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10 Instagram influencers I’d be targeting with if I were a Minnesota-based brand

Influencer marketing. So hot right now.

In fact, influencer marketing has been hot for a while now. And, I see no end in sight as brands find new and interesting ways to partner and work with influencers (including agencies using influencers as creatives).

But, if you’ve headed up an influencer marketing campaign yourself, you know there’s one area of the work that’s especially tedious, and even painful: Researching and identifying the right influencers for your campaign.

Oh sure, there are a ton of “tools” out there to help you with your search. I’ve tried out a few of these tools over the years. And, much like other tools, they’re only as effective as the person using them.

Not to mention so much of influencer identification isn’t about finding the influencer with the biggest reach–it’s about finding influencers who:

  • Don’t work with your competitors
  • Have a “personality fit” with your brand (i.e., share common values)
  • Create content that excites your brand, and your customers
  • Don’t feel forced (read: They do this non-stop with other brands)

Very few–if any–tools can capture those criteria.

Therefore, influencer identification is, as it’s always been, a laborious, time-consuming endeavor.

And, as someone who lives in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I’m often curious about the influencers who are influencing right in our backyard. So, I thought I’d do you a favor today. Give you some free information and list out 10 influencers right here in the Twin Cities that I would be targeting for my next local campaign–and why.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a list of “top influencers”–it’s just a list of influencers that I think would be great brand ambassadors and a little around why I think that is.

Here goes:

Nora McInerny


26,400 followers; 2,592 engagements per post

What does she post about? family, causes (like her Still Kicking non-profit)

Why she would be a great brand ambassador: Do the math on the numbers above–Nora sees an almost 10% engagement rate on her posts. That’s insane. But, not surprising if you know Nora and what she’s all about. She’s easily one of the most followed and dare I say “beloved” people in all of Minneapolis. Plus, if you love cute babies and kids, you’ll get a steady dose of the adorable #ralphiegrams and #stormtrooperluckycharm in her feed.


Paul Buttenhoff


55,800 followers; 499 engagements per post

What does he post about? boots, men’s fashion, food

Why he would be a great brand ambassador: The shot above is probably one of the quintessential shots of Paul’s feed. But, he also posts regularly about food (we have similar tastes), hard liquor, and watches. If I were a brand with interests in any of those areas, I’d be reaching out to Paul.


Tom Horgen


7,410 followers, 242 engagements per post

What does he post about? Kids, coffee, food

Why she would be a great brand ambassador: OK, so yeah, Tom is on the media side with the Star Tribune. We all know that. But, he’s also a big influencer on the internets (notably, IG as his platform of choice). I mean, the guy hangs with influencers all the time (he was recently at the big influencer event in NE last week). But, more importantly, he doesn’t come across as a guy trying to BE an influencer (after all, he has the day job). That’s what I like about him–he’s not trying too hard. Now, you’d have to find a way around the media angle–definite conflict of interest there. But, as someone who’s been down that road before, I can tell you it is possible with the right person. You just have to be a little creative.

Jason DeRusha


10,600 followers, 227 engagements per post

What does he post about? Food, family, things he does for his TV job, socks

Why he would be a great brand ambassador: Jason is, without question, the top media member in the Twin Cities in terms of social media. In fact, he’s the damn godfather of social media engagement in the media world. And, if there was a Twin Cities Social Media Hall of Fame, he’d most likely be in it. Unlike other media members, you’ll often see Jason responding to comments in his Facebook and Instagram feeds. The guy just gets it. And yeah, like Horgen ,I know he’s on the media side and there are conflicts, but there are ways to work around that… He’s definitely on my list (also: Did you know Jason is a HUGE sock influencer? It’s true. Also: Not a meteorologist).

Erin Good


13,700 followers, 443 engagements per post

What does she post about? Fitness, donuts, burgers

Why she would be a great brand ambassador: If you’re a restaurant that makes donuts or burgers, Erin is the de facto influencer for you. But, I tend to think she’s got a lot more to offer than just those niches. On the surface, she has an “it” factor that I don’t see with other local influencers. And, she’s extremely engaging as she replies back to folks who comment on her posts all the time (something, strangely, you don’t always see in the influencer set).


Kathryn Peterson


18,900 followers, 384 engagements per post

What does she post about? Pretty much all food

Why she would be a great brand ambassador: Seems like food influencers in this town are almost a dime a dozen, but there’s something inherently attractive about Kathryn’s feed. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it’s there. Maybe it has something to do with the donut shot above 🙂


Amanda Paa


52,300 followers, 936 engagements per post

What does she post about? Food, Minnesota stuff

Why she would be a great brand ambassador: Sure, she’s one of those food influencers I talked about above. But, what’s unique (I think) about Amanda is that she’s also a photographer. So, those food pics look even better! And, she doesn’t *always* post about food. If I were a brand, I might engage Amanda for the her visual eye alone!


