Influencers and celebrities everywhere are getting real during the pandemic. The usually perfectly coiffed Kelly Ripa shared her natural gray roots on Instagram, racking up tens of thousands of likes from her nearly 3 million followers. Her perceived imperfection — or normalcy — made her all the more lovable.
Influencers of all kinds have quickly pivoted their own content to be more authentic, and it’s working. A recent study indicates that influencers have seen a 67.7% increase in likes since the beginning of the pandemic.
Publishers can take a page from their success, adding authenticity to their own editorial approach to better connect with readers — and what better channel than email, a channel that invites more personal connections, literally, to the inbox?
The Human Touch
The best thing influencers have going for them are their personalities. Here and there, media giants have allowed their talent to be a bit more real, too. Take Jimmy Fallon hosting the “Tonight Show” from his house, or Jason Gay, the humor columnist for The Wall Street Journal, writing about how crazy his life is with two small kids at home.
Still, this more authentic approach has not trickled down to the vast majority of editorial content.
This switch matters particularly for millennial and Gen Z readers, who have expressed a lack of faith in mass media and institutions. One reason why millennial-focused news sites like Morning Brew and theSkimm are doing so well is because they have a personal narrative style that larger media companies have somehow missed. These email-only brands find the channel is especially well suited to their more intimate, personal tone.
The New York Times has more than 17 million subscribers to “The Morning Newsletter,” and recently appointed an anchor, David Leonhardt, to run it. So far, his picture has been at the top, and any hint of his personality has been light.
Conversely, there’s CNN’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter, run by Brian Stelter, the host of the Sunday morning news program, and Oliver Darcy. It has one of the two lead faces behind each newsletter. Any blurbs contributed by other reporters are attributed accordingly, giving every element of the newsletter a personal voice. The late-night send time lends the feel of a friend recapping events of the day before signing off to bed. Even better, every email ends with a featured reader’s pet.
Drive Better Performance
For more nimble brands, taking another page from the influencer approach could help jump-start more engagement over email — more direct conversational engagement. Many influencers have run polls asking followers if they preferred more raw “real-life” content.
In late May, the Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that 63% of publishers had experienced a drop in CPMs, due to lower advertiser budgets. When CPMs are depressed, then one option publishers have is to create new inventory opportunities. Getting email right could help.
Another good reason to amp up the authenticity over email is because brands, too, are looking to make better connections with readers. Edelman reports 83% of adults across the world’s largest countries want brands to communicate empathy and understanding of the struggles they face.
When so many companies are worried about their future, trying something new might feel like a risk — but really, the biggest risk is doing nothing at all.