Working in PR requires constant monitoring of the news cycle, the digital and traditional media landscape, and these days, social platforms. The rise and success of the influencer category has stimulated brand interest and sizable (and successful) collaborations. Even so, the influencer pool is not immune from hackers and posers and oftentimes, the more successful you are, the greater a target you become.
This is true in the case of macro influencer Jeanne Grey, who recently shared a sobering story that her digital identity had been egregiously misrepresented and misused by a less sizable influencer. According to her recent Instagram stories, Grey learned of the infraction as brands began contacting her, referencing anticipated content that she had not contracted. Investigation and due-diligence led her to the imposter’s Instagram and content pages, through which she learned the “fake influencer” had reached out to brands using a nefariously-created email account similar to Grey’s true email. Grey claims the fake influencer requested product samples that her significantly smaller following of 67K+ would not have earned access, whereas Grey’s 460K+ following certainly opened those doors.
Grey’s predicament raises a number of red flags for brands and followers alike. Can brands trust that the influencers they are in contract with are authentic? Can followers of Instagram influencers remain confident that their favorites are genuine?
Unfortunately, the digital landscape is littered with fake accounts pretending to be reporters and influencers, making it challenging to determine the wheat from the chaff. That’s where a PR team can be valuable. Our consistent monitoring and established relationships with influencers and journalists ensure that we know what is “real” versus “fake.” In fact, we are specialists who can outline the value of influencer programs and how to best engage, support and benefit from them. For brands interested in engaging influencer relationships, there exists a handful of first steps necessary to ensure influencer partnerships are authentic including:
- Conduct thorough research: Properly vetting any inbound influencer request is key to pursuing partnerships that are honest and beneficial for both parties. Confirm the email address that is being used to contact your brand is the same email address listed in the influencer’s Instagram bio. Whenever possible, direct message (DM) with the account to engage and confirm.
- Don’t take followers at face value: While 20,000 followers seems like a lot, what is of greater value are engagement rates on posts. It is easy to “buy” followers courtesy of paid bot accounts. A quick way to estimate a potential partner’s engagement rate is to divide the account’s likes and comments by its total followers. Generally, brands should aim to work with influencers that have an engagement rate of 2% or higher.
- Create a detailed contract. A critical final step is to put in place a detailed contract that stipulates the services enacted in exchange for the product and/or payment received. CGPR recommends a perpetuity clause, which means the influencer can not later remove the post with your brand, as well as a designation of your brand’s rights to any content created by the influencer as a safeguard.
In this new era of influencer communication, many brands are just beginning to establish greater knowledge and understanding of its value and opportunity. Should your business have interest in nano, micro or macro influencer relations, contact CGPR Public Relations to discuss your goals.
Anna Craven is an Account Executive at CGPR. She has spent the last two years supporting consumer brands with their media relations and influencer relations programs. Outside of her role at CGPR, Anna loves finance, organization, and most of all, storytelling.