Influencers Behaving Badly: What’s a Brand to Do?

Influencer marketing can be a game-changer for garnering brand recognition and converting sales, but sometimes, influencers may behave badly or unexpectedly.

In recent weeks, there have been some high-profile legal situations involving influencers. For example, a Twitch creator hosted a public event with product giveaways that got out of control. He is now facing charges in New York City for inciting a riot and unlawful assembly, and 65 people were arrested during that event, including 30 juveniles.

There was also a recent legal case where a well-known influencer sued a brand for breaking her contract early after posting politically charged content that misaligned with the brand’s identity. The judge threw the case out, citing the fact that she had created adverse publicity for the brand which was prohibited in her contract.

These are extreme examples, of course, but even minor indiscretions can be difficult to manage. For example, what do you do if an influencer you hired doesn’t meet their deadline or cannot provide the level of work you require?

We invited three influencer marketing experts to share best practices in this conversation. Take a look:

If you’d prefer to read instead, we’ve summarized below. It’s just very important for brands to be aware that these situations can happen and how to protect themselves against them.

How to Protect Your Brand in Influencer Partnerships

There are a few precautionary measures you can take to help protect your brand as you prepare to hire influencers for your social media marketing campaign.

Do Your Due Diligence

Before approaching a social media influencer, do your research and become familiar with the types of things they post, including both sponsored and unsponsored content. Figure out how they interact with their audience, what topics and messages they send out, and what they represent.

Before working with someone, make sure they align with your brand. Typically, it is best to avoid any influencers who discuss politics, conspiracies, or any controversial topics you’d prefer your brand to avoid being a part of.

Have a Solid Contract

Once you decide to work with a social media influencer, have a solid influencer contract in place.

In the recent legal case mentioned above, the judge ruled that the influencer violated her contract because there was a clause that allowed the brand to break it if the partnership created any adverse publicity.

Therefore, you can avoid conflict and even legal consequences for your brand if you are clear about the legal expectations of your partnership and what is or is not acceptable.

How to Respond to Influencers’ Bad Behavior

We always say good news should travel fast, and bad news should travel faster. If anything negative does occur, you want your team to get ahead of it and be able to respond as quickly as possible.

In today’s age of technology, everyone is always connected and online. So, don’t be fooled into thinking you have the luxury of 24 hours to figure out your response to a bad situation. Instead, ensure you regularly monitor your social channels, use social listening tools to monitor sentiment, gather all the facts, and create a quick but thoughtful response.

Above all else, craft your response with transparency and authenticity. Be clear and honest about what happened and how to avoid it happening again. Acknowledge if there are things you don’t yet know.

If your brand is at fault in the situation or there was a step in the review process that you missed, be honest about that and own your mistake. We are all allowed to make mistakes sometimes. Put your best foot forward and show how you’re working with the influencer and resolving the situation quickly.

That said, always keep in mind that some situations require no response. If you notice something an influencer did that you disagree with but no one else is talking about, responding may create a problem you didn’t otherwise have.

How Do You Know if Your Response to a Negative PR Situation is Successful?

After you’ve crafted and published your response to a negative situation with an influencer, you’ll want to keep monitoring the facts to see how your response is received.

Each situation will be different. Sometimes your initial response will be all that is needed, and sometimes, the situation will need ongoing management until things calm down. It’s unlikely however that you’ll make everyone happy so you may need a bit of thick skin.

Once you’ve gotten through the crisis, it is important to have your brand or agency sit down and do a ‘postmortem’ to review and reflect on the situation.

Holding a postmortem should not be to point fingers, dwell on the past, or place blame. Instead, it should be used as a helpful learning device. You can figure out as a team how to do things differently and improve going forward so the situation isn’t repeated.

Key Takeaways: How to Protect Your Brand When Influencers Behave Badly

Unfortunately, you may have some issues with some influencers that you hire. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that we are all human. Sometimes an influencer will request an extension for their deliverables because they are overextended or they have a personal life situation, such as an illness or an unfortunate death in the family. In these scenarios, it is important to have empathy and work with the influencer to come to an agreement that works for you both.

If an influencer does something malicious or irresponsible that can have real negative ramifications for your brand, however, you want to be prepared and have preventive measures in place. We hope that very few brands experience this, but serious situations can develop quickly and unexpectedly in today’s social media environment.

Our best advice for how to avoid getting burned by an influencer marketing relationship includes:

  • Carefully vet any potential influencers before engaging with them to make sure their content, posting style, and audience aligns with your brand’s mission, values, and messaging;
  • Avoid partnering with any influencers who engage in political conversations or any topics and discussions that can be controversial or undesirable for your brand to also engage with;
  • Work with your legal team to create a written contract for influencers that includes explicit language around what behavior and messaging can lead to early termination of the contract.

Follow these processes and you should enjoy little controversy from your influencer marketing efforts.

Or, we can help you from start to finish, as we’ve done with literally hundreds of influencer marketing programs. Just complete the form below.

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