Influencer Marketing: How I Got Into It and Why It Makes Me Tick

Influencer Marketing is the latest flavor of Kool-Aid that brands and people want to consume. Earlier this year, Forbes cited that the IM industry will exceed the billion-dollar mark by 2020, and as more businesses put their money where their mouth is, it’s an exciting time to work within the space.

Engaging luminaries to market to a brand’s target audience is not an entirely new concept. We’ve seen it done in music, sports, and Hollywood via name drops in lyrics, endorsements at halftime, and product plugs in movies. The influencer marketing of today is something I organically discovered almost three years ago as a publicist in the wine & spirits industry. The media landscape across the US was changing: publications were closing, entire editorial staff members were getting laid off and the freelance journalist pool was swelling rapidly. Still, the pressure of securing quality press coverage for our clients was on, so I decided to look inward, use my PR relationship skills, and pay close attention to what was going on right at my fingertips with Instagram.

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Céline Bossart was a journalist I had recently connected with over drinks to discuss her current projects. In tandem with composing articles on cocktails, spirits, and travel, she produced campaigns equipped with high fashion pulls, premium F&B, the burgeoning “it” crowd, and up-and-coming photographers at some of NYC’s most coveted hotel properties for her very own platform, THE STAYCATIONERS. Our professional relationship quickly blossomed into a friendship and shortly after meeting, I was producing staycation content for the platform and its hotel partners.

Using the skills I’d learned—negotiating deliverables, securing venue spaces and partners, and packaging high-quality content—I brought the idea of offering influencer marketing as a service to our clients to my then boss. Through many rounds of presentations to my senior colleagues and several trial influencer marketing campaigns for clients within the agency’s roster, I’d gotten into my groove and our monthly were boosted with beautiful influencer-produced content that counted toward the monthly impressions.

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Fast forward to today, and I’m managing strategy and executing influencer marketing campaigns on a full-time and consulting basis for restaurants, bars, hotels, wine & spirits and, CPG. What I enjoy most about the space is that I see both sides like Chanel: I understand the methodology from both the client and the influencer perspective. As a facilitator, I am excited that I can bring my expertise from my days in PR, experience in hospitality, a degree in English, love for people and my desire for creativity and conceptualization in an entire practice.

There’s no doubt that Instagram has served as an outlet for people to showcase who they are, what they stand for and how they create; if there’s a niche, there’s likely a content creator that fits the bill. From a brand perspective, however, there’s a dominance of influencer monoliths that limit the potential of partnerships. Hosted influencer trips typecast the same group of people, often repeating invitations; events aim to hold space for all but are unwelcoming on the ground. When the net is cast to a wider set of individuals, the compensation for the partnership is immensely skewed with women of color often finishing last. These examples of inequity in the overall marketing space are what keeps me in industry, and acts as a driving force behind my consultancy.

To close, a couple of thought-provoking questions: if you’re on the brand side, how are you and your team holding equitable space for a range of influencer partners: Black women, disabled, the queer community? If you’re an influencer, how are you using your access to leverage other a more diverse group of partners?