Using Influencers During a Crisis

A Bellwether Insight

Photo: Julian Myles
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Ugh…this one is a toughy. While we have been both a winner and loser of influencers (no joke, when Oprah repped bread we ended up very happy but ten pounds up), it seems a little odd to be having an influencer try to capitalize on coronavirus. From our standpoint, the use of influencers can absolutely continue. With a very big if – the message must remain authentic. And, a few other ifs to look out for when continuing to use your sales partners.

Authenticity is the (real) total authority

It’s all in the messaging (as always). Authenticity is everything (as always). You may have been seeing some posts with an influencer saying something along the lines of: “I know you may have all noticed how I’ve been just… not posting a lot (*sad face*)…because I don’t think you need another influencer showing at-home workouts. But, that being said, I’ve partnered with…” Yes… that actually happened. *sips tea* That is not authentic. 

Then we have influencers who share their strengths and it feels authentic and brand appropriate. Maybe it’s a beauty blogger sharing make-up tips to look great on videoconference. Maybe it’s a style blogger sharing tips for that day-couch to night-couch lewk or how to make a mask out of your old clothing. Or, how to get involved with donations for the many essential workers. Or, for some of us, how to elasticize all of our pants. (sigh)

Amp up your best influencers, but maybe don’t hire new

We wouldn’t recommend using this as a time to hire on new influencers, with potentially untested audiences. The only exception would be if they have an audience that you think would truly benefit from your product during this crisis.

There is a lot that goes into not only finding an influencer to use, but doing the background research on their audience, testing them out, structuring the right contracts and the list goes on. Given that resources may be very tight for your business right now, wait on doing that until we return to the new normal.

Identify the best influencers you work with and have a conversation about how you can share the message about your product in an authentic way. Ask them how their audience is doing and how they are engaging with them during this time. That influencer’s job is to know who they are talking to, so leverage that information.

Don’t forget the legal stuff

Now is the time to have your legal team streamline all of the messages that can and can’t be shared during a crisis. Make sure you aren’t making any outrageous or untrue claims, and make sure that your contracts are written with crisis management in mind. Marketing should help grow your business, not open it up to potential lawsuits or further confusion.

Consider keeping your affiliate programs

During a crisis, you may want to cut costs and think affiliate marketing budgets would be a good area to do so. Depending on how you structure your agreements with the influencers, keeping an affiliate program could help boost your sales in a difficult selling period. Influencers have trusted audiences that are looking for guidance, even during times of crisis; so, this could offer a much-needed boost to your brand. It also helps keep the relationship with this salesperson healthy. You hire influencers to make personal relationships with customers, so you should honor that personal relationship you have made with the influencer. Support them now so they will support you later.

If you need to, examine your contracts and partner with the influencer to see if you can temporarily restructure them so everyone wins. If you can, increase commissions for sales to help incentivize transactions.

Remember also: most, if not all, of your physical retail spaces are closed right now! And, where do influencers connect most with their customers? Online! When an influencer gives a call to action to learn more or buy a product, where can they tell a customer to go? Your website! When a customer is tempted into buying something and they are looking for the least resistance in their path to purchase, where will they look while sipping wine and watching that 24th episode on Netflix? Your digital spaces to shop! 

Now, that’s a cheer we can get behind.

For more on influencers and how to use them, check our our Marketing Basics for Fashion Business course.