Hi there, Martina here -- Key PR Associate and resident beauty and skincare influencer.
In 2015 I got my start in the beauty world of Instagram through the gateway drug, I mean brand, Glossier. Because of my genuine love for their products and packaging, I frequently talked about the brand on my social media, posted pictures, and recommended products to my friends. It felt natural, of course that I would share things I loved with those around me. A year later, Glossier launched a Community Representative Program (aka influencer program) and I was brought on in the early stages to help get the program going.
BAM! An [Influencer] Is Born.
Now, four years later, I’ve worked with more than 100 brands, have made a good amount of $$$, get weekly product packages, and have built an awesome community of like-minded influencers -- many who I call IRL friends now.
But these days, “influencer” is sort of a cliche term. Every person with an Instagram account wants to be one, every brand wants to have them on their side, and everyone else is like … ick.
Despite the cloud of avocado toast and charcoal lattes surrounding them, influencers are an incredible marketing and PR tool for brands. Or they can be, if you do it right.
At The Key, I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to bring my influencer side hustle into the workplace with some of our clients, merging two worlds. I’ve learned a lot from being an influencer, AND managing influencers and building influencers programs.
Without further adieu, I present the 10 Commandments of Influencer Relations:
Thou shalt have a plan: Influencers aren’t mind readers. So if you don’t know what you want from them and what your goals are (drive downloads, purchases, engagement, etc.), neither do they. Before you start working with influencers, make sure you and your clients have a clear picture of what they’re trying to gain and what success would look like.
Thou shalt research thoroughly: As PR humans, we’re experienced in finding the right media contacts for a pitch. We look at their past coverage, Twitter conversations, LinkedIn profiles, and get to know them. Influencers should be no different. If you’re shooting in the dark and hoping something sticks, you’re doing it wrong.
Thou shalt build relationships: Influencers aren’t Instagramming robots. The same way we treat journalists with respect and tact, influencers deserve your respect. Period. Influencer relations is about … bingo -- making relationships. Get to know their brand, what they enjoy doing in their free time, who they’re friends with, what their lives are like. The details matter!
Thou shalt be authentic: Be yourself. Be kind. Be honest. Be compassionate. Listen. Don’t force it.
Thou shalt not spam: If an influencer isn’t getting back to you, most likely, they’re not into it. Would you incessantly email or Tweet at a journalist who isn’t responding to an exclusive offer? No -- so stop blowing up that influencer’s inbox.
Thou shalt incentivize: Imagine if your boss came up to you and said, “Hey, I’m going to ask you to work 2 hours extra every day, but I’m not going to give you anything for that time.” It wouldn’t fly. Don’t expect influencers to work for free and consider what’s in it for them. Whether it’s free product, a percentage of sales, a flat fee, or something else -- expect that you’ll need to present an incentive.
Thou shalt make boundaries (and respect them): Set clear guidelines of what deliverables you’d like from influencers you’re working them. Once those are set, you have every right to remind them if they’re not fulfilling their end of the deal. This goes both ways.
Thou shalt pay up: I think this one is pretty clear, but b***h better have my money. Double crossing someone = lame. Withholding pay when that’s how influencers make a living = very lame. Wasting someone’s time without compensation = very very lame. Don’t be lame!
Thou shalt be flexible: Keep an eye on what’s working and what isn’t. Are there any changes you should make to your strategy? Do you need to change your incentive structure? Totally fine! It takes time to finesse your influencer relations skills. Recognize your mistakes and keep growing.
Thou shalt be persistent: Getting an influencer program up and running takes time and patience. Give yourself time to find the right people and really dig into building relationships with them. Carefully track who you reach out to, how they respond, who signs on to work with you, and the content they produce. You got this!