Welcome to a special edition of our "Inside Edelman" blog series, where we share exclusive insights from our esteemed Cannes Lions jury members. Join us as we delve into the complex world of judging, unveiling expert predictions and invaluable brand advice.

In this piece, we learn from Jennifer Hyland, a Senior Director in our Dublin office and distinguished member of the Social & Influencer Lions jury. Jennifer provides valuable criteria for evaluating campaigns, emphasizing the importance of shifting perceptions, celebrating diversity, and creating real-world impact. She shares strategies for leveraging social media and influencers effectively, and offers guidance on navigating evolving algorithms and changing user behavior.

As a jury member for the Social & Influencer Lions category, what criteria will you be looking for when evaluating campaigns? Can you provide some insights into the judging process?

The Social & Influencer Lions celebrate creative social thinking and strategic influencer marketing solutions. I am looking for work that is shifting perceptions, celebrating diversity, creating cultural change and delivering real world impact. In my work at Edelman, I witness the exceptional impact this category can have on brands, businesses, and society as a whole. As an industry, we need to continue to embrace Social and Influencer and its important role in the marketing mix. No longer the add on to an activation, Social and Influencer is now at the very core of any strategy that wants to engage or develop a meaningful relationship with an audience or community. With the Lions, we have the opportunity to set the highest standards for the year ahead, showcasing what exceptional looks like, and what Social and Influencer can deliver from both a brand and business point of view.

As a shortlisting jury member, I am judging almost 300 pieces of work over 3 weeks across multiple subcategories. Reviewing the entries is no easy task. It requires meticulous attention to detail, an open mind, and a genuine appreciation for the craft of Social and Influencer. In order to put structure on the approach, there are a few key questions I am asking myself of the entries;

  • Is there a clear business objective(s)?
  • What is the insight that has led to the creative?
  • Is there a local or cultural context to be aware of?
  • Did it deliver meaningful results that ladder back up to the business objectives?

Creative effectiveness truly can lead to business growth and I want to see a mix of campaigns that deliver on purpose but also on commercial objectives and brand building.

Finally, it may sound cliché but I am also looking for bravery. Brands who are challenging the status quo to create game-changing work.

How can brands effectively leverage social media and influencers to engage customers and drive meaningful results? Are there any best practices or examples you can share?

It’s really quite simple. First and foremost, brands need to properly understand the role of Social and Influencer in their strategy. There are so many ways to effectively leverage these mediums but the most important will always be to set clear business objectives from the outset — understanding not only what you want to do, but why you need to do it. Whether it's increasing brand awareness, driving sales, or enhancing brand loyalty, defining the objectives will guide the strategy and help measure success. When approached in this way, Social and Influencer can truly drive business impact and growth and I’m seeing this first hand as I work through the judging process. It has been remarkable to witness the diverse range of strategies and creative ideas that leverage the power of Social and Influencer.

I don’t want to give anything anyway until the winners are announced at the Festival but some of the entries are truly pushing the boundaries of marketing; embracing new mediums, technologies, and storytelling techniques. From virtual reality experiences that transport audiences to other worlds, to flipping the traditional approach to influencer on its head and making real people the stars, the entries showcase our industry's commitment to staying at the forefront of creativity and innovation.

In an age where authenticity is highly valued, what advice would you give to brands to ensure their campaigns come across as genuine and trustworthy?

Be Real (and I don’t mean the latest social app). Prioritising authenticity and trust is the most important thing a brand can do. We’re in an age of information overload and brands today are lucky to have the attention of consumers for even a couple of seconds of scroll time a day. How we show up in those few seconds is crucial as unfortunately, we’re also in the age of disinformation and consumers are craving transparency and trust. At Edelman, we know trust drives action. Our Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that trusted brands and brands that do good in the world are worth paying more for. When brands take action on societal issues, we see at least a 4x multiplier of likelihood of purchase. A reminder for us all that marketing is not just about selling products; it is about telling stories, sparking conversations, and shaping culture and society.

In order to drive trust, we recommended a bespoke framework to clients who are looking to implement influencer strategies. Through this framework, we assess influencers across four key dimensions of influence: Reach, Authority, Relevance, and Accessibility.

  • Reach — How many members of the target audience are accessible to the influencer & ambassador?
  • Authority — How trusted is the influencer’s & ambassador expertise in this subject area?
  • Relevance — Is this person shaping the culture of your audience? Are they right for your business?
  • Accessibility — How willing is the influencer & ambassador to work with the business?

From here, we use tools to validate our thinking and approach but ultimately we understand that building authentic long-term relationships is key. Fostering genuine relationships with influencers by taking the time to understand their content, engage with them, and providing value leads to more authentic and impactful content.

How can brands navigate the evolving landscape of social media algorithms and changing user behaviour to maximize the reach and impact of their campaigns?

I recently attended an event in Dublin, hosted by the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI), about the power of creativity in driving business growth, and the quote below struck me as it really is a mindset shift that is required to harness the power of Social and Influencer and with that, navigate the ever changing landscapes.

“Creativity is an investment”

It needs to be an investment of your time and of your budget. Stay up to date with trends and evolving platforms. Social media is ever-evolving, and new platforms and trends emerge regularly. Stay informed about the latest trends, technologies, and features within Social and Influencer. Experiment with new platforms and strategies to keep your brand fresh and relevant, but don’t jump into a new channel or tactic for the sake of it, stay true to your overall objectives and strategy. Whilst it’s impossible to guarantee that your content will always be at the top of your audiences’ feeds, it is important to understated the algorithm of the platform you’re using. Whether it’s Instagram or TikTok, the algorithms are always changing but most of time the platforms provide guidance on how they prioritise content. Keep up to date and adapt your approach accordingly.

And finally, harness the power of measurement. Continuously optimise and evaluate whilst a campaign is live, not just when it comes to close. Utilise analytics and tracking tools to measure the effectiveness of campaigns. Identify the metrics that matter such as engagement, reach, website traffic, conversions, and sales to assess the impact of your social and influencer strategies. Through this, brands can learn more about their audiences, their competitors and their positioning overall.

Jennifer Hyland is a Senior Director in our Dublin office.