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Published June 27th 2016

Interview: Hill+Knowlton on the Future of Influencer Marketing

Last week at the Cannes Lions festival Hill+Knowlton, a public relations and integrated communications consultancy, unveiled its new influencer mapping dashboard, Sherlock+.

Built in partnership with Brandwatch, Sherlock+ provides a unique, real-time perspective on the people that have the most impact across eight different industries and 45 core topics.

The dashboard is created using ‘VIP lists’ of key influencers across each subject, created by Hill+Knowlton’s sector experts. These are then extended using data-driven network analysis of the interactions, engagements and relationships that surround these super-influencers, which are then ranked according to true impact, all in real-time.

Influence can change on a daily basis; based on the news, someone’s mood, and especially by subject. Sherlock+ is built to track these variations constantly, which leads to less time searching and more time finding, knowing and creating great work with them.

“The way we work with influencers has changed, evolving from a purely PR led exercise to something marketers can leverage to create bigger value. The usual suspects aren’t the only option, and when they get overused, it’s no good for anyone. Sherlock+ is our solution to this black book fatigue.” says Vikki Chowney, Director of Content + Publishing Strategies at Hill+Knowlton.

A unique agency model

Ahead of the Sherlock+ launch we spoke with Vikki to learn the role social intelligence plays within the public relations and communications consultancy.

Vikki is based in Hill+Knowlton’s (H+K) London office, where the business adopts a sector-based model, with teams dedicated to specific industries that range from Consumer Packaged Goods through to Healthcare and Energy & Industrials. Each of the sectors boasts teams with deep and specific industry knowledge.


Vikki joined H+K two years ago to shape the agency’s content and publishing offer; employing people who look after this area within each division. This hub and spoke model means each sector has experts they can learn from, rather then the teams relying on a centralised group of experts.

Vikki has initiated the same model for data within the agency, hiring a centralized data consultant alongside data analysts in each of the sector teams.

“To have that (data) skillset and that expertise in the business is a real stake in the ground as to where we see things heading, and we’re really lucky because we now have people who dedicate all of their time to that. It’s a key growth area for us,” says Vikki.

H+K’s first ‘Global Centre of Creative Strategy’ is also based on the London office. It’s their job to take the learnings from every initiative within the London office and share these with the rest of the agency’s global network of offices.

“That covers a myriad of things from the tools we use – like the work that we do with Brandwatch – through to process and models,” explains Vikki.

An insights driven business

Vikki tells us that H+K have always been an insight-led business. Every process starts with putting purpose at the center of everything they do.

During the planning phase, the agency layers insights and truths on top of this purpose, considering both rational and emotional perspectives. This includes the trends that will impact the work, how the end customer actually feels about a brand or product, and what the competitive landscape looks like.

H+K gathers this information through quantitative analysis – looking at partner trends, trend prediction agencies or running focus group. The agency then boosts this research with social data, making the whole process more robust and providing the teams at H+K with access to even more information.

“Creating work based on these two elements – the insights and truths – and then looking at audience mapping, alongside what we do best as an agency, which is applying a bit of common sense and experience on top of that, makes the process much more rich. And we definitely couldn’t do that to an appropriate level for the clients that we work with if we didn’t have strong research and data at the heart of it,” says Vikki.

Hill+Knowlton + Brandwatch

Brandwatch is really excited about the latest H+K partnership and the launch of its influencer mapping dashboard, built to help its clients realise there is more to influencer marketing than turning to the same “usual suspects”.

The agency has been working on Sherlock+ for just over a year, with the premise of combining what H+K do best as communication professionals, which is to understand the influence and landscape, then taking that knowledge and validating it using strong data analysis.

“The future is really promising. It allows us to start validating who we thought were important, using data. It’s a wonderful partnership of what we do best and what you guys [Brandwatch] do best. So it’s really exciting.” ends Vikki.

Sherlock+ provides real-time data and a ranking of the influencers with the most impact across eight different industries and 45 topics. The tool was launched at an event in the Haymarket Cabana at the Cannes Lions festival last week. You can read more here.

Thanks to Vikki for talking to us. Coming up in our interview series we’ll be talking with Toshiba and Spark44, so stay tuned for more insights.


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