I was lucky enough to take part in the Modern Marketing Summit last week in London. Sitting on the TRIBE influencer panel acting as the agency perspective, I was also joined by a brand marketer and a micro-influencer. The perspectives we shared were varied, but ultimately we all agreed that being part of an influencer campaign (at any stage) is a real balancing act.
I have run a few influencer campaigns in my time – in fact, I have delivered over 300 campaigns, from selling food and alcohol to insurance, from increasing cancer awareness to booking test drives. In the process, I built a specialist team that were dedicated to managing and delivering campaigns that overall, really worked!
With all this talk and interest in influencer marketing within the industry, much of what I am reading feels theoretical, and in some cases not actionable in day-to-day practice. Sharing an approach is fine, but providing a guide is even better.
Therefore, I have put together some best practice thoughts on how to develop and grow your influencer offering, taking into account everything I have learnt along the way:
Hire the right people - Influencer marketing is not a job left to an intern or junior staffer, you need to think about the key interchangeable skills that are the base requirements for a job like this - hot project management skills, creativity, commercial understanding, and digital know how. This set of skills opens up a fair few avenues for recruiting a team that get the job done. From ex journos to PR gurus, from digital planners, to creative producers – find the right mix, and build a team that all offer something different. Ultimately, you want a strategically led bunch that live and breathe content and culture, they will know how to sell in an idea, and above all, make it happen!
Get your structure right – The question of where influencer marketing should sit is a normal challenge for any brand, agency, or business. Work out where the need is - is it a complimentary add-on to the social offering, to further tell stories with the consumer at the heart? On the other hand, is it an extension of your creative studio, forming a distribution and partnership arm? Balance this with client needs or business priority, and you can start to clearly map out which aspect of influencer marketing needs to come first.
Build a proposition that sets you apart – Where are your strengths, is it data and strategy, paid social and performance, or creative ideas and activations? Influencers can enrich any of these specialisms, but it is about playing to your strengths and choosing an influencer strategy that easily bolsters your existing proposition or creates a completely new product to plug a gap and raise the bar.
Create a product that you can sell – You need to tell a story and make sure it is rational yet compelling. There are so many reasons that influencers have taken to the mainstream, from declining consumer trust to the crowd source economy. Build a perspective and make influencers a clear solution. Get this story right, and you will be able to mould and develop a narrative to solve any brief.
Build a value exchange that clients ‘get’ and will pay for: Influencer campaigns involve a lot of manpower, and head hours can sometimes be troublesome alongside fee and retainer structures. Clearly defining the scope and process involved to manage these campaigns is crucial. Set expectations around scope and rely on process and planning to agree KPI’s and feedback/approval responsibilities upfront.
- Face up to the fact that there will be blood sweat and tears: Influencers are people, everyday non-media folk, do not communicate in jargon and treat influencer activity as if it is a high impact display campaign, because if you do, it will be painful. You need to treat influencers as talent, creators, content producers, and business owners. Respectfully juggle personal commitments, the odd misplaced ego, and have the empathetic understanding that month long payment terms just do not work for them. You are the go between that finds balance and smooths problems between an influencer’s principles, and a client’s ideal strategic output. It is not always going to go to plan, but it is a labour of love. If you can juggle each element and make sure the content and brand message shines, there is nothing like watching it work – seeing real life people engage, share, and get involved with something you have helped create.