiness to answer technical questions, and offer in-depth information and an openness to collaborate in creating dynamic content.
Here are some best practices when engaging with influencers in the food policy community:
Know who’s coming to dinner:
As with most issue-focused influencers, the top food policy bloggers are experts in their field and know the issues inside and out. In developing relationships with them, do your research and select influencers with whom you can give exclusive and advanced access to products and programs before they are launched. Give influencers an opportunity to create more in-depth and informative posts. This will also provide the brand with insights from a powerful stakeholder group that may prove useful before an official launch.
Whip up content:
By partnering with experts for co-creation of content – including recipes or nutrition guides – bloggers have more control over how their name and associated credibility are being used. This also invests them in the collaboration and, ultimately, the brand, issue or product. As a result, the co-created content pieces are more likely to be broadly shared by other bloggers and readers since they were created by their peers.
Season with interactive content:
Creating interactive content – such as smart phone apps and interactive infographics that help consumers make healthy choices – that can be easily shared by consumers on a variety of platforms will give bloggers more to discuss than what can be said in a press release or email. Such dynamic content will provide visitors with a way to engage with you as you share your message and policy goals.
Mix in third parties:
Leveraging existing partnerships with reputable offline organizations by using them in online engagement programs will lend credibility to your programs, and help consumers understand and trust your message. This can include by-lined or co-authored articles on sites such as The Huffington Post, guest posts on your company blog, or working with the third party organization to have it be a source for media interviews.
Serve up information and experts:
Because most issue-focused bloggers are well versed – and often experts – in their subject area, they will not be interested in basic press releases and pre-approved responses to frequently asked questions. Rather, they will want to be able to ask technical questions of third party partners and experts within the company who can speak confidently about your programs and initiatives.
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