Working with Brands: Here’s what you’re doing wrong

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What’s the best way to cultivate and run relationships with PRs and brands? We often talk about what Influencers want (and we hear quite a few stories about silly approaches from PRs and brands). But when we talked with one PR recently we heard about the experiences from the other side of the fence. We were surprised to hear stories of Influencers wanting to bring 3 guests along on press trips. Of demanding large sums for a single picture or update without providing metrics or engagement. At other times we’ve peronsally seen Influencers simply not show up to specially arranged events, inconveniencing both the brand and their fellow Influencers.

Here, one PR tells of the view from their side of the fence…and what you can do to ensure you’re one of the Influencers they love to work with:

I’m incredibly inspired by the relationships and mutual learning experiences I enjoy with a good many influencers.  In most instances I’ve worked with the same group of influencers on different campaigns and creative, and it’s very likely we’ll both be up for doing so again when the right timing and criteria arise. Many I have worked with are savvy, professional and above all just nice to work with (the latter shouldn’t be underestimated).

It’s absolutely true: The digital space, ever evolving, has a large group of incredibly talented, fun, professional and visionary influencers, transparent and open in collaboration and sincerely interested in how to align their own audience and values to a brand’s objectives and needs.

It’s essential of course, that PRs understand the new landscape. Things HAVE changed. Brands must be mindful of what they should do, what they should know, how they should  change when dealing with Influencers versus journalists. What hasn’t and shouldn’t change is the very essence of collaboration.

How to be a successful Social Influencer

But — and alas there is a but — not all Influencers know what they need to know: how to collaborate professionally and create positive relationships with PRs and brand representatives. Not knowing these skills can compromise fruitful collaborations. Plus, keeping these basics in mind will help ALL Influencers work better, be more productive and create relationships with brands and PRs that

First and foremost – Reciprocity is part of the collaboration process.  The influencer space has enjoyed a narrative of  “new” , “the future” and “we do things very differently”. All these statements are true, and deservedly so.  It’s not the whole story though. 

There can be a tendency to write off the basic elements of relationship building and successful partnerships as “old school”, “dull” and “restrictive”.  A brand may not share an Influencer’s exact vision or wish to honour their exact terms, and this is part of simple exploration and negotiation. It’s not generational, it’s not “negative” and it’s not proof that “the brand doesn’t get it”.  When a PR’s experience is dismissed in the early stages of dialogue (sometimes rudely) the working relationship can be over before it’s begun.

The importance of manners for Social Influencers

Remember also to mind your manners. We may operate in a digital landscape but we’re all still human. As people we gravitate toward those who are pleasant to work with. It’s basic and potentially deal breaking, especially when the same objectives can be met elsewhere in a mutually respectful professional relationship. Which is to say, there are other fish in the sea.

It’s not just Ps & Qs. I think of it as the three M’s: Manners, Measurables and Meanings (see my list below).

Exchanges where three essentials “Ms” are missing can park partnerships before they start. To eye roll or dismiss them, as some Influencers do, misses the principle of professionalism that hasn’t and shouldn’t go away even with the seismic changes in media. Campaign creativity may be king, but it’s nothing if it never makes it to a coherent, meaningful, pleasant and measurable execution.

  • MANNERS: Online and offline
  • MEASURABLES: Post-collaboration reporting back to agreed outcomes
  • MEANINGS : When a  brand uses the below words, they’re not synonyms for “negative” or “you don’t get it” :
  • OBJECTIVES – both parties will have them – it’s part of a collaboration to explore if both sets can be achieved and how
  • TIMELINE – deadlines, timings attached to both practical and business schedules aren’t arbitrary
  • NO – Expect to hear it at some point. It may be to some — not all — of the elements under discussion
  • BRAND GUIDELINES – See above. Just as it would be poor practice (and not very respectful) for a PR not to have adequately researched your blog and social feed so it should be reciprocated in learning a little about the brand when entering a partnership

At the risk of starting a ping pong conversation, there’s no way to dress this up: EVERYONE needs to consider these basics. They are not solely the responsibility of brands wishing to work with Influencers. This is a mutual check list, not a one-way shopping expedition.  So, how best to ensure a mutually respectful and long relationship? As Freddy Rumsen in “Mad Men” tells John Hamm’s character in response to how to get back into the business, it’s basic:  “Do the work, Don”.


The writer is a communications professional with more than 25 years of experience on the agency side and in house and has worked with blue chip companies across the world.

 Image: JKstock via Shutterstock


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What do you think? Do you see bad behaviour from the client side and Influencer side? What are your rules of thumb when dealing with partners?


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1 Comment

  1. 08 February 2019 / 01:31

    It is always good to see the perspective from the brand and PR side. It at least helps those of us on the other side to know where they are coming from.