By Alan Keane, Account Manager

Is there any more contentious term among media and PR circles at the moment than that of “influencer”?  

A few years back, clients keen to surf the zeitgeist were demanding viral videos without really knowing what they meant by that. Now, they want influencers front and centre when it comes to promoting their product.



What does that mean, however? Specifically, what return does your client get when you begin collaborating with influencers on their behalf. This is where the problems occur, as the gap between good influences and baaaad influencers is huge, but good influencers can unfortunately be lumped in with their morally and content inferior counterparts.

So what makes a bad influencer? Buying followers, not identifying clearly what social media posts have been paid for and, worst of all, portraying unattainable body and life ideals that can have a severe impact on the mental health of impressionable people that see the posts as aspirational rather than bunkum.

Perfectly smooth and clear skin, not a stretch mark in sight.  Post-workout gym mirror photos, without the counterbalance of the the skip-a-gym-session, crisps-on-the-couch posts that represent a normal, messy, imperfect life.

So then, what makes a good influencer? Honesty, obviously. If you buy your followers you’re now more than ever likely to be found out. When global giant Unilever states that they will no longer work with influencers who buy followers, using analytics to weed out the offenders, you know the rest of the business world will follow suit.

Honesty extends to following up and delivering what you promise at the outset also. Too often PR companies and their clients are burned by promises of extensive social media coverage and product specific blog posts that ultimately become one half-arsed tweet and a link to your client’s product that gets lost in a wider piece with other duped brands.

Finally, if you want to be seen as a professional influencer, act accordingly. No PR professional worth their salt would dream of sending a cookie-cutter email to a long list of brands in the hope of a response. To that end, if a PR person receives an email from an influencer that starts with “Hello all!” or “Hey there!”, it’s likely going in the deleted items folder.

There’s another, sometimes overlooked, element to the rise of the influencer, and that is the effect it’s having on traditional media. Brands are looking more and more towards influencers to promote their product directly, rather than engaging with journalists. It’s important not to ignore the value and impact of traditional media coverage however, particularly in favour of poorly structured arrangements with less than professional members of the influencer community.

In summary, good influencers make good on their promises, don’t present a false impression to their followers, and abide by (fledgling) industry standards around advertising. Brands and PR companies like working with these people, and there are plenty to be found.

Bad influencers do none of the above, yet unfortunately there are plenty of them too. As brands and agencies get wiser however, the hope is that many of these will have to clean up their act or risk being starved of the attention and benefits they crave from the industry.