Insights

Influencer relations in a pandemic

Posted by
Carolyn Wheatley
Insights

Influencer relations in a pandemic

Écrit par
Carolyn Wheatley

With COVID-19 interrupting countless vocations and millions of careers, the average Canadian probably isn’t thinking about Canada’s social media influencers, who are poised to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in brand partnerships and sponsored posts during the pandemic.

We feel for these influencers—especially those in the travel, restaurant and tourism space—who have worked for years to perfect their content streams and build up their audiences.

At FHR, we maintain close relationships with many influencers across the country because, well, they constantly deliver results for our clients. In fact, in a recent survey, 61 per cent of consumers aged 18 to 34 admitted being swayed in their decision-making by digital influencers.

The government of Finland has even recognized their power, harnessing the social networks of influencers to spread the word about the importance of flattening the curve.

An influencer we regularly partner with – Ania Boniecka – has been spreading the “Stay Home” message as well. She tells us that while many of her U.S.-based clients have given her the greenlight to create content centred around being at home, her Canadian clients have been much more hesitant for fear of coming across as insensitive.

Ania doesn’t agree with this approach because, as she puts perfectly, “Everyone is eager for distractions and consuming more content than ever.”

We feel for these influencers—especially those in the travel, restaurant and tourism space—who have worked for years to perfect their content streams and build up their audiences.

So, how should your brand proceed with influencers? Here are eight steps to help you navigate these stressful, uncertain times:

FHR’s influencer relations playbook

  • Reconsider your call to action: Don’t ask influencers to drive followers in-store, or to go in-store to get their favourite product to post about, or to document an in-store promotion. Ship them what they need to create content from home. Allow them to post brand-level content with an engagement objective. If link clicks remain the priority objective, be sure to have influencers surround the click request with contextual relevance. Use influencers to be helpful in an at-home way, not just to promote your point of sale.
  • Be patient with influencers: Creating content at home may be suddenly more difficult. Whether they have kids at home or no access to their regular photographer and/or production team, flexibility is key. Also, think of potential creative restrictions. Influencers’ content may have to be shot in their home setting and have less visual diversity overall. Plan timelines accordingly and be nimble. Consider investing in more Instagram Stories as opposed to highly produced YouTube videos for now.
  • Cultivate influencer relationships during this time: Surprise and delight your influencer contacts who are suddenly home-bound with a creative mailer. Don’t ask for a post in exchange, simply demonstrate you are listening and supporting them. Infuse a little fun and creativity that may be a welcome break.
  • Remember that influencers are not just millennial fashionistas on Instagram: Now may be the time to use social listening tools to identity true brand fans who have influence, particularly nano and micro influencers. Or, it might be time to identify and activate internal champions or key opinion leaders (KOLs). Influencer relations have never been exclusively about sponsored Instagram posts. Now may be a great time to identify organic and earned influencer opportunities.
  • Prepare for a third-quarter boom in influencer relations: Influencers will be hungry to resume their activities. Be ready for influencers to reach out to pitch their capabilities, audience size and partnership ideas. Map back to your brand’s qualitative and quantitative filters to determine who is the right fit from a reach, relevance and resonance perspective. Just because an influencer claims to be a brand fan and wants to work with you does not mean he/she is a good fit or has influence for your category.
  • Rely on the power of collaboration: An established influencer knows his/her audience best, and what resonates with them. Work with them, directed by a creative brief, and be open to how they suggest bringing your concept to life in a way that makes sense to their audience at any moment in time.
  • Clearly communicate expectations: Be sure to communicate whether the work will continue later, or if the agreement should be terminated, if you need to put existing influencer work on hold for now. Compensate influencers for the time and talent they put into content creation to date, even if the final version was never posted. Influencers’ value is not only in promotion, but also creation.
  • Pivot, if you can: Certain types of content are performing well now, like educational/scientific, entertainment/humour, fitness, cooking and helpful/utilitarian resources for people not used to spending so much time at home. Can you pivot to integrate your brand into any of these content themes? Doing so could open your brand to a new level of relevance for the times.

By following the tips and advice above, you can maintain positive relationships with key influencers while creating valuable content for your audience that is appropriate for the times.

If your organization needs support or advice in these uncertain times, here’s where you can find the latest news, insights and resources related to COVID-19.

With COVID-19 interrupting countless vocations and millions of careers, the average Canadian probably isn’t thinking about Canada’s social media influencers, who are poised to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in brand partnerships and sponsored posts during the pandemic.

We feel for these influencers—especially those in the travel, restaurant and tourism space—who have worked for years to perfect their content streams and build up their audiences.

