The Backlash-Proof Guide to Briefing Influencers

vampAfter another high-profile Instagram ASA ban, brands must learn to brief clearly and play by the rules to avoid grief says Vamp’s Aaron Brooks

A post from serial brand collaborator, Louise Thompson, was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) last month. It’s the second time this year that the reality TV star and influencer has received a ticking off from the ASA for failing to disclose a post that was sponsored.

In the UK, the rules for influencer marketing are strict and clear. You would have thought Louise, who shares sponsored posts with her 1.1m followers on an almost daily basis, would be well versed in them. Yet in an Instagram Story about a skin cleansing brush, she forgot one crucial detail. She had been paid to post about it.

Influencer marketing has been up against its fair share of criticism over transparency this year. Controversies such as this risk further damage to the reputation of the brand, influencer and industry as a whole. It makes what can be an effective, straight-forward and authentic marketing practice appear untrustworthy.

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Influencers, as content creators and publishers, are responsible for knowing the disclosure rules or guidelines in their market and sticking to them. But brands have a responsibility too. Their briefs need to be clear and ensure the work will be ASA approved.

Great results can still be achieved when you play by the rules. When brands pick the right talent for a campaign, influencers who are knowledgeable and relevant to that market and have a genuine affinity to the brand, content loses no resonance by the addition of an #ad hashtag. The majority of Instagram users are well aware of how influencer marketing works and are likely to appreciate the honesty. Not to mention the fact it reduces the chances of the work eventually being banned.

While there’s no way of knowing exactly why Louise’s post missed the mark, brands and marketers on the whole need to prioritize laying the right foundations. Relevant influencers and thoughtful briefs will see your campaigns succeed. That way you won’t need to resort to potentially risky practices.

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Three Golden Rules of Briefing Influencers

Know what you want

Like any good relationship, communication is key. Be explicit about what you want to achieve from the activity. Are you hoping to encourage customers in store, drive sales with a discount code or increase awareness? Communicating your vision and goals will give helpful context and set the campaign on the right path.

Create a clear brief…

There will often be clear restrictions or preferences about how a brand should be represented. Even more so if it happens to be an alcohol brand, for instance. Do your future self a favor and ensure these mandatories are clearly listed in your brief to influencers. Include any other ‘must haves’ such as tags, hashtags and legal regulations. This will ensure the smooth running of your campaign and limit any grief later down the line.

But don’t restrict creativity

When making that list of mandatories, resist the urge to be over-prescriptive when it comes to the creative. The beauty of investing in influencer marketing is receiving authentic content that brings your brand to life in creative ways you may not have even imagined. Steve Job’s quote, ‘It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do’ is fitting here. Be brave. Allow influencers to do the job you’re paying them for and the results will follow.

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In my experience, influencers protect their personal brand fiercely. The trust they have built among their following is everything, so they will be more willing to work with brands who will help foster this integrity. Not only will these golden rules make your campaigns run smoothly, but they will make influencers a lot more excited to work with you.

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