Kim Ly Curry


34,500 followers, 1,683 engagements per post

What does she post about? Food

Why she would be a great brand ambassador: If you’re going to hire one foodie to be your brand ambassador, it’s probably going to be Kim Curry. She was recently profiled in the Star Tribune. And, she’s obviously getting approached by restaurants and hotels (her recent stay on the shores of Lake Minnetonka looked amazing!). So, I’d hurry if you’re a restaurant or hospitality brand in town!


Laurie Jesch-Kulseth


1,046 followers, 63 engagements per post

What does she post about? Homemade food, beer, family

Why she would be a great brand ambassador: Precisely because she’s not trying to. A lot of the folks on this list are trying to be influencers. I don’t get that impression from Laurie. I get the impression that she’s much like me–she posts to Instagram because it’s fun. So she’s not a “macro-level” influencer. Big deal. I’ll take 10 Laurie J-K’s. You can have all the macros you want. Plus, a lot of the food she makes at home looks flat-out amazing!


Lindsay Ostrom


22,800 followers, 1,919 engagements per post

What does she post about? Life, travels, family, some food (her food stuff is over at @pinchofyum–I like this account better)

Why she would be a great brand ambassador? Sure @pinchofyum is the much larger account. And, I’m sure that’s the one brands are targeting. But, if I’m a local org, I’m targeting this account. Because it’s more real and much more locally-focused. Here, Lindsay showcases her family, her travels (looks like she just went to Alaska and it looks amazing!) and really, just day-to-day life. She’s not forcing it. Not trying to gain fans. She’s just being her. Feels far more real. And, the more real the account, the more trust it engenders with its followers (for proof, look at her engagements per post number above–second-highest to only Nora locally).

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PRWeek’s “Power List” Overlooks Minnesota and Fly-Over Country…Again

Earlier this week, PRWeek unveiled its annual “Power List”–a list of people they believe are power brokers in the PR business across the U.S. (of course, I can’t read more about the list because PRWeek is gated and I’m not paying $350 a year to read all their content).

The list includes senior leaders at Weber Shandwick, Edelman, Microsoft and General Motors, just to name a few. It skews male (just 18 of the 50 are women) and caucasian/white (just six minorities represented in the list).

This post could be a rant about that first stat above–after all, this is an industry completely dominated by women. Yet, only 18 of the 50 on a POWER list are women? Seriously? I’ll let Gini Dietrich take that one and run with it.

But for the sake of this post, I want to tackle a different angle. Another aspect the PRWeek folks completely missed. The fact that just SIX of the people on this list DO NOT work on either the East or West Coast.

Put another way, 88 percent of this list works in New York, Boston, DC, San Fran, and Seattle.

And, even more astonishingly, there are just THREE people from the Twin Cities and Chicago on this list.


That’s ridiculous.

Consider the following:

  • Minneapolis is the 15th largest market in the U.S. and 17 Fortune 500 companies are based in the Twin Cities including Target, Best Buy, 3M, General Mills and United Health Group.
  • Chicago is the third largest market in the U.S. and Illinois is home to 36 Fortune 500 companies like Walgreens, Allstate, State Farm, Caterpillar, and McDonalds.

That’s a lot of big businesses based in those markets–almost all of which have senior-level communicators that could most likely make a list like this (and, communicators with big PR/comms budgets, most likely).

To be precise, that’s 53 Fortune 500 companies between the two markets. For comparison, New York is home to 55 Fortune 500 companies. California has 53. So, I get that New York and San Fran are going to be well represented in lists like this. But 88 percent of the people from the Coasts?

I believe a few different factors are at play here, including:

  • PRWeek is based in New York. So, chances are, the PRWeek editors may know many of the NY folks on this list personally. Relationships matter, as always.
  • New York, DC, and San Fran are the biggest PR markets. No one is going to argue that. They should make up a sizable portion of the list. Maybe not 88 percent though.
  • I don’t read PRWeek religiously (see above and $350 price tag) but I’m just going to go out on a limb and say the PRWeek reporters would probably want to talk to a decent number of the people on this list for stories in the future. Greasing the wheels a bit, perhaps?

So, I can’t say I’m surprised. After all, Minnesota and the Upper Midwest have been dubbed “flyover country” by New Yorkers for a reason. Why should we start getting respect now?

But then I think about the Fortune 500 list.

And then I think about the PR/creative talent in this town (and in Chicago).

And then I think about our history.

Yeah, I think we’re owed a little respect, dammit.

And yes, Carmichael Spong Relate’s Julie Batliner is on the list. And that’s fantastic. But that’s one notable leader from Minnesota (the 15th largest DMA last I checked). And, just one more from Chicago (the 3rd largest). And, to add insult to injury: Just one from Dallas (5th), too. And NONE from Atlanta (10th) or Denver (17th)–not necessarily “flyover country”, but definitely in the mid-section of the country.

