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How to avoid lawsuits and scandals: Influencer marketing lessons from 2019

Over the last decade the influencer marketing conversation has reached a deafening volume, however, with brands being caught out for misleading posts and other bad practices, it has become more important than ever for marketers to understand this ever-changing industry and adapt their current approach.

Recent research has found that 22% of 18-34 year-olds have made a large purchase due to influencer endorsement. This highlights the power these influencers can have over everyday purchases, and it’s not surprising given that 32% of UK consumers trust an influencer, according to a 2018 Global Web Index report.

Whether a brand is promoting a moisturiser or a mattress, the influencer sphere is quickly becoming a profitable one, with the industry set to be worth more than $20billion next year.

However, there have been a number of high-profile fails, with influencers being called out in the media for misleading posts.

Most recently, in October of this year, Georgia Harrison, who was a contestant on Love Island in 2017, was criticised for promoting potentially harmful weight-loss products to her young fan base, and was banned from promoting similar products on her Instagram platform.

With brand lawsuits and influencer scandals tainting the industry, understanding the dos and don’ts of influencer marketing is vital in ensuring that it has a positive, rather than negative effect on your brand.

Here, are the lessons we can learn from 2019 influencer marketing campaigns.

1) Create engaging and trustworthy posts

We’ve all read about influencer fails in the media, from another Love Islander Olivia Buckland who failed to use #ad for a paid post in 2019 for the fake tan brand, Coco Brown, to the infamous Fyre Festival. However, these fails provide fantastic insight into a constantly changing industry.

Another high profile example to learn from is that of Elle Darby who hit the headlines after asking for a free five-night stay at a hotel, in return for a positive review on her social media channels.

The owner of the hotel decided to share her request on his own social media platforms, stating her email “puts into question the authenticity of influencer marketing”, because “she would have spoken nicely about the hotel only because she was getting it for free.”

Elle Darby is just one example of how some influencers’ work and views can often not seem authentic. As a result of this, it has made the average person more cynical of influencers and marketers need to be more aware of this to work with influencers to create campaigns that are authentic and trusted.

How can brands avoid this?

Making social media posts appear genuine can be tricky, and this is why micro-influencers are really important. Recent research has revealed that 46% of brands prefer working with micro-influencers for genuine engagement. These influencers are everyday people, they haven’t been on a reality show and they tend to work with brands that they have a real passion for. As a result, their fans and followers are genuinely invested into what they have to say. Using a micro-influencer for your brand should be considered first and foremost when creating engaging and trusted content for your target audience.

2) Make sure the content is in line with ASA standards

Many of the negative influencer posts described in the media tend to have one thing in common – they all failed to properly describe the post as an advert.

A recent example is Katie Price, she created a post to promote a personalised phone case and failed to include #AD in the content, which led to the ASA taking the post down.

How can brands avoid this?

Ensure a contract is signed before any activity takes place, with specific instructions for influencers that will include what you expect from them and to make sure they use #AD or #Gifted in the post, alerting their followers that the post is an advert.

All historic relationships between brand and influencers needs to be declared. This can help to provide a genuine and authentic relationship between the influencer and the brand.

Checks should also be done to analyse genuine follower numbers of an influencer and gauge if their values and behaviours align with your brand. This was highlighted in research that revealed 94% of marketers consider transparency and authenticity key to influencer campaigns.

3) Do your research

It’s really important to do your research before outreaching to any potential influencers. This means finding out the audience data of the influencer, including average reach per post, audience, age, and average impressions, to see if they fall in line with the audience you would like to target.

It’s also important to remember that influencers with the biggest followers aren’t always the most beneficial for ROI for your client. For example, Emma Campbell, award-winning blogger at What Emma Did states, “Influencers between 20,000 and 100,000 followers offer excellent value and ROI.” That’s why it’s important to look for people with reach across different platforms to future-proof partnerships.

A happier future

It’s no surprise that influencer marketing can help you grow your business quickly. If you haven’t planned your campaign properly and done your research, it may have the reverse effect on your brand and end up doing more damage than good.

Influencer marketing fails can ruin a brand’s reputation, but they also provide valuable lessons that we can all learn from.


To download the full Out Of The Fyre, Into The Future guide, please visit: ential-marketers/.

Written by Rick Guttridge, managing director of agency Smoking Gun PR

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