As part of my series about “How Influencers Can Monetize Their Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alison Guthrie.
Alison is an expert at engineering inspired, creative relationships that change the world. She is leading the way with regarding to how entrepreneurs strategically and authentically build relationships with their audience and share their stories. Through Alison’s innovative approach and influence, entrepreneurs benefit by constructing avenues to share their purpose and passion with the world. She is a leader for creating true relationships within her clients’ target markets, which organically generates visibility, increased profits, and a business that is positively impacting the world.
Alison was born and raised in Kansas City. After graduating from Rockhurst University with a B.A. in Education, she began work in the marketing and public relations profession. She has overseen marketing and public relations operations covering the entire Midwest region for several of the world’s largest companies.
Alison continues to live in KC while serving her clients all over the world. Working with clients in a variety of different industries within different cultures is a unique thrill that she truly appreciates. Alison enjoys spending time with her family, running, weightlifting, yoga and riding on the back of a motorcycle.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is your “backstory”? What brought you to this point in your career?
Thank you! I truly appreciate it.
I came into the marketing and public relations profession in a very roundabout way. I actually have a B.A. in Elementary Education and was working as a teacher prior to moving into the marketing and public relations profession.
One summer, between school years, I was working for a non-profit children’s organization. I was working with the children and absolutely not in their marketing department whatsoever. Social media was just starting to take off at the time. The organization added “social media manager” to my job description on a whim. This was long before companies employed actual social media managers. I happily agreed and worked all summer on these new, strange, up-and-coming social platforms. I realized quickly that I had a natural gift for marketing and public relations.
At the end of summer, I was offered a job in the company’s marketing department and left my role as an educator. Quickly, my creativity and out-of-the-box thinking yielded me big results in marketing and public relations strategic design. Since, I’ve overseen marketing and public relations operations over the entire Midwest region for several of the world’s largest companies. At the beginning of 2020, I opened AG Influence with the goal of bringing my vast marketing and public relations knowledge to entrepreneurs.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career?
I work in the world of social media so everyday produces both laugh out loud and frustrating moments. The highlight, though, is previewing all my influencers’ content before it goes live. I scan for anything which might cause a public relations nightmare and subsequently get my clients “cancelled”. Without fail, I’m always having a conversation with a client about the inappropriate or offensive nature of a piece of content. We always have a good laugh about the issue and how they were blind to the consequences that could’ve, or would’ve, ensued.
One of my favorite moments — although I wasn’t laughing at the time — was an evening when I opened Instagram to see one of my clients had randomly posted and called out an ENTIRE COUNTRY for being rude. Luckily, I saw the post before too much damage was done. We had to have a conversation about that post, to put it mildly. My client and I laugh fondly about it now and how clueless he was about the ramifications from said post.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As a rule, I only accept clients who know their “why”- their higher purpose in all the craziness that is social media. End global warming? Bring awareness to women’s rights in third world countries? Promoting a healthy and happy life at all ages? I don’t care what the why, but my clients must have a higher purpose. Social media can be a shallow and fake world, and it’s important that my clients be contributing to the greater good of humanity. I use my creative ability to catapult my clients to this “why” on the fastest route possible.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?
Don’t give up. The time will pass anyway. We choose the destination and the person we will be tomorrow, next month or next year. Time inevitably passes, and whether we continue striving for success or give up on our dreams, the destination at which we have arrived when time is up is entirely decided by us.
None of us can achieve success without a bit of help along the way. Is there a particular person who made a profound difference in your life to whom you are grateful? Can you share a story?
I do have a great story about someone who has encouraged me during each step of my entrepreneurial journey. When I was floating the idea of starting AG Influence, one evening I casually mentioned to a friend though a text message exchange that I had this idea. He asked me a few questions and the conversation abruptly ended. I know mentioning it to him was more to gauge his response than anything serious. Although I recognize my act as foolish now, I was probably looking for encouragement or validation. When he abruptly ended the conversation, I was left discouraged and just “knew” launching my own agency was a terrible idea.
I woke up the next morning to the LLC for my agency having been established, filed, and the paperwork delivered to my inbox. The friend I had spoken with the previous evening, a lawyer, had spent the evening setting up my LLC and filing the necessary paperwork. He knew this was the next step in my career and believed he would provide me this epic push in the correct direction. If the company was already created and registered, I was out of excuses not to proceed. His drafting and filing my LLC catapulted my whole career to a new level.
I often wonder what would be had he not stayed up that evening preparing the necessary paperwork for me. I know he changed my life and the lives of the countless people I help daily to reach their own “why”.