To recap: 44 of 50 leaders from New York, San Fran, DC, Seattle and Boston.

Six from the rest of the country. And only one from Minnesota.

With all that said, I thought I’d offer up a few suggestions to the PRWeek folks for next year’s list. I know it’s too late for 2017, but these leaders would be ideal candidates to put on the 2018 list. It’s time the Minnesota PR community gets some much-deserved respect (I’m sure Chicagoans have their own ideas, but I just don’t know that many people down there):

  • Lynn Casey, CEO and chair of Padilla–a fixture in Twin Cities PR for more than 30 years.
  • Matt Kucharski, president of Padilla–been with the firm for almost 30 years and poised to take it the next 20.
  • Matt Furman, chief communications and public affairs officer at Best Buy (he’s also spent time at Mars and Google–not a bad resume).
  • Jorg Pierach, founder of Fast Horse–one of the best PR shops in all of Minnesota including a roster that boasts Coca-Cola, Heineken and Deluxe.
  • Katie Boylan, lead communicator at Target (following Dustee Jenkins’ exit in June)–only the second biggest retailer in the country. No big deal.

Just a few idea, PRWeek editors. Take em, or leave em. Any way you cut it, I’d love to see Minnesota (and the Upper Midwest, in general) better represented in next year’s list.

Note: Photo courtesy of Olgilvy PR via Creative Commons.

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The psychology behind social media’s biggest shifts in the last year

Maybe it’s my psych minor. And maybe it’s my innate interest in human behavior. Any way you slice it, I’ve always fancied myself an amateur psychologist (extremely amateur, to be clear).

And, there’s no more interesting place to watch that human behavior play out than the internet on a day-to-day basis.

Over the last 9-12 months, it’s been particularly interesting as we’ve witnessed a number of seismic shifts in our industry. Video has exploded across the social web. The “story” feature has invaded almost all social networks. And Twitter, as a platform, continues to circle the drain.

The primary drivers behind each of those shifts? Human behavior. Plain and simple.

So, I thought today, we’d take a closer look at five big social media shifts we’ve seen in the last year and the psychology behind them. Remember, I am not a doctor, nor do I play one of the internet:

Trend: Video exploding across the social web

The psychology behind it: CISCO research claims online videos will account for more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020. We know that video is just crushing on the web. But, why? It’s all part of a bigger shift in lifestyle and behavior. 15-20 years ago, people would go home, plop down in front of the TV and watch. Today, people are busier than ever before. And, they have these little mobile TV sets in their hands. So, they can easily fit smaller bits and pieces of video viewing into their day–in line at Starbucks, in the car, while they wait for the movie to begin at the theater. The behavior change is wrapped around the way we’re living our lives–which is increasingly “on the go.”

Trend: The rise of Insta-stories

The psychology behind it: Two factors here. One, people are obsessed with behind-the-scenes looks at people’s lives. Where garden-variety Instagram pics are more manicured and, many times, posed. Insta-Stories are decidedly not. They’re off-the-cuff. They’re spontaneous. And they’re far more real. And that’s what people like about them. Second, there’s definitely an “above the fold” behavior at play here. To review your Instagram pics, you have to thumb through hundreds (in many cases) of pics each day. Meanwhile, your Insta-Stories are right there at the top of your screen–every time. Which is easier to access? Many times, human behavior is very predictable.

Trend: The non-adoption of Facebook stories

The psychology behind it: Where Insta-Stories have flourished, Facebook Stories have really struggled to take off. And, in my view, the behaviors behind this are quite simple: A lack of time and brain space. People can only do so much in any given day. They can only interact on so many social platforms. Many limit their social participation to Facebook. Others, choose Instagram. Yet others, Twitter. Some people can dabble in a couple, maybe even three at a time. But I would venture to say the vast majority of people probably limit their daily interactions to 1-2 social platform at most. Read: I only have so much time and brain space for this. And, because they were first (well, second to Snapchat), Insta-Stories snapped up that time and brain space. Facebook is now playing catch up. And, it’s going to be tough to get people to change, and/or make more time.

Trend: The LinkedIn backlash

The psychology behind it: I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the following post, or some derivation of it, on LinkedIn in the last year: “This isn’t Facebook. Save your personal updates for that platform, please.” Increasingly, people are getting frustrated with LinkedIn. Too much spam. Too many sales people. Too much pitching. Too much garbage in people’s feeds that belongs elsewhere. The psychology here, again, is simple: People like to label and compartmentalize things. Facebook is for personal sharing. LinkedIn is for professional sharing.

