Influencing through the media has been the bread and butter of the PR industry since its inception. But as the way we consume media changes, many brands now value influencers just as highly as a journalist when it comes to endorsements.
In the media, rules around highlighting sponsored content to the reader have been in existence for some time. However, with the rapid development of influencer marketing, the rules haven’t been so clear, and readers often don’t know if their favourite blogger or vlogger is endorsing a product or service because they love it, because some form of remuneration has been involved, or both!
New regulations from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) will now require brands and influencers to highlight if a follower is about to view content that has been paid for. The logistics of how this can be implemented depend on the content type and the platform.
For example, a blog could be entitled ‘Ad: ….’. However, stating at the bottom of the post that it was an advert would not be compliant with the regulations, as a reader would not encounter this prior to reading the content. On platforms such as Instagram, CAP recommend including an advert identifier on the image itself.
Although not a requirement of CAP’s new regulations, influencers may wish to provide an additional disclosure on how they worked with the brand to develop the content, and perhaps why they feel this partnership is relevant to their audience.
There is more information on how the new regulations should be implemented across different platforms here.
What I find most interesting about these new regulations is not what the changes are, but how they will affect influencer marketing, and how brands will need to adapt their strategy to maintain the value of this approach.
Honesty is the best policy
The strength of an influencer is the trust their following has in their content’s authenticity and relevance. At first you might think that posts labelled #ad would restrict the impact of the content on the influencer’s following. Certainly, there will no longer be the ability to post sponsored content ‘incognito’, but I see this as an opportunity for influencer marketing, not a threat.
I believe that an influencer’s loyal following would appreciate the openness and honesty of disclosing they had worked with a brand to produce the content. Furthermore, if the influencer has vetted the brand, the audience can trust that while the influencer may not have developed the content independently, it is still relevant to them.
The challenge for brands is ensuring that the content identified as an ad isn’t an immediate ‘turn off’ for the audience, and that means thinking creatively, with the influencer.
Too many times have brands slipped a few hundred (or thousand!) pounds to an influencer for them to post a campaign image or a link to a website. This kind of influencer marketing sticks out like a sore thumb!
We’re currently working on several influencer projects, across both B2B and B2C projects. In our experience the most successful content is that which has been developed in partnership with the brand and influencer.
We have found that spending time identifying our clients’ key influencers through social listening tools, and then working with those select individuals to develop the right content for them and their audience, has been much more fruitful than a mass approach.
This targeted and strategic approach has ensured that the content is true to the look and feel of the influencer’s previous posts and doesn’t immediately strike the audience as out of place. By doing so we have found that sponsored content is beneficial to the brand, supports the influencer, and is interesting and engaging to their following. A win-win solution for all.