Blog : authenticity

So long superficial social stars – it’s time for the real influencers to step up

So long superficial social stars – it’s time for the real influencers to step up

The pandemic has made us, as consumers, reassess and reflect on exactly who we’re following online, and why. As the UK public put a spotlight on our everyday heroes – the nurses, bin men and shelf stackers fighting the good fight right there on the frontline – slowly we began to realise that influencer culture had got a little out of control.

From sponsored brand deals, collaborations and an all-expenses paid lifestyle – or at least, the illusion of one – influencers appeared to have been given an easy ride over the past couple of years.

Then coronavirus happened.

Sponsored posts on Instagram fell from representing 35% of influencer content in mid-February to 4% in mid-April according to a report by Launchmetrics. Covid-19 forced content creators to strip back all the luxuries and go back to doing exactly that – creating their own content. With no glamorous events, launches and comped travel to luxe destinations, influencers have retreated to their bedrooms, mirroring exactly what their viewers have been doing for the past four months.

Back to the bedroom

For those of us who remember YouTube’s ‘What’s in my Bag’ era when Zoella filmed her videos in a box room at her parent’s house and Tanya Burr still spent her weekends working on a makeup counter, there’s something satisfying in knowing that throughout lockdown, our favourite influencers were binging Normal People right alongside us.

Pretty much overnight, influencers had to relinquish control of their carefully curated content, pare back their aesthetically pleasing lives and go back to the drawing board to work out exactly what their fans enjoy (and balancing that with much needed hits and engagement) at a time when social media provided a much-needed solace for so many.

In some cases, it’s been refreshing. As we all dusted off our kindles, Beth Sandland launched her virtual book club and brought readers from around the world together. When restaurants and bars were forced to close, Ailsa from Edin Eats pivoted her content from recommending the best places to eat in the city to ‘Edin Cooks’, a series where she learned to cook from scratch in her kitchen.

Josie LDN has captivated Insta audiences over lockdown with her home renovation. Yes, it might be a glorious, million-pound Cotswolds bolthole rather than a one-bedroom studio with a shower above the toilet, but who hasn’t enjoyed a bit of lockdown DIY?

However, it’s clear that others have struggled with developing their style when the safety net is wheeked away (no names mentioned – in this blog post anyway…).

The behaviour backlash

Predictably, living your life online comes with a level of accountability and some influencers have been caught out. Creators such as Arielle Charnas were called out for flouting social distancing rules and travelling long distances – with their followers describing their behaviour as irresponsible, insensitive or just plain old out of touch. Suddenly, fans took off their rose-tinted glasses and instead started to view their favourite influencers with piercing clarity.

So, is this the end of the road for influencers? Despite the backlash, influencer marketing is still one of the most powerful and measurable forms of marketing. During times of uncertainty, people rely on those individuals with credibility to educate, entertain and inspire. That’s not going to change. Influencers just need to ensure that they’re being genuine with the content they’re putting out there and continue to be as authentic as possible.

The rise of authenticity and purpose

Authenticity is something PR professionals have been banging on about for years. But, some of the time, it’s been lip service. How many times has a client said they want to work with a Zoe Sugg, because they can’t see further than the follower count over engagement levels? They’re happy to ‘pay and display’ – pay a one off sum for an Insta Story, a tweet, a single post with #ad. But what’s the benefit for the brand, and ultimately, the end consumer?

It’s our prediction that there is going to be a rise of purpose-led content, and content creators that facilitate conversations and inform valuable two-way discussions with their audiences will come to the fore. Pushing out just one solitary, vacuous grid post isn’t going to cut it with audiences in a post-Covid world and PRs, brands and influencers need to recognise this.

The next few months are going to be an interesting time as opinion shifts. Beauty blogs? Meh. We’d rather see some more dancing bin men.

