By: Heather Whaling (@prTini)

Gone are the days when trading a product for a post was considered an effective influencer outreach strategy. Yet, very few brands are getting creative with their tactics and many still rely on simply paying bloggers and influencers in exchange for their support. If we know influencer marketing is an effective way to shape consumers’ perceptions and buying decisions, we should develop programs that foster ongoing relationships, right?

With that in mind, here are a few opportunities to boost your influencer marketing efforts beyond a basic blog post:

  1. Wine and dine. Host an intimate dinner, cocktail hour or meet-and-greet (this could be in conjunction with an industry event, or something that you organize separately) where influencers can network with your brand executives and each other. If you’re a newer company with low brand recognition and you’re worried about persuading high-profile influencers to attend your event, you could also partner with one influencer to serve as your event’s “headliner,” like we did for this startup client’s launch party at New Media Expo.
  1. Get creative with communications. Think about new ways to communicate and receive feedback from influencers and top customers. For example, establish an influencer advisory board, where members can receive early access to your products/services and provide feedback on your ideas. Or, create a channel that gives you a direct line for communicating with your most loyal community members.
  1. Virtual event series. Host a series of webinars or Google Hangouts where you discuss best practices and trends in your industry, featuring a different influencer co-host as the “hook” to drive attendance. As an added bonus, if you encourage participants to sign up in advance, this can also double as a lead generator.
  1. Surprise and delight. Build and nurture influencer relationships with some surprise and delight love by delivering them themed packages or items that align with your company’s branding and messaging. (I’ll be honest, this isn’t necessarily a new tactic. But regardless of whether it’s been done before, who doesn’t love getting an unexpected gift?) For example, when our client Sara Davidson launched Hello Fearless, she piqued high-profile female bloggers’ and business owners’ interest in the company by sending them boxes filled with items representing common fears (e.g., spiders, snakes, public speaking, dark places, etc.).
  1. Personalized video. Take a page from Warby Parker’s customer service playbook and incorporate personalized video into your outreach efforts. Zumba Fitness is one company that recently jumped on the bandwagon, sending personalized videos to attract instructors to its annual convention. Or, borrow another idea from Sara at Hello Fearless: A few days after sending out the surprise and delight boxes, she followed up with each influencer by tweeting them a personalized video to introduce herself. (The best part about personalized video? It’s easy to do, whatever size team or budget you’re working with.)
  1. Social takeover. Initiate a social media “takeover,” where an influencer manages your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account and can directly interact with your online community, like when Baby Steals handed Sarah Evans the reigns to its Instagram account during the 2014 ABC Kid’s Expo.
  1. Live chat. If you like the takeover idea but you’re not comfortable handing over complete control of your accounts, invite an influencer to co-host a live Q&A on your Facebook page or blog. We’ve organized a number of live chats for The Columbus Marathon by inviting influencers (a former Olympic gold medalist and the marathon’s race director) to answer fans’ questions in the comments of Facebook posts. Gini Dietrich is another good example here – she hosts monthly Q&As with PR/marketing industry authors in the comments section of her blog.
  1. Ambassador campaign. Partner with influencers in a long-term ambassador campaign designed to generate new content for social channels. When we launched The Columbus Marathon on Instagram, we partnered with six online running influencers who were planning to participate in the marathon. We asked them to provide weekly photos for the marathon to share, based on prompts we provided (Where do you train? What are you wearing? How are you feeling?). The ambassadors’ photos gave fans a glimpse of their training, plus helped us expand the reach of the marathon’s Instagram network.

How else have you extended influencer relationships beyond a standard blog post? Let’s chat in the comments!

Heather Whaling (@prTini) is founder and CEO of Geben Communication, a PR firm that helps emerging brands and forward-thinking, established companies excel in a social world. Connect with her through her PR blog or communication trends e-newsletter.