As the influencer marketing industry evolves and we progress beyond the new year, there are plenty of reasons to be positive about the future of influencer marketing in 2020. Namely, influencers are calling for more creative control and long-term partnerships with brands, opening the door to more expansive and effective influencer-led campaigns.

While these shifts in the sector bode well for the future of influencer marketing, they do mean that briefs issued by brands to content creators need to adapt. So how can brands clearly outline the campaign objectives, expectations, guidelines and deliverables to any potential influencer?

The struggle between creativity and control

Creativity and precision are the souls of marketing and what determines the difference between a good campaign and a great one. But the shifting hierarchy in creative output can be a challenge when it comes to producing assets and the influencer marketing sector.

Creative control is the number one concern for influencers when working with brands – 83% of UK influencers regard it as their main priority according to Takumi’s recent whitepaper. Among the influencer community, there is a common feeling that brands whose briefs are too prescriptive jeopardise the authenticity of their posts. This can put influencers off, making them more selective about which brands to work with.

However, control is just as valued by marketers who want to protect their brand’s identity. Specifically, one in five marketers (22%) wants to influence the visual element of the influencer’s post.

There is a balance to be struck between marketers and influencers who are fiercely protective of their brands and battling it out for control. Establishing effective ways of working that suit both parties is the key to success, and the brief is central to this. Getting influencers involved in the creative process from the start of the campaign is a potential solution that could help the end-to-end process run more smoothly.

Ultimately, clarity is key. The opportunity for brands to share a clear brief reassures them, giving them the confidence that influencers understand the brand’s essential requirements, aims, and values. Likewise, a clear brief is crucial for influencers and was identified by 75% of UK influencers as the single most important aspect of working with brands. The most important thing is to not constrain either party through too much information, or lack of it! A clear, concise brief grants influencers the freedom to create content that feels authentic to their personal style and for their audience, while still in line with the brand’s expectations.

Establishing long-term influencer partnerships

As the industry has matured, more brands are integrating influencer marketing into their overall advertising plans and spend. They are no longer just dipping their toes into influencer marketing as projects but instead thinking about exclusive and long-term partnerships and how it fits into their wider marketing mix.

This switch in mindset is being reciprocated by influencers. We are increasingly seeing content creators turn down short-term and one-off campaigns, instead preferring to build a closer relationship with a brand over a longer period.

While a long-term relationship re-enforces the influencer’s affinity for the product, it is not without its challenges. Namely, the need to clearly establish whether the collaboration would or could extend to the brand’s above the line activity, such as TV, magazine and billboards.

These content usage rights need to be covered in the brief so both parties can feel secure in how the collaboration could progress and understand its value. Influencer marketing briefs need to acknowledge, address and respect this shift.

Briefs need to adapt to industry regulations

Compared to more traditional mediums, such as TV and radio advertising, influencer marketing is a relatively new form of brand promotion, and as such the rules and regulations have rapidly taken shape – and are still evolving.

Despite the changing regulatory landscape, 87% of UK and 97% of US influencers feel confident in their understanding of the respective ASA and FTC guidelines for labelling paid-for content.

This confidence may seem positive, but it should ring alarm bells for any brands who trust influencers to self-regulate their posts, as the risk of compliance should always be shared.

Recently, former Love Island contestant Molly-Mae Hague broke ASA guidelines on Instagram marketing, and in situations like these both the brand and influencer’s reputation are damaged by the negative press reaction.

To avoid this, brands need to ensure influencers are fully briefed on the latest guidelines. If brands and marketers don’t take responsibility for upholding guidelines through thorough briefing, monitoring, and education, they will not see the benefits of influencer marketing as the sector evolves.

The brief is central to productive relationships between influencers and brands. Consumers have made it clear what wins their trust, and what they value: transparency, authenticity, and honesty. These are the same principles the sector should build relationships on.

Brands and influencers that build on this foundation will be the real winners: 60% of 18-24-year olds report that influencer content has directly informed a purchasing decision within the past six months, and almost a fifth trust social media influencers’ product recommendations more than those of a friend. That is the power of responsibly curated influencer content and the potential for what can be achieved if brands and influencers work closely together.

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