Bianca Caampued may be small in stature but she’s a big force in PR. In fact, the co-founder and creative director of Small Girls PR stands exactly 5 feet tall, but she’s got huge clients like GE, Task Rabbit, and Outdoor Voices. Starting out in 2009 with partner Mallory Blair, Bianca wanted to take a less traditional approach to PR and leverage the burgeoning world of bloggers and influencers. So she created content for her clients’ Tumblr accounts, invited bloggers to do videos or guest posts and threw badass events. Now blogging and brand promotion on social media isn’t just the norm, it’s an absolute necessity — and Bianca is an expert at using it to help businesses gain audience and drive revenue.
I sat down with Bianca to learn how PR has changed since the blogger/influencer revolution, how brands can control their company narrative despite many voices talking about them on social and why dancing is her way to escape the stress of work.
Starting out, you realized that brands were paying magazines for sponsored content that they could just produce themselves and promote on social. Tell me about that eureka moment?
I worked on the advertising and promotions side at a magazine. I quickly realized that the advertorials and sponsored content that publications were creating on behalf of brands were things that brands could create on their own, then share on social. Brands were now able to control the message and medium. We could help come up with the creative campaign ideas and connect them with bloggers (who are our friends). Mallory and I were both very involved in the Tumblr community, and we saw what kind of content our followers were engaging with or what we were interested in ourselves. We approached creating brand content as though the brands were people posting content like us. It helped that we were working with brands that were in-line with our interests as well. We were the demographic that they were trying to reach.
PR has changed dramatically in recent years. Previously, the brand was in control of their own story and owned the narrative. Now you have influencers, employees, customers and others talking about the brand on social. How do you navigate those waters and capitalize on those trends?
It shouldn’t be a one-way street. Giving influencers, employees and customers a voice is extremely important. Outside of Small Girls, I’ve also been working with Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit on his nonprofit Wishart Group. It’s kind of amazing what I’ve learned about how getting access to fans has changed the music industry, since bands can reach their fans directly instead of only relying on labels. I think it’s the same for PR and any brand really. You have direct access to the people you are making your product for. Listen to what they have to say, connect with them and iterate based on what they like.
Because Mallory and I started Small Girls when bloggers were just starting out themselves (and no one was even using the term ‘influencers’), we saw that space grow and brands/agencies/managers jump into the mix. That meant going from earned pitching (where bloggers would post for no compensation because the product or brand was interesting to them), to managing influencer budgets and paid spend for sponsored posts. We have to keep a close ear to the ground on what’s happening in the space to be able to ladder it back to the client and strategize around it — whether it be what the standard rates are, what platforms people are posting to or what kind of influencer content is resonating.
Give us an example of one of your most successful PR campaigns?
We did a New York Fashion Week (NYFW) campaign for TaskRabbit last year, bringing to life the “Instagram Husband” trope and offering it as a service-line for the company. You could book an “Instagram Husband” during NYFW who could take your #OOTD (Outfit of the Day) at the shows, carry your bags for you, run errands, etc. We gifted influencers Instagram Husband taskers who actually needed the help, and could promote it during NYFW. Meanwhile, our press team pitched it out to get coverage on fashion and lifestyle outlets. Because it was actually a service that the brand had made available on the site, there was a direct call to action for people to book, rather than it being a stunt. One of the biggest wins was that TaskRabbit wouldn’t normally be a brand that would target or get fashion and lifestyle press and we were able to creatively come up with a campaign that made them relevant and newsworthy to that industry/market.
How do you convince old school marketers that influencer marketing is the future, not a fad? Do you have a good way of showing ROI?
As mentioned before, influencer marketing has been an ever-changing landscape, and I don’t think that’s going to stop. Technology and social platforms are innovating, as are the people using them. You can literally see the engagement and response in real time, and I do think that brands need to stay on top of what people are responding to. Trackable links are a good way to see the impact of posts and campaigns, but there’s also something to be said about the awareness a brand gets when people are posting about you consistently, regardless of a sale or direct conversion out the gate.
How has the ROI for PR firms changed in the past three to five years? Are things like impressions and brand awareness still as important in the age of influencer marketing?
On the traditional press side, placements are still reported with unique monthly visitors (UMVs), and while impressions are also reported for social posts and digital campaigns, there’s been more and more of an ask to tie back to direct conversion. That’s something that I think is still a hit or miss and can be unpredictable. There have been cases where a blog post might drive more conversion than a major outlet writing about the same thing, or where a player in their industry (like a founder etc.) who has 5,000 followers drives more conversion than a social influencer who has 100,000 followers. Diversity of where you get your message out — both in medium and with individuals — is fundamental.
There was also a really great article in AdWeek about how brands really need to stop chasing engagement and go back to looking at awareness, which is what I meant earlier by saying there’s still something to be said about awareness. Taking that a step further, I believe that brands should think about the awareness they could get by tying themselves to causes and influencers/content creators who have something meaningful to say or who can affect change. We’ve seen a lot of movements rising up given the political landscape, and that is what people are paying attention to. Because it’s important and people care or should care about the things that are impacting their lives. Those influencers who have a voice in those movements (that are also important to a brand and its mission – organic alignment is still important) should be worth investing in. You’re raising awareness for a cause while raising awareness for yourself, and you’re also using those campaign dollars to do something good for the world and help other people. It’s one of the things I’m very passionate about in working with Wishart and Passion Pit. It’s not just about you, it’s about everyone else you are working for. Helping people. *That* is a return on your investment right there.
What’s the best way for brands to celebrate their customers with user-generated content?
Brands should be sharing user-generated content to help round out their posts, so it’s not just in-house material. Social is an opportunity to create conversations rather than just be another advertising platform. People want to see who is using the product and how they’re using it.
Can you give us example of a campaign where one of the end goals was generating content from fans?
Most of our influencer campaigns have that end goal in mind. Across the board we seed product/services and collaborate with influencers who are a natural fit and actual fans/customers of a brand. Our client Tangle Teezer offers customization of their brushes, so fans can share a product that’s truly unique to them, tagging the brand.
Being an entrepreneur comes with extra stress and pressure. How do you disconnect and stay balanced?
Ah, the balance question. Though I’ve been working on this for quite some time, it’s really hard to not fall in and out of self-care routines. Work is my life, my relationship, my everything, and sometimes I have to remember that it’s ok if it’s not. I mediate, take dance classes, and make time for things that make me happy. I’m also in the process of converting to Judaism and I actually try to disconnect for Shabbat on Friday nights and Saturdays. I don’t check my work emails or answer work related texts — unless it’s an emergency or were activating for a client on a weekend — and allow myself to just take a break.
Is dancing your way of relieving stress?
Dancing is 100% my way of relieving stress! Outside of just regular work stress, I suffer from anxiety (general and social – which is hard when you work in PR!) and OCD. Dancing is meditative to me. I have a very personal relationship to music (as I think many people do), and when I listen to music and just let my body move I don’t think about anything else. It’s so freeing and it makes me so happy. I’m always dancing — at the office, at home, and usually by myself.
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