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Opinion

Why The Influencer Marketing Industry Needs To Do More

Those in the influencer marketing industry need to address how companies hire, work, invest, support communities, donate, and act.

Given the heartbreaking, tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, as well as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and a harrowing week of protests and police brutality in the US, many have been left shocked and deeply upset, questioning what it is they should do and say – or not – in response to the inequalities of race in America and the rest of the world. 

Some may wonder what can we do as a collective to help solve issues related to diversity, inclusion, equality, and equity? 

Creators from across the globe are speaking out, and influencer marketing agencies and brands have released statements, demonstrated allyship and reflected on how they can help.

As ongoing racist and other bias incidents, unfortunately, continue to happen, it is all the more reason why we need to reach out to one another to ensure individuals and communities are supported. 

Agencies and brands must listen to and carefully respond to consumers — many of which are asking for, and driving, systematic change. Many influencers are also using their platforms to speak out against racism and drive change. According to a 2018 study by Edelman, almost two-thirds of shoppers make purchasing decisions based on a brand’s position on social or political issues. 

More than business decisions, our sector has a moral obligation to tackle racism and a duty to society too. With power comes the ability to influence. Advertising — brand campaigns — has the ability to change how culture shifts and influence what people do. Creators influence what people do — the whole premise of being an influencer is to influence. However, speaking up is one thing but taking action is another. By taking actions, we can begin to create change. 

Dom Smales, founder and CEO, Gleam Futures said: “We cannot claim to have all, or indeed any, of the answers to an issue that is now hopefully being more proactively addressed by everyone. What we do know is that the influencer marketing industry (and we include ourselves in this), from talent management businesses to influencer marketing agencies to brands and talent themselves, need to show up against racism and help shape a future of equality. We have to all work at this together if we’re going to achieve long term change through both commercial, political and personal solutions.”

“What is also clear to us is that we should all make even more effort to fairly represent talent from the Black community within our rosters. We can all do more, and we need to find a way forward as an industry to establish how we platform Black voices, make them an inherent part of the established market, drive sustainable change and greater good  — both for talent and for the sake of the public.

“At Gleam we’ve also discussed how that means we must have more difficult conversations with all our partners. Whilst some have already started addressing the issue, we must all ensure black voices and communities are represented – moving away from tokenism and being inherently inclusive. That includes ensuring ethnic minority voices receive fair fees and are given as equal a platform to succeed as any other talent. This necessitates education and a shift change.

“For now we must pause, question and stand with the Black community for short- and long-term change.”

Here are some ways we can start creating change as an industry

Hire Black creatives

The industry should acknowledge how their own organisations work to affect changes. By making measurable commitments and being more inclusive in your hiring process, the overall outcome and vision will be impacted as brand marketers create campaigns based on what they think is ‘normal’ to them. If they see a team of white people, the outcome will be based on that. 

Chloë Downes, a talent manager at The Fifth Talent thinks that the main issue within influencer marketing is the lack of representation across the board: “Most people in the industry seem to look at each moving part as separate; campaigns, talent, management agencies, marketing agencies, and PR, etc. I think that’s the wrong approach.” 

Downes suggests that in order to ensure that campaigns are truly inclusive, the teams putting those lists together need to be too. 

“With only 12% of marketeers being people of colour, companies need to focus inward at how they can ensure they are hiring from every possible pool of talent. By companies having a more diverse and inclusive workforce, they can avoid creating an echo chamber where the same talent and ideas are put forward time and time again. This is also hugely beneficial for the company, by leveraging the diverse knowledge of your employees, you’ll, in turn, be able to target a more diverse audience, thus widening your consumer base,” said Downes.

Question campaigns

“Black creators speak constantly about being left out of campaigns they were clearly perfect for and rightly so. Reach out to brands to ensure that, if they are using multiple talent for a campaign, they’re not just adding some minority groups at the end to tick a box or fulfill a quota,” said Downes. 

It is important to understand different people’s views of diversity and look at who is perhaps missing in campaigns. As a creator, begin to ask how many influencers are included, too, to encourage fair and inclusive opportunities. Sharing Black creators’ content on screen is just the start but action needs to be taken in real life, too and translated offline. 

Supporting Black creators 

Make sure your company and team are trained to take care of various talents. If you represent a Black creator, spend time mentoring, giving financial advice, and coaching. Providing mental health and safe spaces are important. 

Downes suggests “working with your team to build initiatives where people need to find and present new creators, and ensure you’re following a multitude of different talent who don’t all look like you and most importantly, put them forward for campaigns and ensure they get paid fairly.” 

“During this incredibly difficult and draining time, it’s important to be mindful of what you expect from Black creators, be patient, don’t chase and make it clear that they shouldn’t feel pressure to take on collaborations at the moment. Decide on due dates and timelines that work for them and clearly communicate that with any brands or agencies you are in discussions with. As you would with any friend that was going through a traumatic experience, check in with Black talent, offer your support, and listen to their feedback on how you can be doing better,” commented Downes. 

Donate

Donating is a great start. Could you begin to match partnership fees with donations? Glossier recently announced that it would donate $500,000 to organisations fighting racial injustice and also make $500,000 in grants to Black-owned beauty companies. Not everyone can do this but small steps can be taken. Talking Influence has donated to the George Floyd Memorial Fund, which you can also donate to here.

Here are a few places you can donate:

Minnesota Freedom Fund

George Floyd Memorial Fund

Black Lives Matter

Black Visions Collective

Communities United Against Police Brutality

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Campaign Zero

American Civil Liberties Union

Educate and share resources 

Learn as much as you can about systemic oppression by reading resources. Here are some recommendations to start:

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire

White privilege: The myth of a post-racial society

Your time with creators of color should then improve. 

Sign petitions 

Signing petitions is a great way to actively get involved. We have signed the following and donated, and encourage you to do so:

#DefundThePolice

Justice for George Floyd

Black Lives Matter

How are you responding to this as a talent manager, agency exec, creator or a CEO? We want to hear from you. Get in touch by contacting: content@talkinginfluence.com 

 

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