By Craig Knox, MD of Talent & Influencer Marketing, The Corner
Influencer Marketing: two words that can strike fear into the hearts of even the most experienced marketers. I’d argue that these days, every brand knows that they should be doing it, but most remain unsure about how to, enter the space cautiously, and end up ‘painting by numbers’ when it comes to working with talent.
If half the battle is working out how to stay true to your existing brand guidelines, the other might then be how to keep up to speed with the constant changes in social media, or being reactive enough to partner with the right influencers before they’re often ‘cancelled’.
What’s clear to us is that, when approached correctly, Influencer Marketing can become the backbone to your brand comms and digital-creative output. On a ground level, it can drive growth, influence consumer behaviour and purchasing decisions. You only have to look at Sky’s launch of the Sky Glass TV to understand the power integrated influencer marketing can have.
Fear no more – we’ve pulled together some top tips to help you optimise your influencer marketing efforts and ensure they help, rather than hinder, your brand’s marketing strategy:
Establish a clear influencer marketing strategy (as early as possible!)
Influencer marketing is often seen as an add-on to paid media planning, or an afterthought in the creative process. This approach can be counterproductive, leading to watered-down or forced messaging that doesn’t do your brand justice.
Instead, it’s important to start considering the role that influencers can play for your brand at the start of your strategic process. What role can influencer play vs other channels? Will influencers be your storytellers, or your product provers? Will you work with a big-name celeb as the face of your campaign, or an army of nano influencers to seed your brand at a grass-roots level?
By including influencer marketing at the very start it means you can seamlessly integrate it into your overall brand campaign. We have recently started working with Lexus and Toyota on their influencer marketing, in exactly this way. Not as an adjacent, but as an integrated partner, alongside their other agencies. And are already finding opportunities to complement and add value to other channels, and ladder-up to their brand objectives through influencer activity.
Craft coherent objectives with influencer input
There’s no need to hide your brand or campaign objectives from your influencers. They want this partnership to be a success just as much as you do – after all, this reflects their own personal brand as well as yours. If you strike the balance of power early and work with
influencers to input into how you can achieve these objectives, it not only saves time and money, but also works to prevent any unwanted miscommunication or problems later down the line – avoiding headaches for both the marketer and the influencer.
This process helps to build trust. Setting clear expectations and being transparent about the influencer’s role in the campaign, will automatically lead to a stronger and more successful partnership – resulting in a campaign that is more likely to run smoothly and achieve the desired outcomes.
Handled correctly the shared agenda will be your brand’s objectives.
Step outside of social
One way to expand the reach of your influencer marketing campaign is to collaborate with influencers beyond their social media channels. All too often, brands get sucked into simply staying within the confines of Meta, YouTube or TikTok.
While social media obviously remains a valuable platform in this space, there are other marketing tactics such as ATL, BTL, OOH and PR that could and should be leveraged with influencers. Or you could think outside of the box, like British Airways continue to do by combining a mixture of celebrity and influencer faces in their onboard safety videos – their latest launching last month with rapper Little Simz and designer Oswald Boateng amongst the cast (uncoincidentally driving social and PR chatter). By involving your chosen influencers in multiple channels where possible, you give influencers greater authority to represent you: increasing partnership authenticity, and brand alignment.
Don’t handcuff influencers
The rules you have in other channels, such as advertising, may need to flex when applied to influencer channels. It’s important to discuss and agree this upfront, as we have done when working with Peroni on their creative guidelines, to understand where this flex can be applied and what should remain set in stone. Establishing this clarity at the start of the project will avoid any confusion, or frustration further down the line.
Creating the perfect influencer brief is tricky. All too often aligning creative visions from both sides can be a struggle – too prescriptive, and the content will bomb, too loose, and the brand gets lost.
To create an effective brief, it’s important to strike a balance between your idea of what will resonate with consumers, and the influencers’. Brands should be open to giving the influencer a degree of creative freedom and flexibility to stay true to their authentic voice and content style. Likewise, influencers should be willing to compromise and meet the needs of the brand and the campaign. This includes adhering to the brand’s values and messaging while still infusing their own unique perspective.
Top tip: your brand’s creative suggestions or any example content included in your brief to influencers should (ideally) come from the influencer’s own channel to ensure it’s something they would/could actually create. Don’t show them an editorial spread featured in Vogue, or a mood film shot by Taika Waititi unless you’re about lend them a full production crew and big £££.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: sometimes it takes a little while for plans to come to fruition. Perhaps, by the time they do, your ideas have lost relevancy, your budget has changed, or your ideal influencer partner archived their entire Instagram feed the day before you presented the plan to global for sign-off (true story). Whatever you do: don’t just stick to your guns and go down with the ship. Update that trend you’d included, find the influencers on the rise rather than the decline, LISTEN to your audience and read the room.
When working with LNER, we faced many last-minute changes based on key destinations vs influencer availability. Adapting to these changes meant we could shift our output to coincide with the most effective time for influencer content to go live.
Influencers can be a huge help when it comes to altering your strategy or execution at the 11th hour. They know what’s happening in real time, and by the very nature of their careers they’re forced to adapt to remain relevant. Think of it as part of your optimisation strategy and learn from the best.
The global influencer marketing industry is currently worth $16.4 billion, so it’s safe to say that it’s no longer an emerging practice. It’s the responsibility of brand marketers to harness influencer voices effectively and treat this valuable tool with respect rather than an add-on to your brand strategy. Whether you’re aiming to engage new consumers, or create a cohesive and consistent message across all audience touchpoints, influencer marketing should be high on your agenda.