Working with influencers: 5 lessons learnt

By an account director at Atmosphere Communications

Most PR professionals have at some point relied on a celebrity – or a ‘social influencer’ as they’re often called – to help generate interest in a brand or campaign. And although it’s true that nothing sells a story like a famous face, what is less often mentioned are the pitfalls of working with influencers. Here are five lessons I’ve learnt (the hard way):

By an account director at Atmosphere Communications
By an account director at Atmosphere Communications
  • Pick the best person for the job. This decision is usually based on the influencer’s reach when in reality, authenticity and relevance to the brand and its audience are much more important. Ideally, you should choose an influencer whose personal values are naturally aligned with the brand’s values and whose audience is an extension of the brand’s target market.

Although consumers have grown wise to, and in some ways have accepted the fact that influencers are paid to tweet or post about brands, they still expect a certain measure of authenticity. Avoid drafting tweets and posts on the influencer’s behalf – for a more credible campaign, let them speak in their own, authentic voice.

  • You can’t vet an influencer thoroughly enough. This person will be representing your brand, so screen them as if you are hiring an employee. Check their online reputation and their social media feeds – go as far back as you can. Gauge their reputation in the media, by either doing a search on news sites or speaking to media friends directly. Interview your influencers to gauge their opinion on topics that are sensitive to your brand. Check that your campaign message resonates with them and their followers.
  • Get it in writing. And by ‘it’, I mean EVERYTHING. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a legally binding contract that has been checked by a legal expert with a good understanding of social media. List what will be required from the influencer, including details of the number of brand mentions, the channels to be used, availability for production of content and media interviews.

Explain what type of behaviour will be deemed unacceptable and will bring the brand into disrepute. Be clear that any such actions will render the contract null and void and that payment will be forfeited. Ensure that the contract takes effect long before and concludes on a suitable date after the actual campaign period. Irresponsible behaviour by an influencer will remain in the memory of consumers (and the media) and you don’t want your campaign to be tinged by this.

  • Don’t pay till the job is done. A certain portion of the fee must be paid upfront to ensure commitment from the influencer, but it’s highly advisable that full payment only occurs when the campaign concludes. Consider offering a bonus if objectives such as engagement scores are exceeded.
  • Be brave. It may still all go belly-up. There will always be risks involved when working with influencers. It is impossible to predict how a certain influencer might respond in particular situations. Prepare your client that things might go wrong, and walk them through how possible scenarios will be handled as well as the potential impact on the brand.