So what are the most exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I “strongly suggest” (read: it’s non-negotiable) all of my influencers establish a passion project that benefits humanity. These passion projects are definitely the most exciting opportunities I’m currently working on.
With 2020, the world saw destruction and unrest on a scale never previously witnessed. People were, and still are, hurting — emotionally, physically, financially. Gone are the days when social media users ONLY want to see how great the five-star accommodations are in Bora Bora. While that is good content for influencers, it’s not good enough after 2020. Social media users want to know influencers are helping others during these trying times.
Given this, I’ve encouraged my clients to use their fame for the betterment of society and create a project, or join a project, that does such. We brainstorm together a way to incorporate this project into their established niche. This ensures the project is on brand and their followers can benefit as well. As an example, an aviation influencer I represent has partnered with a non-profit organization providing mental health services to those in the aviation industry. This is especially relevant currently as the aviation industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Thankfully, these passion projects have seen tremendous success with a great response from the fan bases.
What are your “Top Five Ways That Influencers Can Monetize Their Brand” . (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Give to Get: Don’t you hate it when someone constantly asks for favors but never provides favors? Yes. Me too. I encourage influencers to give before expecting to receive. No brand wants to work with anyone who constantly has their hand out for freebies or more money — no matter the size of their following. Influencers should build great relationships within their industry and constantly give value to others. That way, when it’s time for the influencer to eventually make a request, the brand they’ve been selflessly supporting can easily recognize the return on investment.
- Stay On Brand with Larger Collaborations and Partnerships: While almost every company in the world wants to send freebies to influencers for promotion, these aren’t always the best collaborations. Partaking in too many that aren’t on brand or promoting products the influencer doesn’t believe in, can quickly lessen their credibility and make an influencer appear disingenuous. I encourage influencers to choose only a few, big brands they want to work with. They should pitch the appropriate people in the appropriate way. Not only does this strategy promote quality versus quantity, but larger brands have significant more funding for these partnerships.
- Use Your Platform For Good: Monetizing a brand doesn’t mean the influencer should be the only one to benefit. In fact, it’s probably better for their brand if they are not. Being tone-deaf to the current struggles of so many is not a quality public relations strategy for anyone. Influencers should use their platform for good and help a cause they are passionate about. I encourage this partnership to be with a company within their own industry. The influencer will help a cause they’re passionate about raise money and gain exposure. Undoubtedly, this will also yield the influencer great public relations for themselves.
- Connect With Your Audience: There are many ways for an influencer to establish a better relationship with their followers and monetize their brand simultaneously. Influencers should set up a Patreon account. Patreon is a monthly membership site that allows an influencer’s followers to gain exclusive access to them, and their content, for a fee.
- Know Your Social Media Worth But Don’t Stop There: I think I’m worth a million dollars. Is a brand going to pay me a million dollars to post for them? Not a chance. Nothing breaks down partnership negotiations faster than an influencer with unrealistic expectations of how much they should earn. Thankfully, there is a tool that tells influencers exactly what a brand should pay to work with them, Social Blue Book. Social Blue Book looks at an influencer’s reach, follower count, engagement and views. They then report the rates an influencer should be charging for partnerships based on industry averages and what other influencers with similar size followings are charging. It reports on all of the influencer’s platforms and all the different ways to post — stories, dedicated posts, videos, lives, and reels. Knowing these statistics, provides an influencer more avenues for monetizing their brand. influencers can offer brands multiple ways to be seen on their platforms at a price point the brand can afford. A brand might not have the budget for a designated Facebook post at $5,000 but could afford an Instagram shout-out on stories for $1,500. However, don’t take these prices as the be-all-end-all. I always negotiate more for my clients in the form of non-monetary benefits.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would start a movement promoting kindness on social media. Every day I see how the horrific comments posted by keyboard warriors truly affect the people behind these large brands. Not just the influencer themselves but also their partners, children, extended family, and friends. The comments people leave can be absolutely appalling and can have a lasting, devastating toll. It’s not uncommon for influencers to completely hand over social media management to a team member, shut down certain platforms, or even seek therapy for the types of rhetoric people engage in on their platforms.
How different would our world look if we were kinder to each other on social media? If we used our keyboards to speak to strangers as we would speak to our loved ones?
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. :-)
I would want to share a meal with Barbara Corcoran. I’ve followed her for years. She has inspired me long before entrepreneurship crossed my mind. As an amazing entrepreneur, and amazing woman, I would soak up anything she told me like a sponge. She probably gives the best darn inspirational advice on both life and business. And let’s not lie, she is a total hoot! She would probably have me in stitches during the whole meal.
What is the best way our readers can follow your work online? LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alison-guthrie
Facebook: @myaginfluence Instagram: @my_aginfluence
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!