Highly Regulated? Here’s the Non-Shady Way to Make Influencers Work

As Influencer Marketing continues to carve bigger slices into the budgets of consumer brands to take advantage of a hot new channel, other industries are gazing out the window, longing to play. Prescription drugs, banking, and insurance realize they need to leverage social influencers; their future buyers don’t trust anything that comes from a brand’s content creators.  So how can highly regulated industries (“HRIs”) shift to influencers when there are so many federal restrictions? How can they possibly satisfy their legal teams so that they’re not leaving gaping holes in liability? There is an approach – and it can be wildly effective for Gens Y and Z.

A quick primer on influencer marketing is warranted because there are segments that would never work for HRIs. For convenience, programmatic platforms seem ideal. As with a social ad, simply provide a budget, provide minimal content guidance, then tens, hundreds, or thousands of micro influencers will post on Instagram or Facebook for you. This can be a wonderful tactic for commoditized, low-priced products like window cleaner but career-ending for a marketer of higher end or loyalty brands. Loss of content control means that, if the brand were even able to find any of the programmatic posts, they would be mortified at the quality.  Legal departments puff up with prime finger-wagging time at the staff meeting, too, as a supermajority of these posts do not contain the requisite #ad, opening them to liability with the FTC. And those are for non-regulated industries. Believing these hands-off posts could conform to weighty FDA or SEC rules is laughable.

Loss of content control still happens even within more structured influencer approaches.  If the agency or provider has loose processes, or doesn’t offer content review and edits, you could end up with content that’s a liability to your company. Non-compliance for non-regulated brands is less an issue, but again, with HRIs you’ll need 100% control over the content.

So how can you generate goodwill and awareness without worrying about destructive content or non-compliance? What approach would be effective for younger consumers – maybe even more effective- than a quality influencer post? Public Service Announcements – PSAs – are a nascent tactic in influencer marketing. You’ve surely seen them on TV from the Ad Council, pitching social issues like LGBT acceptance, saving for retirement, or confronting sexual harassment.

Every industry has tie-ins for PSAs. Pharma? Choose from any awareness week or month like American Heart Month for cholesterol-lowering statin brands. Skin Cancer Detection Month will resonate for sunblock or skin care. Banking? A campaign of cost saving tips. Auto insurance can promote teen driving safety. Although it all seems intuitive, you can stumble. So be careful you don’t run afoul of some common sense rules.

The challenges? Influencers have to offer up content that works for the brand and rings true to their audience. One snarky comment can ignite enough cynicism to upvote your campaign to the front page of Reddit. Marketers need to be self-aware about their reps. Promoting the #metoo movement by Jello Pudding or a Wall Street Bank currently the subject of multiple lawsuits would be hurtful and/or laughable.

 

Tips for PSA Campaigns

Following some common sense rules while imposing a rigorous content review process will result in a wonderful campaign for you.

1. Plan for Content Review

You’ll almost always get pushback from your provider as well as the influencer but stick to your guns! There’s a way to work with influencer partners so that  content edits are few and minor. First, gain requirements approval from your legal department for the entirety of the campaign. Building in a week for approval of every piece of content will delay the campaign too much. Next, provide thorough instructions to your provider and thence to the influencer, including the “do’s and don’ts”. Insist that you (or your rep) talk directly to the influencer rather than leaving it up to email. There’s an app on your phone that allows you to talk directly to someone, in real time – use it! And if the influencer has an agent, insist on a conference call with both. You’ll get pushback but in the end, but it’s worth the extra trouble. Next, have just one person from your brand authorized to approve content. Sometimes you can’t avoid multiple approvers, but the fewer the better.

2. Commit to the Campaign

One-offs are better than nothing, but a long term commitment to the cause will go a long way to generating positive awareness. Tell the influencer you’ve committed five or ten years of funding for these causes – the level of trust will skyrocket with the influencer, who’ll pass it along to their audience.

3. Integrate it With Other Channels

In general, non PSA campaigns provide the most impact at the beginning of awareness, making follow on conversion channels significantly more effective. In the mind of the consumer, they see an influencer promoting a product and maybe they miss the link to buy it, but in a week or two they start seeing Facebook or Instagram ads for it. This can work the same way for PSA campaigns, although you’re not going to profit directly from the conversions.

4. Measure Twice, Cut Once

You know that adage about only doing things that are measurable. You can easily measure engagement from the influencer campaign but you can also have the influencer add a link to support the cause in their bio. Often we’ll see brand pages as a portal to the organization’s funding site, which is a solid way to see the attribution, although each additional click diminishes results for the cause – your decision.

PSAs are such an underrated way to reach all audiences, but especially younger, progressively-minded generations. If you follow the tips and communicate often and clearly with your team and the influencer and plan ahead in the schedule for review delays, you’ll end up with a revenue-generating, liability-free campaign.

 

About MATTR

MATTR is the only full-service influencer marketing provider with detailed audience insights from PersonaMesh™. We go beyond demographics into psychographics such as values and interests so that your influencer campaigns align with your campaign targets.

 

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