At FHR, we maintain close relationships with many influencers across the country because, well, they constantly deliver results for our clients. In fact, in a recent survey, 61 per cent of consumers aged 18 to 34 admitted being swayed in their decision-making by digital influencers.

The government of Finland has even recognized their power, harnessing the social networks of influencers to spread the word about the importance of flattening the curve.

An influencer we regularly partner with – Ania Boniecka – has been spreading the “Stay Home” message as well. She tells us that while many of her U.S.-based clients have given her the greenlight to create content centred around being at home, her Canadian clients have been much more hesitant for fear of coming across as insensitive.

Ania doesn’t agree with this approach because, as she puts perfectly, “Everyone is eager for distractions and consuming more content than ever.”

We feel for these influencers—especially those in the travel, restaurant and tourism space—who have worked for years to perfect their content streams and build up their audiences.

So, how should your brand proceed with influencers? Here are eight steps to help you navigate these stressful, uncertain times:

FHR’s influencer relations playbook

  • Reconsider your call to action: Don’t ask influencers to drive followers in-store, or to go in-store to get their favourite product to post about, or to document an in-store promotion. Ship them what they need to create content from home. Allow them to post brand-level content with an engagement objective. If link clicks remain the priority objective, be sure to have influencers surround the click request with contextual relevance. Use influencers to be helpful in an at-home way, not just to promote your point of sale.
  • Be patient with influencers: Creating content at home may be suddenly more difficult. Whether they have kids at home or no access to their regular photographer and/or production team, flexibility is key. Also, think of potential creative restrictions. Influencers’ content may have to be shot in their home setting and have less visual diversity overall. Plan timelines accordingly and be nimble. Consider investing in more Instagram Stories as opposed to highly produced YouTube videos for now.
  • Cultivate influencer relationships during this time: Surprise and delight your influencer contacts who are suddenly home-bound with a creative mailer. Don’t ask for a post in exchange, simply demonstrate you are listening and supporting them. Infuse a little fun and creativity that may be a welcome break.
  • Remember that influencers are not just millennial fashionistas on Instagram: Now may be the time to use social listening tools to identity true brand fans who have influence, particularly nano and micro influencers. Or, it might be time to identify and activate internal champions or key opinion leaders (KOLs). Influencer relations have never been exclusively about sponsored Instagram posts. Now may be a great time to identify organic and earned influencer opportunities.
  • Prepare for a third-quarter boom in influencer relations: Influencers will be hungry to resume their activities. Be ready for influencers to reach out to pitch their capabilities, audience size and partnership ideas. Map back to your brand’s qualitative and quantitative filters to determine who is the right fit from a reach, relevance and resonance perspective. Just because an influencer claims to be a brand fan and wants to work with you does not mean he/she is a good fit or has influence for your category.
  • Rely on the power of collaboration: An established influencer knows his/her audience best, and what resonates with them. Work with them, directed by a creative brief, and be open to how they suggest bringing your concept to life in a way that makes sense to their audience at any moment in time.
  • Clearly communicate expectations: Be sure to communicate whether the work will continue later, or if the agreement should be terminated, if you need to put existing influencer work on hold for now. Compensate influencers for the time and talent they put into content creation to date, even if the final version was never posted. Influencers’ value is not only in promotion, but also creation.
  • Pivot, if you can: Certain types of content are performing well now, like educational/scientific, entertainment/humour, fitness, cooking and helpful/utilitarian resources for people not used to spending so much time at home. Can you pivot to integrate your brand into any of these content themes? Doing so could open your brand to a new level of relevance for the times.

By following the tips and advice above, you can maintain positive relationships with key influencers while creating valuable content for your audience that is appropriate for the times.

If your organization needs support or advice in these uncertain times, here’s where you can find the latest news, insights and resources related to COVID-19.

Carolyn Wheatley
Vice President
Carolyn is instrumental in leading strategic social, digital, and influencer-driven programs. She delivers strong results for a variety of clients across industries including finance, CPG and food. Her fluency in both French and English helps her to craft strategies and campaigns at both a local and national level.
Carolyn Wheatley
Vice-présidente
Carolyn joue un rôle déterminant dans la direction de programmes stratégiques sociaux et numériques, ainsi que de ceux qui reposent sur l’apport des influenceurs. Elle obtient d’excellents résultats pour une gamme de clients de diverses industries, y compris les finances, les biens emballés et le secteur alimentaire. Sa maîtrise du français et de l’anglais lui permet de concevoir des stratégies et des campagnes aux échelles locale et nationale.