PR in 2018 – Forget a List of Resolutions, This Year is All About The Resolve to Evolve and Authenticity

PR in 2018 – Forget a List of Resolutions, This Year is All About The Resolve to Evolve and Authenticity

New Year’s resolutions often begin with a nod to some wrong-doing. Personally, I don’t think starting with a negative is the best way to encourage a genuine change or action; consequently, I’ve never paid too much attention to NY resolutions.

In the spirit of being different, and in true Yogi fashion, I have looked at two positive intentions for 2018 that will help make the change it brings exciting, filled with opportunities, and jam-packed with unforgettable authentic storytelling.

Intentions for 2018: Resolve to Evolve AND Be Authentic

My nine-year PR career has spanned across London, Dubai, Sydney, and now bounces between Edinburgh and London. It’s been an exciting career in an ever-changing landscape and one thing I have noticed, regardless of country, is that if there is one common feature to be found in the most successful PR professionals and companies, it is adaptability. This year more than ever, we will need to Resolve to Evolve.

The second came more easily. Fake News is no longer a funny line regularly quoted by Trump. Public trust in traditional media fell to an all-time low last year with people increasingly favouring their friends and contacts on the internet as sources of news and truth. Those sources are also being pulled into question and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. Media, influencers, brands – ALL will have the spotlight on them and there won’t be room for mistakes. Transparency and honesty is going to be key and ALL will need to get onboard and Be Authentic.

I have outlined a few touchpoints where these intentions are going to really matter.

Influencers

The term ‘influencer’ isn’t new to your average Joe, let alone any professional working in media. That said, it is an ever-evolving medium of communication and brands are still trying to understand the best ways of sourcing and working with influencers, measuring their value, and understanding where they sit amongst more traditional media platforms. Perhaps more importantly brands are also still trying to understand where the value of micro-influencers lies vs your more traditional celebrities.

Last year saw a huge shift in activity across the globe with influencers becoming prevalent in above the line campaigns for massive corporations including P&G, Diageo, ASOS and Estee Lauder. They are no longer restricted to below the line activity and this trend of dipping into both will no doubt continue to grow if Celebrity Intelligence research stands to be true. But… it will be the will of the people – particularly Gen Z – that truly dictates what happens to influencers this year and we need to prepare to react and move with them at a fast-pace. The one thing that won’t be shifting is the Gen Z demand for authentic ambassadors – influencers who spread themselves too thinly or indulge in unauthentic partnerships for cash will quickly suffer the consequences.

Paid Vs Earned Vs Owned

The lines have been getting blurry with regards to all brand created content and where it sits; perhaps even more importantly and relevant – who makes it! PR agencies are no longer focused on earned content alone, and have slowly over the past two or three years been working our way into producing more content for paid and owned channels. This year will be hotter and more competitive than ever with agencies who used to work to strict specialisations crossing-over into new remits and hiring in a parallel manner.

PR agencies have a pretty strong position in this blurrier landscape because we’ve been story-telling to the biggest cynics for years – journalists. That said, it’s also important to note you don’t want to be the ‘Jack of all Master of none’ – know where your strengths are and work with other specialists’ agencies or professionals when you know they can realistically do the task better! Working with other agencies can also be enjoyable, and beneficial and doesn’t always have to be a competition to show who is best. The most important element is again, creating authentic content that fits in a relevant and holistic way.

Artificial Intelligence

PR professionals will also need to evolve this year with new technology as it arises – everything from virtual reality to augmented reality and artificial intelligence will play a role in how people source, create and share content.

Audiences demand a lot from consumer brands today – more than ever I’d say… look at how hard retailers are having to diversify in store experience to get footfall! One clear route to brand loyalty will be using technology to better understand the consumers’ needs and equally to develop innovative and unique sensorial experiences that take interaction with brands to new levels. I don’t think PR’s will ever be made redundant– thankfully there is no replacement for human creativity and interaction and PR is still about story-telling and evoking emotion. Whether it’s laughter (the new Kiwi police advert) or perhaps that warm fuzzy feeling (the new dancing on ice ad) – until robots can truly make audiences feel and Be Authentic– you’re relatively safe!