Working With Influencers. The Good (& The Bad Side) Of Agency Blogger Outreach
In this post, ‘The truth about brands, influencers and sponsored posts’ I wrote about the precarious relationship between brands and influencers when there is a marketing objective involved.
Unlike more traditional PR, influencer marketing in its relative infancy is an advertising channel that requires its boundaries to be constantly reviewed and altered. It is still, even in 2019, a murky industry built on a foundation of blurred lines and a lack of solid measurability. Couple that with other factors such as creative freedom, money, integrity and dishonesty and you have an active volcano just waiting to erupt.
That being said, there are individuals and agencies doing their best to stabilise the influencer marketing industry. They are doing this by publically calling out the bullshit, inventing tools to make measuring influencer activity more numerically tangible, and opening up the discussion on what makes for a good influencer campaign and what makes for a bad one.
Having previously asked: ‘Why is the term ‘influencer’ such a dirty word? In this post, I’m discussing the nuts and bolts of actually working with influencers and what constitutes towards both good, and bad outreach. And before I start, I must note that I work agency side, therefore, this post will be balanced more towards that perspective.
As a blogger, I too have had dodgy experiences with PR agencies.
I was inspired to write this post as I recently experienced a bit of a dodgy situation when collaborating with a PR agency who represented a big brand. The way that the situation played out, quite rightfully irked me, as for my sins, I am myself, an influencer marketing manager for a digital marketing agency. I knew what happened just wasn’t acceptable.
On a daily basis, I work with bloggers and social influencers, negotiating collaborations and generally being the middle woman between an influencer and a brand. If you’re a blogger yourself, you may have come across me, or my pal Ashley looking to set up collaborations for a number of brands including those that sell Christmas trees, those that sell those mattresses that come in a box, those that sell online clothing and many more. If we’ve met before, then Hi! 👋🏻
Influencer marketing is ever evolving and it’s hard to keep up.
From an SEO and PR point of view, working with social influencers and bloggers is a large part of many client’s online marketing strategies. And when it is executed well, the results can be so rewarding for both the brand and the influencer. Some of the creative output and collaborative blogger/brand work that I’ve seen is outstanding and through working in the industry, I truly appreciate the hard work from all parties that’s gone into getting it over the line.
If my job were a sandwich, the blogger / social influencer is one slice of bread, the brand is another and I’m the filling in the middle. (New York deli for me plz!) Being the middle woman is a difficult place to be as you have the brands needs (often, demands) to fulfil, as well as trying your best to be reasonable, fair and honest with the bloggers you’re working with.
And I am by no means perfect myself, I have saved some of the emails I wrote to bloggers back when I started in 2015 and I cringe so hard at what I was saying. However, 4 years ago we knew even less about this landscape than we do now! There really is no rule book when it comes to blogger outreach and influencer marketing. And as somebody conducting outreach to bloggers on a daily basis as well as training others on best practice, there are a few things that I’ve learned along the way.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — Communication is key.
It’s so important to be on top of your communication. At one point in my career, I was working with over 250+ bloggers all at once. One of my influencer marketing clients had a quite (read, very) aggressive target to hit, and as it was around Christmas time, 5 other clients were also requiring intensive, strict deadline led influencer led work.
Every single day for two solid months my fingers were going like the clappers across the keyboard, yet I still managed to reply to every single blogger I was working with, within a timely fashion as well as do my actual day to day work. If I can do that, there really is NO excuse not to respond to people or leave it days and weeks on end before you contact them.
Regular, informative communication is crucial to ensure that everyone knows what they’re doing and where things are up to within the collaboration. By not replying promptly, if at all, you’re just making the blogger feel uneasy and forgotten about. It’s especially bad if they are looking for an update on their draft or invoice payment — There’s nothing worse than not knowing if you’ll ever get paid for your work because nobody has replied to you in weeks.
Being clear on payment terms.
One challenge that we agency side folk have, is that we’re expected to achieve the world, with no budget allocation. This is 2019 guys, influencers want to be and are entitled to be paid for the work they do. It just isn’t good enough that brands have no budget set aside for influencer efforts. If you can’t pay — don’t inquire about influencer efforts.
After all, who can pay their rent and bills with brand ‘exposure’ or a gifted dress? But believe me when I say, when you work agency side, this is a tough sell. A lot of the time, clients can’t understand why they have to pay for blogger efforts AS well as pay me for my time to set up a collaboration. This is an educational piece that I have to perform every time an influencer marketing client signs up to my service.
And when there really is very little budget available, it often leaves me in a sticky situation. On the one hand, I have an objective to achieve, yet on the other, I can’t rely on quality bloggers to just work for me from the goodness of their heart!
Negotiating under these circumstances, whilst keeping everyone happy is what makes for a good influencer outreacher! I offer consultancy in this area via my freelance page if you’re interested in learning more about this.
Be honest and tactful. Always.
Quite often, for whatever reason, brands will disapprove influencers you think would be a good match for them. This is particularly awkward when you’ve already opened up the lines of communication and have to say: “Remember that exciting opportunity we spoke about? Yeah, well, it’s not happening now.” It’s equally as awkward when brands say they think X blogger is worth their fee and X blogger isn’t worth their fee and “Could you just get them to collaborate for free?” A lot of people forget that bloggers tend to be apart of a community and they talk to each other.
Which is why it is so important to be transparent with people, I pride myself on my transparency when it comes to these difficult conversations. After all, people prefer to know where they’re at rather than being led down the garden path!
Communication, clear expectations, honesty and good research are the attributes required to achieve a successful blogger collaboration. Blogger outreach is a very rewarding and social job to have, but it can make for turbulent waters to tread. Especially, as more and more bloggers and social influencers are speaking up about what, and was is not acceptable when it comes to a smooth collaboration.
There is so much more that I could write about around this topic, and perhaps in the future, I will, but for now, this is my two penneth. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about blogger outreach, I’d be delighted to help!