Over the past year as I've developed an influencer strategy and process for my company, I felt as though the only advice I could find were blog posts coaching potential influencers on how to get started. When I did come across pieces on brands using influencer marketing, they seemed as though they were written by influencers (highly likely as many influencers got their start in blogging). These pieces only explained all the benefits of influencer marketing and made influencers out to be golden children - what a privilege it is for a brand to work with influencers and that the brand should make all sorts of concessions for these opportunities. These types of pieces seem to fuel some entitlement that exists within the community that gives the really good influencers a very bad name. With multiple requests from different influencers per week, its not like there isn't another opportunity for the brand right around the inbox.
While it surely takes a load of confidence to be able to be successful as an influencer, at a company with higher end items and in an industry that is driven by projects that take at least weeks but usually months to plan and complete, the company has so much to lose. I can't treat every opportunity as a golden child, and they definitely aren't all so grand.
The Dreaded Email Blast Template
I imagine many people who work in influencer marketing have been around media relations in one way or another and know the first rule of that is to personalize your emails to the reporter. The same goes for influencer marketing requests (whether influencer to brand or vice versa). Influencers failing to swap out brand's name in their template is a clear indicator they don't know the brand. How can you be a brand advocate in that case? In many instances, the ones that know the least about the brand have been the most persistent. When one who had failed to swap another brand's name in their email kept persisting (three or four somewhat begging emails), I was a bit more blunt in saying it would not be happening versus my usual, kinder "not at this time" response. Maybe should have told them about their failing to simply indicate they even knew who they were actually talking to so they would see the fault was their own and not make that mistake with others. Instead I got one more email back declaring how rude I was and that they'd never be purchasing anything from the company (this time actually using our company name!). Let's be real; they didn't intend to purchase anything anyways. That was one of my first sour responses and a very real look into some of that entitlement that is out there.
It can be hard to tell who you are talking to sometimes, especially through DMs. After scrolling a feed for quite some time to determine the authenticity, I came across a personal post that revealed the account owner and person requesting product was 14. While my company has decided we wouldn't partner with minors, your company might benefit from that. Keep in mind that negotiating and contracting would require some special treatment in those cases. Consider if that is something you want to do and then watch out for those cases. If you also don't want to go down that path, add a clause in your agreements that the person signing it represents they are of legal age.
The Ridiculous Ask
My first "big girl" job I was exposed to the "your emergency is not my priority" phrase, and it has always stuck with me. Unfortunately, we can't always live that way in our work life, but for those asking for free (again high dollar value items!) product with some outrageous timeline, I definitely take that phrase to heart. Eventually, I put a disclaimer in our partnership inquiry form that any request without a minimum of a month before the influencer needs product will not be considered. Many times our items ship freight, which when shipping across country requires about two weeks for delivery, and that doesn't include the time to review the request, check sources, and then negotiate terms. I do make exceptions for media that requires filming as they clearly have strict deadlines, but sometimes we just can't make those happen either.
The Third-Party Influence
The really good influencers get shares and mentions from publications. You will see that they regularly are selected as a contributor or know how to pitch to the media to get included. The not-so-great influencers will try to bank on a third-party to ramp up their reach numbers. Sometimes this comes in the form of claiming they will be doing a take over of another account that has a larger following, are working with a reporter for this specific project, or are a founder of a company and will be using those company accounts to push their personal project. These COULD be really good opportunities, but you must tread lightly. Have the agreement signed off by any account owners claimed in the accounts posts will be shared. Set terms that you will be happy with if the publication falls through or have a clause for payback of some sort if that were to happen.
Briefly mentioned in all of these points, I note different ways to combat some of these issues in vetting and negotiating. First off, do you have a template for requests to get as many details as possible covered before going too far down a path? Secondly, are you putting together agreements? If not, well hang tight, because my next few posts will cover those topics!