Covid-19 has been a wakeup call for many of us in influencer marketing. I, for one, don’t think it will be the same going forward.
In many ways, the industry was losing its way in the months leading up to the pandemic. There were signs, from tabloid stories about influencers behaving badly to the number brands choosing to pause their influencer marketing plans in favor of more traditional programs. The business itself had become complex and consuming; partnership negotiations were battlefields; contracts were limiting creative capabilities. Influencers were frustrated by brand involvement in their content while brands were often confused by the deliverables and disappointed in the results.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Influencer marketing was on track to become a $10 billion market in 2020. Influencer marketing was going to change the face of advertising .
Enter the pandemic, and the almost-immediate freeze in activity for so many businesses, marketing included. Food became a big story as people anxiously stocked up on canned goods and frozen foods and began to cook at home for most, if not all, of their meals. As the food brands stepped back from their usual activity, the influencers stepped forward to guide their followers through the challenges they faced in their own kitchens. They helped them stock their pantries. They literally taught them how to cook.
During this difficult time, influencers created the valuable, relevant, and authentic content that grew our industry in the first place. They renewed our faith in the power and promise of influencer marketing. It will change the face of advertising—but first we have to get it back on the right track. We have to help brands understand how to succeed, help influencers be valuable brand ambassadors, and make the work simpler for both sides.
That was our first aha moment. The second came three weeks ago, when we and the rest of the world were witnesses to inexplicable brutality and injustice. We quickly began to see that we’d been silent for too long, complicit in the lack of diversity in our industry, in our agency, and on our team. We are in the business of amplifying voices and helping others create and grow their platforms. That power is both a privilege and an obligation. We have not lived up to that obligation.
Our industry and our business need to change. We want to bring back the authenticity and creativity that made influencer marketing great. But this time, we want to make this a more inclusive place for influencers of color and recognize the value they bring to the table. These changes have been long overdue.
So this is where we stand now, at the crossroads of change and action. We commit to both, repositioning ourselves and our work to change the way we do business and change the industry. Here’s how we’ll do that.
Diversify Our Agency
We are committed to bringing diversity to our team and to our business, to amplifying talented and ambitious influencers of color who should have been recognized long before this.
We will seek out these talented creators to help them navigate a path to success and learn how we can better support them in the process. And we will research and reach out to businesses owned by people of color, and help them promote and grow their brands.
Build Better Partnerships
We believe that success in this business is built on authentic partnerships that drive awareness and build trust between all parties involved.
Extended relationships, as opposed to one-off projects, do what influencer marketing does best: find and engage consumers who value the influencer’s content, purchase the product, and incorporate it into their lives. To that end, we will focus on long-term partnerships and strive to ensure these relationships create lasting success for brands and influencers alike.
We will foster and prioritize creativity and authenticity at every turn in the process of managing a partnership. This begins with giving influencers creative control over their content—they know their followers and the kind of content they value most.
We’ll also work to connect influencers with the brands they know and love, and help those brands see the value in the organic content they’re already creating. When an influencer partnership is an organic extension of an existing relationship between a brand and that influencer, we know the content will be better, more creative, and more relevant to the influencer’s followers.
For us, equality means a few things.
It means partnerships built on equal amounts of trust and respect between brand and influencers. It requires that both understand the other, and place a high value on their goals and on their expertise. When a brand can clearly state their goals for a partnership, and when the influencer can clearly see how to incorporate those goals into content their audience will value, there is equality.
It also means diversity, and the opportunity for us as an agency and as an industry to create a more equal playing field for Black influencers and Black-owned businesses. We intend to set a much more inclusive table, inviting a vastly more diverse group of people to pull up a chair and talk about all the ways we can work together.
We’re all going to need a bigger table.
We are determined to do better, and to be a force for change within our industry. As we continue to listen, learn, and act on that goal, we welcome thoughts and ideas from our community. Please feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laurie Buckle, CEO & Founder