In Brands, Exclusives, Insight, Marketing

As the CMO of Scentbird, I have been leading influencer marketing for the last 4 years. Influencers have played a key role in our growth, both through their own influence and the valuable content they create. In this time, there have been huge changes in the space—from new channels (Snapchat was barely on the map) to emerging formats (the boom of live feeds).

Throughout this process, there has always been a sticky question of what exactly is the relationship between influencers and brands. While some of it is truly genuine (there are influencers that I’ve been emailing for years, we now chat about our kids and life in general), but more and more, the industry has shifted to a transactional nature. In my book, that is OK. But what happens when it all goes wrong—especially for a small brand? The situation with Snapchat’s PR agency and with Grown-ish actor Luka Sabbat highlights the perils of the relationship.

I have spoken with many colleagues who have been in similar situations—particularly painful when you’re counting every dollar as a small brand. Here are some lessons and tips to protect yourself and maximize your marketing ROI:

1. Do your homework: Learn about the influencer, spend time following them. Make sure they not only have the right audience for you, but also the right messaging, and that the paid endorsements for other brands fit what you are looking for. If it’s a large deal, network and try to speak to other brands that have worked with the influencer.

2. Structure your contract carefully: The first mistake Snapchat’s PR firm made was to pay most of the fee upfront. This is never a good idea. Make sure you pay after the influencer posts, or worst case, only pay 50% upfront. Also, if possible, create a payment structure for each deliverable instead of a lump sum.

3. Managers can be helpful: Usually I am not a huge fan of managers because we’ve seen huge increases in sponsorship rates once they get involved. It is also not always good for the influencer. An influencer recently mentioned that her new manager was so “greedy” that brands she was already working with, no longer wanted to work with her, resulting in significant decrease in her income. Other nightmare stories include a manager that kept payments and never paid the influencers without us ever knowing. However, good managers can be very helpful if they have influence over the talent. As you do your upfront research, particularly for large influencers, do your homework on the manager too. How long have they been working with the talent? What other collaborations have they managed for them? How quickly does the talent respond to the manager? Managers can help avoid these situations but only if they can truly “manage” their talent.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Influencers and their managers are inundated by emails daily, so you need to make sure your deliverables are top of mind. Sometimes they are not the most organized, sometimes just sloppy. Make sure you build a relationship and remind them of your deliverables (nicely). If emails don’t work, try texting as the responses tend to be more immediate, use CRM tools, tag emails, etc.—just make sure to keep on reminding them of what you need from them.

5. Set up realistic expectations: In the end, influencers tend to be creatives, and as such, have a desire to create what they want to create. Follow them and make sure that what you are asking for is something that they are likely to want to do. If it feels too promotional for them or they feel it will cost them followers, it will be much harder to get them to deliver.

In the end, beware of an unbalanced relationship—as a small brand, if you’re working with an influencer who has millions of followers, do you want to sue this person and risk your reputation with this audience? Hopefully these tips can help avoid the situation altogether.

Photo: Alice Donovan Rouse via Unsplash 

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