Influencer Relations Has Officially Made it to High School

blog ann pic final 1As with every new marketing discipline, it takes a few years of trial and (sometimes epic) error before the training wheels are cast aside, and it’s ready to be part of the core communications mix. After attending VidCon 2016 in Anaheim last week, I can say, with confidence, influencer relations has basically hit high school—finding its place in the world and doing so with more discipline. It has grown into a bright, intelligent, creative and more calculated instrument in the marketing toolbox. Amid the brilliant, creative and highly effective creator/brand partnerships, there are still some that make you scratch your head, but that’s high-schoolers for ya!

With a large contingent of creators, fans and delegates, and major presence from big brands and MCNs, VidCon showed off just how big video influencers have become. Creators like Lilly Singh showcased the five people who are solely responsible for her daily operation—legal, finance, PR, manager and commercial agent—underscoring how “big business” this really has become.

Talking to pioneering creators like The Fine Bros, Grace Helbig, Elise Strachan and Blair Fowler, I couldn’t help but get the sense that they were almost as surprised about how successful they have become as the brand marketers that covet their services. Now with experience under their belts, they talked about working with brands with sophistication and a deep understanding of the mutual respect needed to have a successful partnership. It’s another reason why they love working with PR, because we get their craft of storytelling—it’s not a commercial! They unquestionably understand their audiences and simply won’t do something with a brand that doesn’t fit—they have worked too hard building their fan base to jeopardize it by making a quick buck.FINAL vr ann blog

While the creators are becoming more sophisticated and exploring new platforms and technologies, such as facebook live and VR, their success has not gone unnoticed by the FTC. As we’re all acutely aware, disclosure guidelines are tricky, subjective and continually change. The FTC could not be clearer that they will not tolerate dishonest marketing practices. There will be more to come on this, and the burden will be on agencies like Ketchum to be acutely mindful of those guidelines.

So this band of “high-schoolers” is only going to get bigger and smarter. Communicators have to get smarter too, particularly about metrics, which is one of the reasons Ketchum has expanded our data tools with Tubular Labs—a cross platform video analytics tool. Communicators need to continue helping brands understand what reasonable ROI looks like. Is it reach or engagement? What engagement has value? Is the long tail important? There’s still more than a hint of the “Wild West” in terms of how to price working with top creators. In fact, there is a group trying to create a Social Blue Book to help creators and marketers benchmark budgets—so stay tuned there.

There’s a vast sea of incredible talent for agencies to connect their clients with to enable creative brand storytelling and targeted audience engagement. As our friends at Awesomeness TV said, their biggest issue is that they work too fast for brands, ideating and pushing out a show in a matter of months. Our challenge is to help brands keep up with the quick thinking and fast production cycles. It’s exciting, dynamic and continues to challenge us to be nimble. Kind of like most high-schoolers…