BMA Rooftop Happy Hour Panel: Influencer Marketing: 21st Century PR

Photo: Urban Harvest STL Food Roof

Photo: Urban Harvest STL Food Roof

On Tuesday, June 20th, 2017, the top influencer marketers in St. Louis came together at Urban Harvest STL, rooftop farm in Downtown St. Louis, to share their advice on strategically positioning brands in today's digital media landscape during a panel discussion. 


  • Laura Heying, Founder, HEX 

  • Taylor Oster, Creative Director, Influence & Co.

  • Angela LaRocca, Chief Catalyst, Bigwidesky

  • Brianna Smith, Integrated Marketing Manager, TeraRecon, Inc.

  • Chelsea Cepicky, Senior Content Strategist, PowerPost

  • Elena Marroquin, Founder & Editor, Cheetah Talk y Mas

Panelists were asked to answer questions pertaining to many aspects of influencer marketing. The following answers are responses to the panel questions by HEX Founder, Laura Heying.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is collaborating with those that have a unique target audience to reach business goals. Influencer marketing is about the multi-beneficial relationship between the brand and influencers. Unlike traditional marketing, you’re getting an interested, engaged audience rather than a time slot or large, broad audience. Much like a glorified version of the tried and true marketing method “word of mouth”.

How do you identify what qualities or characteristics influencers should have?

Influencers have to be vetted to be determined if they are 'on brand'. Much like if you’re talking with creative about other marketing collateral. Ask questions like:

  • Do you see this person representing your brand? 
  • Is their content relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach?
  • Is the influencer’s audience the right audience the brand wants to be targeting?

Many times you’ll be able to tell quickly if the influencers content is relatable to your brand. Some automation dashboards will even pull demographic info or you can just ask the influencer for screenshots of their demographic stats. The most important thing to look for when vetting influencers is type of content, engagement which is likes and comments in comparison to followers, follower count, comment sentiment, mix of organic content and sponsored content, links, handles and hashtags used.

How do you find and reach out to influencers?

There’s many ways to find influencers--networks, automated dashboards, agencies, agents or even a quick Google/hashtag search. HEX has a network it’s built since it’s inception and through working with influencers and via the HEX Founder being a blogger over the years. Many times, we start within our own network when looking for influencers. Then, we’ll research online via a Google search or through searching hashtags relevant to the campaign or looking at influencers working with similar brands. Also, look at who’s already posting about your brand for free--do they have a large, engaged following? They’ll be stoked when you reach out and that sort of relationship increases brand loyalty and word of mouth marketing.

Their social media page should have contact info, or a blog/website. Reach out via an email and if you cannot find their email, reach out via a social media message, like Instagram message. Don’t reach out if you don’t have a clear strategy and campaign in place. Present the proposition in a short email to see if they’re interested. Remember, they’re people too and treat them like so. Sometimes things come up, deadlines have to be pushed for some reason or another on either side, brand or influencer, but have an open line of communication to stay updated on all aspects of the campaign. Send updates only when necessary and avoid a bunch of back and forth.

How do you approach an influencer?

A short email outlining the opportunity. Say why you think they’re a good fit for your brand, an overview of the campaign, what you’re looking for,  what you’re offering them, money and/or product and the timeline. Again, make sure to have your ducks in a row before reaching out. ¾ of the work should be done setting up the campaign and proofing before outreach.

What kind of budget should you allocate?

Depends on the size of your business, your goals, and whether or not you’re doing in-house. If you’re working with an agency, looking at a $3.5k - $5k budget to start. If in-house, you want to budget for product, if applicable, and an author fee plus your time. This will depend too, but I’d budget anywhere from $50 - $1k per influencer. Influencers with 50k-100k followers, expect to pay up to $1k per post. 25k-50k, expect to pay $300-900. Under 25k, $50-300--all depending on engagement and relevant content and deliverables.

How formal should your contracts be?

Contracts don’t have to be super formal, but everything needs to clearly be spelt out in the email or document when reaching out. Clearly spell out deliverables, creative direction, due dates, author fee, payment terms/date, handles, hashtags and links to use, enforce that FTC guidelines be met, product details and shipping/pickup info, and campaign contact info. Contract laws vary state to state, but email consent in Missouri is sufficient. 

How formal should the relationship be?

The relationship should be professional, just like any other business transaction. Don’t assume the influencer wants to be part of the campaign. Sometimes people are already working with a similar brand and have a non-compete, don’t participate in what you’re trying to sell--like booze, don’t have time within your timeline, or just don’t want to work with you. Don’t take rejection personally and move on, professionally. Remember, these are influencers, so be nice to them--you don’t want to leave a bad taste in their mouth.

How do you measure influencer efforts? How do you show ROI?

There’s the clear ROI that can sometimes be hard to show directly in influencer marketing. Though, if you have the proper consumer tracking in place, you can tell where traffic is coming from--with pixels and tracking integrations. But, sometimes direct sales isn’t the only goal of an influencer campaign. Sometimes its brand awareness, followers, user generated content, establishing credibility, and more. HEX shows value in correlating sales to marketing efforts but also the content assets--photos, videos, impressions (how many times your branded message was seen), and equity in content from a trusted source.

What types of guidelines need to be considered when producing, using or requesting third-party content?

It’s best to give a general overview of the project, be upfront about your goals, sometimes influencers will have their own ideas on how to reach the business's goals. After all, they know their audience best anyways. Tell them to be organic, though this should be implied. Give them the campaign handles, hashtags and links to include in post. Provide example copy. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to ask for submitting drafted copy--like booze or controlled substances. Always give a timeline.

When working with influencers, the FTC required that sponsored content be clearly marked as so. This means on blog posts, social media posts, live streams, etc. It is both the responsibility of the marketer and influencer to declare sponsorship. It is required sponsored content be marked as so within the first three lines of copy. The FTC has a regulations blog here with the latest info. 

What makes a good influencer from a brand's perspective?

A good influencer is excited to work with the brand, is on time with deliverables, uses appropriate links, handles and hashtags, communicates proactively and over delivers.  

What makes a good brand from an influencer's perspective?

Be upfront about expectations, payment and terms, not overbearing, appropriate expectations, proactive communications, provides influencer with enough info, resources and time to produce content, pays on time, circles around if another similar opportunity comes up, going out of your way to send thank you notes and follow ups.

What ways can your brand become the influencer in your space?

Collaborating with influencers is a good step to establishing brand credibility. Taking that a step further, you can have bloggers guest blog or write on your site, social media take overs, and etc. The brand has to be solid for influencer marketing to work. If the brand doesn’t hold up, then marketing won’t help.

Have there been any successful campaigns or examples you've worked on?

Philomena + Ruth has boosted online sales, is up 30% for the year and has gained over a thousand social media followers since starting influencer campaign this year.

Every influencer in-store event at May’s Place has seen a sale increase of over 100%.


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