How not to approach influencer collaborations – for both sides!

Holly Wood By Holly Wood0 Comments6 min read161 views

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time actually, as over the last 10 years of being a blogger, “micro-influencer” and content creator, I’ve seen the same things come up time and time again and have learnt a lot about how to approach influencer collaborations and more importantly, how NOT to!…

This is very much post aimed at influencers and brands alike by the way… I have insights into both sides of the coin, so think it’s important that both sides are addressed, as influencer marketing is a two-way marketing street.

How NOT to approach influencer collaborations

I’ve been spurred to post about this now, having seen an instagram grid post on a local restaurant’s instagram this morning that I felt handled a very common issue in influencer marketing, badly. I’m not into naming and shaming and actually this specific post is kind of irrelevant, it just illustrates a point I often make to my clients and community members time and time again… the importance of polite and professional communication!

The grid post itself was text only, saying:

All those “influencers” who keep messaging us: Sorry to disappoint but we don’t exchange free food for a post to your “audience”. Unless you’re Becks or Kanye and even then it would be ridiculous giving those folk freebies. #2020

Now this post stood out to me as not only passive-aggressive, but sarcastic and rude. It yet again, has generalised a legitimate and serious industry and opened it up to speculation and ill-feeling. I am not about this kind of behaviour on social media as it just ends up mis-informing people and making individuals feel like crap. Good vibes only over here!

I can understand the sentiment in many ways, but as a brand, in my opinion, they’ve conducted themselves and dealt with the issue in the wrong manner. They’ve also managed to, with one post, offend an entire industry of hard-working individuals. This is how not to approach influencer collaborations!

What they should have done…

In my opinion, what they should have done is been kind. Replied to their approaches (and they probably get a sh*t ton of them!) with a templated response that said something along the lines of: “thank you so much for reaching out, but we don’t currently working with influencers. We hope to welcome you to the restaurant one day. kind regards xxxx”. 

I think it’s important to say here too, that role reversal is incredibly common too. I for one, have been approached by a number of small businesses and restaurants pre-COVID and during, wanting valuable content and marketing exposure from me, in exchange for low-value product or food. Some approaches are lovely, polite and friendly and some are generic, impersonal and actually quite insulting (considering I charge £100s for the content I produce). But I wouldn’t lump together an entire industry of professionals and call them out on social media, based on the actions of a few. Instead, I politely decline, if it doesn’t feel right or a worthy exchange. And that’s what it is by the way… an exchange. An exchange of product or money, in return for content, marketing and/or advertising. It’s not just a “free bowl of pasta” for example, which I know many who read a post like the one in discussion will think. The industry isn’t full of “talentless free-loaders” like I’ve seen some people in the social media trail describe influencers as.

Now, from the brand’s perspective…

I can also understand that the likelihood was that this particular restaurant was approached badly, by an influencer (or maybe even a number of them) and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After an intense and stressful period tackling COVID and lockdown, a free meal in exchange for some social shout-outs probably seemed irrelevant and maybe even offensive. I get it, I really do. But calling-out an entire industry was not the way – a polite decline or even a grid post saying: “We at xxxx do not accept influencer collaborations, thank you for asking” would have done the trick.

How to get it right!

So having set the scene, from both sides I hope, you might now well be asking how to approach influencer collaborations in the right way. Fantastic! You want to be educated and I’d love to shed some light. Please read on for my top tips (applicable to both brands/agencies and influencers/content creators by the way)…

1. Do your research

It’s vital that whether you’re approaching a brand or if you’re a brand wanting to work with influencers… do your research into each other. Find out what makes them “tick”, who their audience are, what their brand values are etc. Do they align with yours? Can you see a genuine connection and opportunity for collaboration?

2. Do the groundwork aka get “grafting”

Don’t just cold approach if you can help it. Engage with the brand/influencer: comment on their posts, like their content, share it etc. Make an impression, show you’re interested, show you care. Align it to your own content/values/brand. Build a rapport and start a relationship (this goes for EVERY industry in my opinion).

3. Come up with an idea

Now this is probably the most important part of the process. Show that you’ve actually thought about a genuine collaboration and how it could work. Coming up with an idea of how you could work together now only shows initiative, it shows passion and professionalism. It doesn’t have to be the right idea or the one you both roll with in the end, but it gets conversations started and ideas flowing.

4. Make the approach

Now you’ve done your research, established a connection, got to know each other and come up with an idea or two – get in touch! There are a number of ways to do this (DMs, emails etc.), but the main things to remember: be professional and be polite. Some key things to consider in your approach: introduce yourself properly, your content/brand/business, compliment the individual/brand that you’re approaching (let them know you like them!), let them know why you think a collaboration between you both would be a good fit and drop an idea in there too. Let them know you’re serious, professional and passionate.

5. Always end with a question.

From an influencer, it could be something like: “Who would be the best person to discuss collaborations with please?” or “have you worked with bloggers before? Did you have success?”From a brand it could be something like: Do you collaborate with brands? Is this a partnership you’d be interested in?” or “Do you have a media pack I could take a look at please?”.

Can you see that the exchange from both sides should be professional, polite and well-considered? Whether we’re talking about a free bowl of pasta or a £1000 sponsored campaign. It’s quite simple, which brings me back to the reason why I posted this blog post now… I don’t like it when people are rude/aggressive/patronising on social media, lumping a whole industry together and tarnishing it. It doesn’t make for a pleasant experience for anyone involved and only encourages hate and ill-feelings.

Now, I haven’t even scratched the surface here, but I felt compelled to get something out there that would educate and hopefully inspire better communication in the influencer marketing world.

If you’re interested more in this sort of information by the way, you might benefit from joining Community Inspire Collaborate – an online membership for bloggers, content creators, entrepreneurs and small businesses. Packed full of resources, support and advice from your peers, it’s a great way to delve into establishing, building and growing your online brand and commercialising your content.

You might also like a post I wrote on 5 reasons why a subscription model is good for you and your business and social media comparison (improving our well-being online).

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