The big influencer debate

October 2016

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Tony Wall’s piece in the SST turned the spotlight on to the world of brand and blogger collaborations. When journalists start writing about bloggers, you know the tide has turned.

But the difference between traditional media and the influencer community can be vast.

Journalists are usually trained in their craft. Not only do they learn the bones of how to craft a story but they are also taught how to mitigate risk and protect themselves and their publication from liability. They are both shielded and guided by the media platform they represent.

Whilst there are some semi-professional bloggers who are trained writers, for the most part they represent themselves. Individuals who have a point of view they want to share with the world. They establish relationships with their readers and look to bring them content they believe will be of value.

But until quite recently, blogging and content creation for social media has been a passion project. Rarely has payment been made and PR agencies have worked with this community in much the same way as they have with traditional media.

But with the growth of digital influencers and the changes in traditional media, the balance is shifting. Brands recognise that to get more out of these relationships, they need to put more in.

However, the tide has turned and gifts, invitations to exclusive events, free product and payment to create branded content for these platforms is now becoming more commonplace.

But the majority are not declaring that this content has been paid for.

The ASA guidelines are clear. The current code states that an ad is an ad, regardless of the platform. So why the hesitation?

Speaking from the inside, there is a genuine fear from both brands and bloggers that if its declared as paid, then it loses its authenticity and therefore its power.

Bloggers are fearful that their readers will lose trust and love in them if they are seen to be pushing out paid content that hasn’t been brought about through a genuine love of the brand.

Brands are nervous because they believe it makes them look as though they have to purchase advocacy.

But there is no shame in working with a brand on a paid collaboration. Bloggers should be proud that the brand has chosen to tell its story through them. And brands shouldn’t always expect content to come free of charge, particularly when the blogger has spent time creating a piece of compelling content.

The key element is to ensure that the relationships are authentic. The brand connection should be genuine and the relationship ongoing. There is little value to the brand or the blogger in one-off status updates.

Influencer marketing is at its best when there is a genuine and sustained relationship between the brand and the influencer. Pead PR is working with the blogger and influencer community to create sustained and authentic relationships with the brands we represent.
We will invest time into our relationships with influencers in a way that delivers integrity of comment, great content and a measurable return on any investment our clients make.

Becky Erwood

More on this subject
I spoke recently on this subject with Jesse Mulligan on National Radio. The interview can be found here
Blogger Vanessa Rehm asks her audience their thoughts on full disclosure of paid content here