What you need to know for a legal and ethical relationship.
Working with influencers can bring huge benefits to your brand and business, but with the influencer industry still relatively in its infancy, how do you ensure your influencer engagement programme is not only legal but ethical too?
Once your PR team has carefully selected appropriate content creators, what should they be asking bloggers for in terms of disclosing payment and links, while following the rules of different social media channels for disclosing paid-for content, to help protect and enhance your brand’s reputation? And more importantly, what should you be asking your PR team about their approach to influencer relations, so that you can be safe in the knowledge they are acting both legally and ethically on behalf of your brand too?
The ASA has announced a review into how paidfor influencer and native advertising is signposted online, saying that misleading posts damage consumer trust in advertising and that filters back to the brands participating in this bad practice.
According to the ASA, an advert in terms of influencer relations campaigns include payment and editorial control. Any paid-for content should also be clearly marked as an advert, when paid for, or when receiving product or experiences in kind and there has been some kind of editorial control by a brand. Editorial control goes as far as even just asking for a post, inclusion of a specific link or campaign hashtag to be included in the influencer’s content.
Disclosing the relationship
Full disclosure is critical to the blogger and the brand you and your PR team need to let you audience clearly know the nature of your relationship with a particular influencer. This should be clearly declared at the start of a post, not hidden away at the end, or before someone clicks a link on social media to a particular article. Each channel has their own way of marking paid for content, and yes it would help if there was consistency, but safe to say you and your PR team should be insisting on full disclosure and on all channels at all times.
A carefully chosen content creator with an engaged following is likely to have an audience that trusts and is influenced by what they say, regardless of whether they have been paid to highlight a product in their own way. This authenticity is why brands want to work with them. So why jeopardise your brand’s reputation and theirs by hiding disclosure? If your brand is appropriate to the audience, then whether the influencer has been paid or not shouldn’t make any difference.
Linking back to your website
And what about the link included? Yes, high quality backlinks are beneficial to SEO, but are against Google regulations if they are paid for. Google ranking should be earned not bought; requesting and buying paid-for links can bring about a Google penalty and by its very nature can damage awareness of your brand and its reputation, as you won’t be as visible online.
So, any paid for advertising with a content creator should come with a request for a no-follow link a standard. It’s also worth remembering that a content creator willing to sell backlinks is also likely to have a website with lots of low quality links is that a website you want your brand associated with?
Ultimately, it’s important for you and your PR team to know the legal requirements if you’re thinking about embarking on an influencer relations engagement programme, in what is a relatively new and emerging field of brand communications. When it comes to protecting your brand and business, it’s important to get it right and by following these guidelines, you’ve got a great starter-for-ten.
Anne-Marie Lacey is Managing Director of Filament PR. She is collaborating with Debbie Sharratt, an award-winning PR & Marketing professional who is also now a successful blogger, to deliver a number of courses to help businesses, brands and communicators work more effectively and ethically with bloggers and other social influencers. For more information, visit www. nesma.co.uk.
A version of this article first appeared on infuenceonline.co.uk co-authored by Anne-Marie Lacey and Debbie Sharratt.