The Content Creators Register is the UK’s first professional membership organisation for bloggers, vloggers, and social media influencers. The organisation gives passionate content creators a means of setting themselves apart, as well as facilitating brands in searching for reputable creators to work with. We sat down with founders Alex Quail and Jo Kenny to chat about all things content creation, authenticity, education, and regulation.
Tell us about how you came about setting up the Content Creators Register (CCR)?
We aim to shine a light on all the amazing creators in our industry, as well as diminishing the perceived importance of artificially inflated engagement and followings.
Alex and I, the CCR founders, have both spent many years managing and growing blogs and websites at hobby and professional level. Having cut our teeth before influencer marketing and Instagram existed, we’ve witnessed a popular hobby evolve into one of the most exciting marketing channels available today.
With the explosive birth of a new industry comes a myriad of new challenges. We continually witness content creators’ value being based almost exclusively on follower count, which has given rise to an undercurrent of fraudulent practices designed to gain an “audience” by any means necessary.
In our experience, many brands and agencies lack a comprehensive due diligence process, and those that do can become overwhelmed with the legwork of trying to vet every candidate for a partnership or campaign. Genuine content creators are often being lost in a sea of influencers with falsified engagement and padded follower counts. We aim to change that.
How are the creators assessed to ensure they are worthy of recognition on the register? Is it a lengthy process?
We have developed a scoring matrix based on a range of both qualitative and quantitative factors, including disclosure statement compliance, written and photographic content quality, honest and appropriate advertising practices, and authenticity of social following and engagement.
We use a mix of manual human review and digital tooling in our assessment, and all variables are recorded internally. We strongly believe that a human approach when assessing members is vital; this can be a lengthy process but we do not believe in relying solely on automation. Tooling can assist with figures and metrics, but this only paints part of the picture. Passion, context and integrity are all key parts of our assessment process, and these can not be measured via traditional metrics.
What value does a CCR membership hold for content creators, bloggers, and vloggers?
The CCR is a professional membership body that allows creators to quickly identify themselves as adhering to specific qualitative, ethical and best practice standards. In addition to an independent assessment, all members agree to a code of practice; a comprehensive set of standards that they agree to uphold. This makes CCR members more attractive to prospective partners and brands. The CCR aims to promote its members whilst acting as an industry-standard “safety-net” for advertisers.
Other benefits include increased visibility via the CCR website and improved credibility with the “CCR Certified Member” badge. We’re planning to host exclusive events for our members, and the monthly CCR newsletter educates readers on the latest developments and best practices.
Why do you think it is so important creators are certified as honest, quality content creators in what is becoming an increasingly saturated space?
With the high-levels of scrutiny currently directed towards influencer marketing, we’re now at a point where broader industry practice will quickly determine whether we sink or swim. In an ever-growing and increasingly saturated market, it is now more important than ever to amplify the voices of credible, honest creators.
Dishonest practices lead to poor campaign performance for advertisers, damaging the long-term viability of such activity. It is essential to the long-term sustainability of the industry that we improve our quality as a whole; this is done through educating creators and brands on best practice, and making sure honesty and credibility is brought to the fore.
What are the key elements, in your opinion, that content creators should focus on to ensure they remain authentic?
We believe the success of influencer marketing relies on the honest and personal perspective of creators’ endorsements and reviews. For the industry to keep growing, influencers should focus on providing genuine entertainment and value to their followers, rather than potential short-term gains. This means putting the audience at the centre of all activity, sponsored or otherwise.
Constructive, but fearlessly honest reviews are absolutely vital to maintaining the trust of an audience. When everything is five-star feedback, a creator’s voice and opinion will only become diluted. It is extremely important for brands to understand this nature of influencer marketing.
Alongside this, creators should work with brands that align with their own ideology, promoting brands that are genuinely interesting to their audience. This will often mean confidence in saying “no” if a brand or product isn’t the right fit.
There have been regulations and rules released from various different bodies – in your opinion, are more consistent regulations needed?
As with any set of rules or regulations, consistency, clarity and communication are essential. For us all to be singing from the same hymn sheet, it’s important that nothing is left open to interpretation. We believe that the ASA’s guide to the CAP/CMA regulations goes a long way to achieving this, but we certainly wish to improve on how these regulations are communicated to the wider industry.
Although the industry response to any new regulation is typically displeasure or skepticism (this isn’t unique to influencer marketing), we have seen a positive response from creators’ audiences. Although followers may engage differently with sponsored content, creators can minimise this effect by putting effort into making brand partnerships genuinely engaging. In some cases, this will mean working with the advertiser to make sure messaging and aesthetic will achieve a positive reaction from their audience.
Do you think #Ad will start to lose its currency as it could perhaps be so saturated that people won’t look into the validity of the relationship between brand and influencer?
#Ad may well become oversaturated, but it’s the responsibility of influencers to not let this happen. Putting ourselves in the audience’s shoes, would you still watch your favourite TV show if 75% of it was irrelevant advertisements? Sponsored activity should relate to the audience’s interests, and it should in no way result in less-considered or lower-quality content. It should supplement genuine organic activity rather than being its sole driver.
Although #Ad is a regulatory requirement, we see no harm in further clarification when featuring a brand or product. When developing a compelling narrative for a piece of content, the relationship behind the content naturally forms part of the story. This is something we consistently see from the best digital creators; they take us on their journey, and being approached by new brands and partners is seen as a milestone, and as such is often celebrated by their followers. Loyal audiences are happy for their success.
How do we, as an industry, ensure that everybody is educated to further mature the space?
Better communication between publishers, advertisers and regulatory bodies is key to developing the influencer marketing space. By using a standardised set of requirements when engaging in commercial relationships, expectations for all parties can be appropriately managed. This will quickly become a natural part of the discussion, rather than a pain point to work around. Like any business or industry, standardised processes makes scalability much simpler.
Where do you see influencer marketing evolving in 2020?
It’s no secret that fraudulent activity has become an increasingly hot topic with not only a rise in bought followings to gain advantage but a growing awareness of it taking place. Most recently, tabloids published their own exposes on Love Island stars’ alleged fake Instagram followings, and it’s stories like these that generate negative sentiment towards content creators in the eyes of the general public.
With high-profile stars coming under fire, we have already seen a shift in attitude from brands to consider micro and nano creators for campaigns; the theory being that with smaller followings, audiences still trust them to be genuine. In a similar vein, less curated content featuring snapshot moments is increasing in popularity with audiences for its authentic feel. We’re increasingly seeing social followers’ desire to connect with the person behind the profile, rather than the ultra-polished facade.
Short-term this may pave the way for smaller content creators to benefit from more opportunities, but ultimately without real change, there may be no longevity. We strongly feel that the industry is at a tipping point; we must work to counter these negative stories with positive. How we evolve is up to all of the parties involved, from creators through to agencies, brands and regulatory organisations. Quality, honesty and integrity should be at the forefront throughout.