Social influencers can give your organization a boost with key demographics but can also cause controversy or diminish the brand by going off script.

As a brand, building strong partnerships with influencers is most successful when relationships are being created from a robust influencer marketing strategy and comprehensive steps are taken before, during and after the collaboration.

Before collaborating with influencers, it is important to create a detailed brief that highlights the direction in which you plan to take the campaign — ensuring that any influencer you work with has a deep understanding of your brand, the goals of the campaign and the expectations around the collaboration.

Aligning Goals and Values for Successful Influencer/Brand Collaboration

Amanda Wood, senior manager of social marketing for Hootsuite, said working with creators who share similar values and have a genuine interest in your brand is key to building a successful partnership and creating content that your shared audiences will find authentic.

“Once you’ve identified the influencers you will be working with, it is imperative that you align on a contract that details the specific expectations between your brand and your paid influencers, including deliverables, timing, desired milestones, success metrics, paid usage rights, statement of work and more," she explained. 

She added a strong partnership also relies heavily on trusting the creators that you’ve brought on to influence the success of your campaign.

“They are the experts in what they do — lean into that, listen to their ideas, and have an open mind,” Wood said. “In other words, allow the creators you chose to create.”

Building a mutually beneficial relationship with creators should be at the core of your collaboration, and the focus going into outreach and negotiations should be to fulfill both interests and ensure two-way value is established and maintained, for the current campaign and future campaigns to come.

Related Article: How Influencers Help Build a Better Customer Experience 

Clear Expectations Key to a Healthy Influencer/Brand Relationship 

Sebastian Wulff, principal solutions consultant for the Influence product suite at Brandwatch, said it’s important to make sure there’s a clear understanding of what is expected from the influencer.

“You can agree on a number of posts, impressions, views or any other KPI that makes sense for your campaign,” he said. “Also think about who’s responsible for shooting the content, the influencer or a production agency?”

He also suggested having a contract in place between both parties to ensure all involved will honor their commitments.

“Lastly, don't forget, Influencer marketing is not the ‘wild wild west’ as it used to be,” Wulff said. “The influencer must disclose the nature of your partnership. There’s a set of rules instituted by the FTC for proper execution.”

Wood agreed, with any new collaboration, there is always a risk of unexpected misalignment, she said.

“To protect the brand and the campaign, clear contractual measures should be established and agreed upon from the outset to mitigate a messy fallout,” she added. “Throughout the campaign, working closely with the influencer and having strong communication will ensure that you’re able to spot the following signs of misalignment.”

These could include ineffective and poor communication, continually not meeting deliverable criteria and deadlines, disregard for established campaign values, goals and expectations, and an inability to take feedback into account and adjust content accordingly.

“In these instances, it’s important for brands to remember that influencers are human and are often dealing with competing deadlines,” Wood said.

Learning Opportunities

The initial step to take is to have a transparent conversation with the influencer and share the contractual deliverables that were not met, allowing them to pivot their efforts and avoid a fallout.

She explained that being open throughout the partnership and calling out misalignments as they’re happening can help avoid further challenges.

“However, if after a conversation there is no change in the quality of content and partnership, brands should not hesitate to put a stop to the collaboration — this is where the contractual agreement is effectively used,” she said. 

Wood added that sometimes an influencer turns out to not be a great fit for the specific campaign they’ve been brought on for but could be a better fit for another.

“Try to avoid cutting ties and maintain a professional relationship even in the case of a fallout,” she noted. 

Related Article: Why Your Brand Should Care About Influencer Marketing 

Keeping an Open Influencer/Brand Communication Channel 

Wulff agreed with Wood that the key to a healthy relationship between influencer and brand is transparency.

“Make sure you thoroughly understand the influencer's analytics and communicate your reasonable expectations,” he explained. “You can keep a hotline through email and DM’s, but I enjoy utilizing technology platforms to send out briefings, contracts and review content and automatically track campaign ROIs."

He pointed out this saves a lot of work on both ends, so there’s more time available for the creative and quality process. 

Wulff said if an influencer does not deliver on your expectations — even though everything was clearly communicated — just make sure you keep honoring the agreement on your end.

“Yes, it creates a dent in your budget and campaign results, but the last thing you want is for the influencer to publicly backfire on you,” he said. "Influencer marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Just let it go and move on to more trustworthy influencers for your next campaign — and do reward the ones that overdeliver.”