Influencer marketing brand safety: four things you must plan for

By Alec Harden-Henry, Commercial Director, Influence Network.

In an influencer marketing benchmark report for 2019 79% of respondents said that brand safety could either occasionally be a concern or that brand safety was always a concern when it came to their influencer marketing.

That leaves 21% of respondents who don’t feel as though brand safety is a concern and, as the report itself says, with its tongue firmly in its cheek, ‘has mastered the art of finding appropriate influencers for their brands, and they have little concern about a values mismatch’.

The fact is that brand safety will always be a concern, even if you have utmost confidence in your influencers.

Consider your trusted relationship with your internal designer or external design agency. They probably know you really well. They may have even designed your brand. And yet, you probably don’t have to think too far back to a time when they produced something for you that just wasn’t quite right.

This is the influencer world, where the opportunities are endless but the potential for something being ‘not quite right’ exists daily and in the public eye.

So, what do you do about it?

There are four key areas to consider that will help you to protect your brand when working with influencers, mitigating the risks and allowing you to run and take advantage of high performing influencer campaigns.

check your influencer’s authenticity

You will need a plan to check that your influencer is who they present themselves to be, and that their statistics and work are genuine. Consider the following questions around those two aspects and how they relate to brand safety;

  • Does your influencer have any fake followers? If so, how many and what percentage or amount would breach your tolerance level? What percentage would appear to be a natural part of using the platform and what percentage would suggest there is some artificial enhancement being employed?
  • How does your influencer create their content? How much artifice is employed and, again, how much would breach your tolerance level? Use recent case studies to consider this. If your influencer used picture editing software to claim that they had been to places they had not, would this impact your brand safety concerns or be considered an acceptable part of content creation?

The good news is that – depending on where you focus your influencer efforts – micro influencers generally are extremely authentic, rarely have high levels of fake followers and post genuine content. According to Hannah Page, Digital Communications Manager at Jin, “With the coronavirus pandemic reducing access to luxury experiences, many influencers have been forced many to go ‘back to their roots’, sharing more relatable content.”

But this doesn’t mean that you can join the 21% and completely relax! To ensure brand safety you will still need mechanisms to evaluate your influencers before you begin working with them.

check your influencer’s history

As influencers are typically very active on their social networks of choice, the ability to look into an influencer’s history is becoming more laborious by the day. Whilst in 2015 it might have been relatively easy to scroll through an influencer’s entire Twitter history, there’s now a further five years worth of material, which is growing at a significant rate.

Even with this sizeable backlog though, it’s still going to be a priority to assess all that your influencer has done previously, keeping a clear lookout for anything that could compromise both their image and your own. People in the public eye routinely have their social media scoured for past indiscretions and, as your influencers achieve greater reach, the spotlight will turn to them sooner rather than later.

As a brand you will need to make sure that their entire history poses no threat to your own values.

How are you going to check if your influencer’s post is acceptable and what are you going to do if it is not?

At some point the influencers you work with are going to be ready to post the content you have paid them for, so there’s a process consideration here when it comes to a final check.

Are you happy that, having done your due diligence on the influencers you work with, you trust them to post material that keeps your brand safe and meets the brief without you checking it before it goes live? Or do you require final sign off on any content each time? In this case, how are you going to get sight of the content before the influencer presses ‘post’?

It’s an issue of brand safety, but it’s also a logistical, process and creative challenge to solve that comes with working with influencers.

In the event that the suggested post is not something that you’re keen on, how are you going to address this without reaching a stage where you mandate the creative you want the influencer to produce? This will almost certainly lead to authenticity problems, which defeats the whole purpose of working with the influencer. Strong and clear briefs help, but in the event that your influencer misses the mark it’s worth having a plan or procedure to deal with this.

What are you going to do in the event of an ‘influencer disaster’?

And speaking of plans and procedures your ‘influencer disaster’ plan is a ‘must have’.

The first rule of disasters does apply here: it is always better to avoid the disaster than to have to use your disaster plan.

The first three questions considered here should help you to do this, but you can’t plan for complete unpredictability, other than to have your disaster plan ready to react to it. In your plan you will need to consider;

  • Internal communication: who needs to know and what do they need to do?
  • Influencer communication: how will you handle the influencer and/or partner you work with? Do you know where items such as your contract with the influencer are and how you’ll enforce the terms?
  • External communication: do you have a press release ready to go with some pre-approved wording that can be amended for the situation? Who will liaise with any press that need to be talked to? What questions will and won’t you answer?

Thankfully, genuine ‘influencer disasters’ are rare, but having a plan will mean you’re well prepared if disaster does indeed strike.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

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