If you’re looking to meet a set of marketing goals complete with specific copy points, social media amplification, tracked links, and a specified run-date – that constitutes advertising and it must be compensated
Liz Gumbinner, Cool Mom Picks
As a long-time ad agency veteran turned online publisher and marketing consultant, I have been fortunate to see the ever-evolving brand-blogger/influencer relationship from multiple perspectives.
While some things have changed over the past 10 years – hey there, Instagram – so many of the mistakes I see PR teams make have not. But those errors can be corrected. Allow me to offer some helpful tips.
1. Understand what an influencer is
Sounds basic, right? However, so many issues can be traced back to one misunderstanding: Bloggers and online influencers aren’t journalists – and you can’t pitch them the same way. Think of them as a new hybrid of publisher, content creator, curator, spokesperson, strategic partner, and diarist.
2. All influencers are different, even the ones who seem the same
Take a moment to check out an influencer’s platforms so you know the individual you’re pitching and what he or she covers.
For years, the online parenting community has joked that regardless of our beat – personal memoir, design, travel, cooking, coupons and giveaways, politics, technology – we all get the same pitches.
The Cool Mom Picks network, for example, doesn’t cover high-tech vaping devices any more than Wired covers spring shoe trends.
3. Personal relationships are everything
The thing about social media is: it’s social. You’ll find that influencers really value having a personal rapport with PR pros and marketers. It’s worth it to spend your energy getting to know a few and cultivating those relationships.
There are certain PR pros I particularly adore because they respect my time, pitch me terrific content, and they’re just nice people. Theirs are the emails I will always open first – and their clients’ brands are also the ones that spring to mind first when I’m putting together a gift guide or a hot product list for a morning show.
Bonus tip: Don’t pitch someone publicly through their social media channels. It’s super awkward. Find an email address.
4. Differentiate between editorial and advertising
Respected content creators will happily cover interesting, on-topic brand stories editorially. That’s the majority of content on my own network – discoveries, news, tips, and cool products we think our readers will love.
However, if you’re looking to meet a set of marketing goals complete with specific copy points, social media amplification, tracked links and hashtags, and a specified run-date – that constitutes advertising and it must be compensated.
Also know this: you will encounter some influencers who may only want to hear from you if you’re offering a paid program. This may be because you’re dealing with a “pay for play” blog or perhaps their main focus is personal writing and therefore any branded content creation is perceived as “advertising.”
5. Branded influencer programs = cash money
Unless you’re working on a quid pro quo arrangement – transparently disclosed per FTC regulations, of course – such as a press junket or a trip, the only acceptable compensation for sponsored content is money.
What do you get deposited directly into your bank account twice monthly? Money or gift cards? Money or a free lunch? Money or a chance to win a prize? Money or a carton of snack bars to try out?
I now have this hilarious image of you trying to deposit a carton of snack bars into your ATM.
6. Above all, let influencers be themselves
If there’s one thing to keep in mind about working with influencers, it’s that you must give them the flexibility to get creative, be themselves, and do what they do best. That’s how they got here, right?
If they redline some mandates, try and understand why. If they have an idea that pushes the brief in a new direction, maybe you’ll end up with something even better than you originally imagined, not to mention a partner who feels valued and is excited to work with you.
And that’s a win for everyone.