The influencer marketing industry has grown exponentially in the last few years, partly because people - not consumers, people - are desperate for a personal connection. The irony of the world becoming more accessible through the web, but also more insular due to current geopolitical tensions, is not lost on the next generation, and it is causing them to actively search for the real in the world.
They are no longer content to be viewed as consumers. They are people and they want to connect with other people. They want to be seen as people and treated as people.
Above all, they want honesty. This is where the tension in the influencer marketing industry is beginning to rise.
Influencers know that their audience wants real stories, real experiences and real connections to the brand.
Brands need to accomplish goals and ensure they maintain and expand on their brand equity.
Influencers want to showcase their creativity and have the freedom to be themselves.
Brands are risk-averse and seek to direct and control how, when and where the influencer engages.
Influencers need to ensure their reputations live up to the brand’s values.
Do brands do the same for the influencers?
With accountability being the go-to word of the moment, every aspect and detail of public figures’ lives is under scrutiny. From their current opinions to their history. From who they follow to who follows them. A scandal, even a minor one, can ruin an influencer. A small mistake can lose them followers. And a brand will not hesitate to cut an influencer loose if they feel the influencer may be bringing negative press their way.
The influencer often doesn’t have the same recourse. If a brand does something that goes against the current zeitgeist, the influencer is, by association, also caught up in the ensuing storm and their reputations are damaged.
So, how do we ensure that the rights and reputations of both influencers and brands are protected?
It seems obvious on a surface level that the influencer should be responsible for everything that they post, and that they should be forthright and honest about their pasts. They are, after all, being paid to be the ideal version of themselves for the brand. But remember, influencers are people. They make mistakes, just like all people do. The only difference is that their mistakes can damage a brand.
At the same time, brands are these monolithic entities that often take on a life of their own. They are businesses and so it would seem simple to keep themselves out of the negativity spotlight. But they are staffed by people, they are run by people. And, as we have mentioned, people make mistakes.
This is where the words dreaded by creative and free-spirited influencers and the teams that run the marketing for brands makes its appearance – contracts and management.
The only way to ensure the reputations of all parties is to have contracts in place. Creative minds look on contracts as some form of stifling document that they must sign in blood, while brands and corporates see contracts as legal minefields in the event something goes wrong.
They shouldn’t. A proper influencer contract set up by experts and managed by experts in influencer marketing takes the risk away from everybody. The influencer now knows what is expected of them and is secure in the knowledge that they will be paid and will be protected. The brand knows that they are not dictating terms, they are partnering for mutual benefit and that they too have a responsibility toward ethical behaviour.
Two of the biggest issues during this time of global uncertainty brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic is the abrupt cancellation of work by brands leading to financial losses by influencers, and the unheard-of restrictions that are limiting how influencers can go about their work leading to a dip in the brand’s perception and reach. Tailored contracts give influencers protection from loss of income due to no fault on their part. Contracts also give brands protection from loss of exposure or negative exposure during a crisis.
Expert management gives both influencer and brand a far greater benefit than just protection, it gives them access to teams that are able to help them through any crisis, advise them on how best to manage situations and ensure that a positive outcome is available to everyone.
At R-Squared Agency, we have a global connection to influencers and brands and we know how the industry can shift and change. Our expertise allows us to manage the processes and ensure professionalism, protection and positive outcomes for all parties.
Influencer marketing, by its very nature, is fluid. Our presence on various international boards means we are able to both see where the industry is moving and help guide its course. But it will take more than oversight to ensure the validity and growth of influencer marketing, it will take partnerships and understanding.
True partnerships between brands and influencers and the understanding that we are people working with people for people.
With all the flaws and mistakes, the laughter and the tears, the good times and the bad times that come with them.