We need better education and formal representation for influencers, says Stephen Waddington

Influencer relations is a hot topic in marketing and public relations but it’s an area fraught with confusion and complexity. As media has fragmented from print to online and social media, influencers have emerged on every media, in every market.

Collision course
The emerging, but fast-growing, discipline has put marketing and public relations on a collision course between earned and paid media. According to MarketsandMarkets, the global influencer market is currently estimated at £4.5 billion in 2019.

There were more than 16,000 complaints made about 14,000 online ads and social media posts last year according to the Advertising Standards Authority and the Committees of Advertising Practice) Annual Report 2018.

“Influencer marketing is a burgeoning area of our practice, but the number of cases brought by the ASA and Competition and Markets Authority proves that too many influencers and practitioners are falling foul of the standards we expect,” said Francis Ingham, director general of PRCA.

Stay within the law
Everyone involved in a campaign has a responsibility to adhere to relevant advertising and media law.

Agencies, brands and influencers are all culpable but it’s frequently influencers at the sharp end of a campaign that land in hot water. There’s a growing need and opportunity for education and formal representation for influencers.

Insurance providers Beazley and Hiscox have created influencer and public figure protection as an insurance solution for individuals who live their lives in the public eye. It provides coverage against issues such as defamation, negligence and breach of advertising codes.

In the UK influencer campaigns are governed by existing ASA and CMA laws. Members of CIPR and PRCA are also covered by their codes of conduct.

Influencers in marketing
The common perception of influencers is individuals on Instagram or YouTube flogging stuff. In fact, the market is maturing and is far more nuanced. Selling is only one outcome of working with influencers. Other outcomes include brand awareness, crisis communications, employee advocacy and social change.

The value exchange between an organisation and influencer is the driver of the relationship. It can be exclusive access to content, products and services, or financial remuneration. It’s this tension between earned and paid that has led to a challenge for influencers as well as marketing and public relations practitioners.

#FuturePRoof project
A new project from FuturePRoof highlights best practice for brands, agencies and influencers.

“Everyone involved in a campaign has a responsibility to adhere to relevant advertising and media law,” says #FuturePRoof founder and editor Sarah Waddington. “I’m grateful to all those who contributed to this important industry guidance.”

The guide has been written by Scott Guthrie, an independent influencer marketing consultant, and me. It includes contributions from Jake O’Neill, senior marketing manager at Vuelio; Rupa Shah, founder and director of Hashtag Ad Consulting; and Andrew Terry, partner and head of intellectual property and media, Eversheds Sutherland.

Written by Stephen Waddington, managing director of Metia; and visiting professor, Newcastle University. You can access the guide.