8 steps to ensure a successful social influencer brand partnership

As part of our guest blog series from leading professionals, here Stacy Jones, CEO of Hollywood Branded, shares her experience and top tips for getting the most out of your influencer partnerships and avoiding nasty PR crisis-provoking surprises. 

There are no guarantees that life will always run smoothly, and in the blink of an eye, a prospective great influencer marketing campaign can turn into one that is, well… just not the best it could have been.

When it comes to investing in influencer marketing, there is a better way to safeguard and ensure success by not only putting a detailed plan in place prior to activation, but also having the forethought to outthink potential blunders that could occur along the way. 

Influencers and the brand partner can find themselves in hot water through a bad decision or simple oversight. No one creates a brand partnership with the plan of having things go wrong, but life has surprises that can pop up, and there are ways to pro-actively safeguard your influencer partnership from the start.

The good

Before hiring an influencer, here are seven important things to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure your social influencer partner has insight about your brand and your goals. The best way to do this is to create a brand brief. Having the influencer actively aware of what your goals are will help enable them to meet your overall objectives. This includes also knowing things people often forget about – the correct website to use, hashtags, calls to action and any “do-not-do’s” outlined. The bottom line is that the brand manager needs to ensure the influencer understands, supports, and gets on board with the larger marketing picture of the brand. 
  1. Get the influencer to try your brand. Don’t just send a product and ask for a post. You want them to actually try your product  and like it. If they don’t, their fans are going to be able to tell, and be turned-off. Don’t work with people who are in it for the money only. Everyone wants money, but the trick is to find influencers who will work with you to go the extra mile.
  1. Check to see if the influencer has been using a competitive brand before working with you. It’s not realistic to try to only source an influencer that is going to be an authentic fit who hasn’t mentioned or referenced a competitive product. But you don’t want them jumping from one campaign directly to yours, and you certainly want an exclusive time period to exist before they reference a competitor after working with your brand.
  1. Don't put all your eggs in one basket  it's one of the best safeguards I can recommend. While a brand’s consumers realize that influencers are not actually the brand they are the face of, they're less likely to judge the brand harshly in the case of an influencer misstep if there is a mix of influencers engaged versus a single one. Don’t give all the power to one individual. 
  1. Allow the influencer to be creative. They are the art and set director, photographer, copywriter, actor, editor and so much more. They need guidance, but they don’t need you to tell them what to do. The more freedom they have, with understanding of what the deliverables need to be, the more the content they create will engage their fan base. After all, they’ve gotten their following to the size it is based on knowing what type of content their base likes to see.
  1. Have a solid contract in place. Once the offer is accepted by the talent, be sure to create a contract outlining the specifics of what has been agreed to. This will include when payments will be made, every detail the influencer is expected to execute (social, video, photos, hashtags, length of post life, tagging #ad or #sponsor, etc.), when they will be paid, how long the post will remain up and so much more. Basically, you want your offer to be completely black and white with no hints of grey question areas.
  1. Make sure you have a recovery plan in place for influencer blunders or if they go off the rails personally. If the influencer does something or says something negative about your brand, your team is going to need to find a way to address it quickly with the appropriate response. When LeBron James tweeted negatively about his phone  forgetting the brand was a key sponsor of the NBA, the crisis was somewhat adverted soon after by having him quickly send a follow up post stating it was a false alarm. 

And then there are just bad decisions that get made in the moment that can lead to a messy campaign. Whether that is drunk driving, trouble with the law, relationship issues, negative comments picked up by press, or even just having the influencer make a comment that is too politically charged for the moment, a brand can find themselves back-paddling and treading water while trying to figure out what to do.  

The bad and the ugly

Some of the most talked about recent controversies include Logan Paul and his choice of showing suicide victims in the forest in Japan, or Pew Di Pie who lost his Makers Studio and YouTube deals in a blink when he posted an anti-semitic video  both ultimately costing each influencer tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. Then there was celebrity chef, Paula Deen, with her racist comment that roared back to life to bite her years later, and Lance Armstrong who built his fame while cheating and using performance enhancers. Both incidents caused sponsors to flee. All these are examples of a time where brand management teams had to figure out their point of view on the situation, and how to best diffuse and take a step back before reacting in the heat of the moment. 

It’s not fun when one of your influencer campaigns heads in a negative direction. In fact, it is one of those moments when you can literally feel a visceral thud in your gut, as you utter "oh no no no no" and where you need to race to get all of the brand team players together to make a decision on how to react.

In our world of social media, a day is too long to wait to respond, and minutes can feel like years to your follower base. If something negative does happen, it is a matter of trying to understand the whole picture, as fast as possible so you can stay ahead of it. You don’t want to jump in and support the individual off the bat, because if you make the wrong call of support, then your brand is going to be seen even more negatively. However, you also don’t want to instantly lambast the individual either before really understanding what is going on. That is why you see so many brands initially taking a step back, without taking a tone of defense or support. 

It pays to prepare for every eventuality when we are building an influencer marketing partnership. By doing this you know what to ask for and are better prepared to mitigate and prevent the majority of the negatives that could happen. But you can’t plan for everything, and there are always new ways influencers find to surprise you, so as soon as your campaign is up and running, monitor every aspect of social media so you can react fast when you need to.

The most important thing to keep in mind for your influencer marketing partnership? Be nimble and have fun.

And step 8?

Keep your interaction positive with the influencer so you can grow the relationship. Share the content they have created, comment on it and pay them on time. They’ve worked for it. At the end of the day, the content produced and shared by influencers is absolutely worth it.


Influencer partnerships are just one risk to PRs online. To find out about more risks that could effect online reputation, download your free crisis management guide by clicking this image: 

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For help and advice in how to protect your brand from common mistakes, contact our team on partnerships@crispthinking.com.