Trend: Twitter and it’s impending demise

The psychology behind it: Let’s face it: Most people want to hang out with the “cool kids.” For years, that “cool kid” was Twitter. From about 2007-2012, I’d say, Twitter was definitely that cool kid. And seemingly everyone wanted to spend time with him. But, the last few years, that coolness has faded. Fast. Nowadays, the only people I see using Twitter on a regular basis are: 1) Celebs/athletes, 2) Media, 3) POTUS, 4) Trolls. With that kind of environment, is it any wonder the masses left Twitter? The cool kids left, and the masses followed (mostly to Facebook and Instagram).

Note: Photo courtesy of Ross Burton via Creative Commons license.

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#MyOreoCreation Contest – Personalized social at its best?

A few weeks ago, while checking Twitter, I  happened across an interesting hash tag:

I decided to participate:

A few days later, I received the following DM from the @Oreo account:

A special surprise from the Wonder Vault? Now I was excited! I mean, actually kinda genuinely excited and curious (mostly because we don’t have Oreos in the house anymore, or I and my kids would eat an entire box in 5 minutes flat).

A couple weeks later, I received said surprise in the mail. Here’s what I received:


#MyOreoCreation http://www.refinery29.com/2017/05/153255/my-oreo-creation-contest




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Talking Points Event Series: 4 Ways Companies can Bolster Brand Awareness during the “Big Football Game” next February

Last year, I approached the University of Minnesota about starting a new speaker series named “Talking Points: Exploring the Future of Media & Communications.”

After three events, we decided to part ways (for a variety of reasons). The Talking Points event series was conceivably kaput.

Until one day when I brought the topic up with my friend and co-owner of Bellmont Partners Public Relations, Brian Bellmont. After a few discussions, we re-imagined the event as a partnership between his agency (one of the up-and-coming mid-sized PR shops in the Twin Cities) and my consultancy, ACH Communications.

With a twist.

The new Talking Points series would be an even more intimate event focused partly on “curated networking” and partly on professional development.

We held our first event last week at Bellmont Partners headquarters in Edina. The topic: How to bolster your brand leading up to, and during the (fill in name for whatever it is the NFL allows us to call this thing publicly now) next February.

Our speakers: Tom McCulloch, CMO/owner at metroConnections; Jenn Schaal, director of partnership marketing at Meet Minneapolis; and Steve LeBeau, editor-in-chief at Minnesota Business.

It was a great discussion, moderated by BPR’s Alison Buckneberg. And today I wanted to focus on four actionable tips our speakers shared that can help almost any company in Minnesota that’s considering taking advantage of this big event next February:

1–First and foremost, keep expectations in check. The “Big Game” most likely isn’t going to be the biggest marketing or PR initiative of your year–so don’t expect it to perform like one.

2–Tidy up your presence on mobile search sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor. Tens of thousands of people will visit the Twin Cities during that week in February. And, they’ll be looking to spend money, right? How will they find a coffee shop to visit? Or, the best local restaurant to hit up? Or, the best club to go to that evening? If they’re like most people, they’ll consult their handy smartphone and apps like Yelp and Trip Advisor. So, make sure your pages are up-to-date and you’re responded to comments appropriately. Decidedly un-sexy work, but also terribly effective and useful.

3–Don’t forget about your existing customers. Loved this tip from metroConnections’ Tom McCulloch. So many companies and brands will be focused on new customer acquisition during the Big Game–and that’s not necessarily a bad strategy. But, don’t let it come at the expense of your existing customers who already love you. Make sure you take steps to market to this important audience next Jan./Feb., too.

4–Get creative with the “Bold North” theme. I love the fact that we’re embracing our winter climate (even though, personally, I hate winters here in Minnesota) with the “Bold North” theme. And, the companies that win with marketing and branding during the Big Game will find interesting and unique ways to play off this theme and embrace all things winter. Could be a uniquely Minnesotan event (why not organize a customer curling competition?). Could be a uniquely Minnesotan food (I’m looking forward to local bakeries selling Super Bowl lefse, myself). Could be uniquely Minnesotan experiences (I’m hoping some company plays off the Wayzata Chili Open and creates a winter golf course on some Minneapolis lake). The Bold North theme has so many possibilities for brands–I’m looking forward to seeing what we come up with!

And that’s probably the biggest takeaway for me–the fact that I’m going to enjoy the hell out of next Feb. from a spectator point of view. Not as much as a football spectator (I doubt my Vikings will make the game)–more as a PR/marketing spectator. I’m looking forward to spending a number of days down by US Bank Stadium, seeing what brands have up their sleeves. I’m curious to see how companies activate their brands via social media during the week. And, I’m very curious to see what happens on the newly revamped Nicollet Mall next Feb. as it sets up shop for all sorts of brand experiences.

Yep, February can’t come soon enough.

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