As more brands realize the value of using influencers for reaching target audiences, they must also realize the associated risks that come from with working with them. These are real people, after all, and they come with their own set of opinions and ideals. In many situations, influencer and brand views are in alignment, or are fairly similar, in which case brands don’t have to worry. In other cases, however, some influencers may not carry the same views as the brand or may not be as sensitive to varying concerns, which in turn is concerning to the brand. It leaves us with this question – in today’s polarized social and political environment, how can brands remain neutral or sensitive about issues while working with influencers who may or may not incorporate their own strong beliefs into their social media content?
No two brands or influencers are exactly alike, which makes it very hard to give one-size-fits-all advice on this matter. After observing recent, rather extreme, examples of brands facing public friction when working with influencers with opposing views, we recommend the following tips for working with influencers during divisive times:
Assess your goals, and do your homework on influencers.
As we have shared before, brands looking to engage in an influencer marketing campaign should step back and review their goals and values to identify the most appropriate partners. This is an even more crucial step in today’s environment as you should consider who your audience is, what their views are, whether the influencer is a strong advocate for sensitive issues and whether or not this advocacy will upset the rest of your target audience. Every brand has a unique personality and set of principles it wishes to be associated with. To avoid potential issues before they happen, brands should choose their influencers carefully and, if they prefer to stay on the safe side, only look to work with those who share similar values or remain neutral on issues in their content streams.
Know your audience.
At the end of the day, brands should never alienate their customers. For some companies, this is easier than others. Depending on the product or service provided and your position on the market, certain brands may naturally lean to one side of the political spectrum or another. When this is the case, it can be appropriate to select an influencer who is in favor of the same issues. However, if your brand falls somewhere in the middle, with loyal customers on both ends of the spectrum, it is crucial to remain neutral on issues so as to not isolate or insult any customers. If the influencer’s opinions are kept out of their sponsored content but they are outspoken in other areas of their life, customers may take note and it can be either harmful or helpful to brands. Therefore, it is important for the brand to assess their goals and target audiences to pursue the most mutually beneficial partnerships with influencers.
Take steps to protect your brand and react to scandals accordingly.
If you have concerns about working with a particular influencer, especially if you’re unsure whether or not they’ll be outspoken about sensitive topics, it may be a good idea to include a stipulation in your contract defining the content that is and isn’t appropriate to produce during your campaign. This may be as simple as the influencer agreeing not to post anything of a political nature for a certain number of weeks or months to avoid backlash. If the value differences prove to be too extreme and potentially harmful to the brand’s image, there is nothing wrong with walking away or dissolving the partnership. If an influencer does something extreme and is experiencing backlash, remember that transparency can go a long way with customers. Be ready to sever ties and explain that, while you employed the individual to represent your brand, you do not agree with their recent statements or actions.
While it may seem that the world is becoming more complicated each day, having successful partnerships with influencers can remain simple as long as brands stay in touch with their values and understand when it is appropriate for them to speak out or remain neutral.