The use of influencers to boost marketing campaigns' visibility has grown wildly popular in recent years, but according to a recent survey of journalists and in-house brand communicators released by D S Simon Media, the press doesn’t appear to be nearly as enthusiastic about the practice.

In fact, despite hundreds of millions being spent annually by agencies on external spokespersons such as actors, artists, athletes and social media stars, D S Simon Media’s Brand Authenticity Survey suggests that leveraging third-party spokespersons may not be nearly as effective when it comes to gaining earned media opportunities or crafting an authentic message as a brand’s own in-house leaders.

An overwhelming majority of those polled for the survey — 82 percent — said they believe outside spokespersons are the least authentic representatives for a product or service, rating less effective than either paid or unpaid product users.

The same principle holds for non-profits, with 87 percent of respondents claiming they find third-party spokespersons to be the least authentic representatives for charitable causes.

DS Simon Brand Survey

Instead, the survey suggests that a company’s in-house leaders or experts are far more effective at enhancing a brand’s reputation and credibility, as well as gaining earned media opportunities with the press.

84 percent of journalists polled said they prefer a brand’s in-house spokesperson to be available for interview opportunities as opposed to paid third-parties. And in the non-profit realm, that figure was even higher, at 90 percent.

Nearly three quarters — 74 percent — of journalists polled also said making a CEO available for media comment especially makes a brand appear to be more authentic.

Finally, when asked where journalists get their ideas for stories, 82 percent cited social media, potentially underscoring an urgency for companies to provide leadership a platform and presence on social platforms.

Speaking on the study’s findings, D S Simon Media CEO and president Doug Simon told O’Dwyer’s that “If you believe authenticity drives your organization’s goals, you need to be focusing on turning your leaders and experts into influencers by featuring them in campaigns that earn media.”

DS Simon Media’s Brand Authenticity Survey 2017 was conducted throughout the summer of 2017 by online survey company Survey Monkey. It polled more than 200 journalists, including magazine and newspaper reporters, bloggers and TV and radio station producers, as well as more than 200 brand communicators.