A network of writers (called contributors) can be a powerful asset for a company that is seeking to spread its brand far from home, particularly if it is aiming for international audiences. Contributors, with their local expertise, can function as brand ambassadors and propel a company's grassroots adoption.

These storytellers tap into local culture to create rich content and blend a company's product or identity into the fabric of that region. There are few marketing tools available that are able to customize messages to as many audiences and with as much insight as a well-managed network of contributors.

To learn more about the wealth of knowledge contributors can offer a company looking to expand worldwide, I spoke with Jac White, CEO of Savoteur. Savoteur is a digital publishing company that finds relevant people, places, and things to do in 56 cities on 6 continents with content distributed via web, video, email, mobile, social, and experiential venues.

Running a global contributor network of 200 plus contributors is no easy feat. I asked White to share some insights into how Savoteur creates an authentic, insightful voice in the travel industry. Here's what she had to say:

Vetting Criteria

White: The vetting process is vital when building a contributor network for any industry. It's imperative to have influencers from all walks of life--entrepreneurs, artists, philanthropists, editors, and so on. When we select contributors based on their location, which we must do as a travel magazine, we are careful to analyze their perspective on their city, the world, their writing style, and their taste level. This helps us to better understand their influencer capabilities.

The Desired Perspective

White: When building a contributor network, don't settle with writers who don't share your core values. At Savoteur, we often talk about the distinction between 'travelers vs. tourists'. The tourist may go somewhere just to say they've been, while a 'traveler' enjoys visiting places as if they are living there.

As early as a decade ago, it seemed you traveled somewhere and felt like you were very far away. Now, everyone listens to the same music, wears the same brands, and drinks the same coffee. Our contributors are the key to discovering what is unique and different because they live in their cities and are covering it from a local's perspective.

Definition of an Influencer

White: We look for contributors who live and breath what they're writing about because they're better able to express and celebrate what is unique about their culture. By having storytellers in your arsenal, you're better able to deliver hidden gems, local insights, and exclusive happenings around the globe.

In the travel industry, it's about having key influencers who are passionate about their cities and what makes them rich and unique--the food, culture, nightlife, art, music, and style.

Vertical vs. Horizontal

White: Influencers used to be vertical in nature. They gained relevance by having a deep understanding of a narrow topic. Today, influencers are horizontal. The most influential people are not doing just one thing; they are building businesses, developing artistic projects, weaving the social fabric in their cities and the world. These are the authentic influencers who have a deeper understanding of today's society.

Keys to Successful Contributor Relationships:

White: Listen to your audience: being in tune with your audience and your contributors is key. We write for locals who live in these 56 cities so we keep the 'insider' language, while also providing a product you can use when you travel somewhere else because we have trusted relationships around the world.

Analyze for success and failure: celebrate what's working, but it's also extremely valuable to analyze what's not. Failure can be the greatest area of opportunity that keeps the company evolving.

Make the ask: people want to contribute their expertise with a brand they can connect with. Reaching out to our personal networks created a domino effect to help build our brand. Now, we received dozens of inquiries a month from people asking to share their perspective.

As Savoteur grows, we've learned that our audience will continue to see genuine experiences--visiting cities and looking to live like the locals. They enjoy going off the beaten track to get away from their busy lives.

For businesses looking to expand their brand globally, a contributor network is an opportunity to reach an audience with authenticity through candid experiences.

Published on: Apr 14, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.