In recent years influencer marketing has been compared to the Wild West – a rogue area of the communications world which is said to lack regulation, structure and order.
However, in the past 12 months the industry has blossomed leading to both praise and criticism for the future of the practice.
As the first communications consultant specialising in influencer marketing to be named in PRWeek’s 30 Under 30 list, I have been at the forefront of witnessing these changes. This area is one of the most hyped topics for PR practitioners, marketing professionals and advertising leads all discussing how brands can continue to work with celebrities, bloggers and social media stars in a controlled way yet maintain audience trust and authenticity.
— PRWeek UK (@prweekuknews) July 5, 2019
Here at Weber Shandwick, we are seeing an ever increasing demand from both existing and new clients to integrate influencer marketing into their overarching communications strategy. This combined with our constant drive to predict future marketing trends and media consumption led to the development of my role within the business – a first for any agency in Scotland.
Spending time with my peers named in this year’s PRWeek 30 Under 30 list reaffirmed to me that the communications industry has put a stamp of approval on influencer marketing, as it welcomes the practice alongside other new specialisms such as SEO, social listening and community management. For the first time, both agencies and in house teams have recognised the need for a role which acts as a guide to creating a harmonious and structured means of practising influencer marketing.
In recent months there has been much discussion of the ethics involved with sponsored blogger content and celebrity endorsement, both from a brand and individual perspective. Many state that the industry requires the same control required of traditional media, with others arguing that this will remove the authenticity that makes influencer marketing as powerful as it is.
The reality is that the introduction of guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority and Competition and Markets Authority has levelled the playing field, putting influencer marketing alongside advertising, marketing and public relations when it comes to regulation.
With more than 2.1M sponsored posts appearing on Instagram last year, there’s no doubt that audiences are continuing to consume media in this form, with bloggers and social media stars remaining the most trusted form of communication. Instead of order being a hindrance to the practice it has instead given it credibility, authority and reaffirmed value.
Much like other areas within communications, influencer marketing is continuously evolving. Many say that it’s reached breaking point with the bubble about to burst, however instead of the practice disappearing it will take a new form suited to the existing media landscape.
If brands and influencers maintain an ordered approach, complete with respecting guidelines, accepting the need for strategy and introducing transparency, influencer marketing will shake off its negative connotations and do what it does best – helping brands communicate with audiences in their most trusted form.
Julie Brander is a Senior Manager at Weber Shandwick, specialising in influencer engagement.