Influencer Marketing in times of Crisis – Influencer Marketing Education Series

This Influencer Marketing Education series by Linda Hoang is a 10-blog post series offering ethical, and effective influencer marketing advice aimed at educating would be and current influencers and content creators, the organizations that may work with them, and even the people who follow influencers. Topics around social media authenticity, influencer credibility and effective influencer marketing are ones social media strategist and influencer Linda Hoang is passionate about. Which is really just a nice way of saying she cannot stand fake influencers, fake engagement, fake followers, bad disclosure practices, partnerships that don’t make sense, misconceptions about the industry, and companies that don’t do enough research. 
The intent of these posts is to help make the industry better, from all sides.
Want to learn more?
  • Companies, you can hire Linda to help develop your influencer marketing strategies.
  • Influencers, read these blog posts, do more research, and don’t use “I didn’t know” as an excuse for shady behaviour. If you’re trying to be a content creator, put the time and effort into educating yourself. And if you do engage in shady practices, stop, and start being honest with yourself.

Influencer Marketing In Times of Crisis

Part Five in Linda Hoang’s Ten-Part Influencer Marketing Education Series

A new blog post in this series will be shared each Monday from Feb 24 to April 27, 2020. 

Influencer Marketing Education Series - Influencers in Times of Crisis
Share my Influencer Marketing Blog Post Series Part Five - Influencer Marketing in Times of Crisis

I mentioned to my friend last week—just days after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic—that in times like these, it appears, businesses, understandably, have no need for influencer marketing. 

I said that based on my own experience. All of the influencer partnerships I had in the works for March and April were quickly cancelled or postponed following the pandemic announcement.

It made a ton of sense. Coming out with feel good, partnered, promotional content when life as we know it has changed, and changed rapidly, and not for the better, isn’t smart marketing, obviously. 

That would’ve been my recommendation for companies as well—review what you have scheduled, planned or coming up for digital marketing be it paid ads, organic posts, videos, or influencer partnerships, and hit pause. Re-assess. Take a breathe.

Then start to tweak your plan. 

Don’t be the company—or the influencer—that is accused of being tone deaf and insensitive during times of crisis. 

I use the COVID-19 crisis as the relevant example at the time of writing this post, but for this part of my Influencer Marketing Education Blog Series, I wanted to share advice that should apply to your approach to influencer marketing in any crisis.

COVID-19 is really a once-in-a-lifetime (I hope) crisis to deal with (in all aspects, but for the purposes of this post, particularly from a digital marketing perspective), as its impact really touches any and all industries, any and all people. Hopefully if you’re dealing with a crisis down the road it will be less global and less all-consuming, all-reaching, all-impacting, than COVID-19. 

Yes, it makes absolute sense to pause or cancel influencer partnerships when a crisis hits. 

But no, a crisis doesn’t mean this type of marketing can’t be meaningful, helpful or effective. 

After you’ve hit pause on a partnership, and begin to re-evaluate your organization’s role in the crisis and with your audience, after some time has passed (so you’re not marketing in the midst of urgent crisis communications), there’s a few things to consider (as a company and as an influencer) when trying to navigate an influencer marketing relationship during a crisis.

These include: 

  • Awareness: You need to—to borrow a current popular saying—”read the room.” As an influencer, you need to know what your audience is saying, posting, feeling in times of crisis. You need to see what other influencers are sharing and how their audience is reacting to those posts—and analyze why they are reacting the way they are. You need to be aware of and gauge the tone of your network so you can confidently say, yes, or no, now might be a good time to start communicating on X topic to a company you may partner with. The same applies to a company, but from a company perspective, you need to ask the influencer their take on the “room.” Would this be an appropriate time? You as a company may deem it so, but what does the influencer think—knowing they have a better handle on their audience and how their posts may be received. 
  • Adaptability: Not only does the timing have to feel right, but the context and contents of the partnered post need to feel right as well. And that will require both sides—company and influencer—to be adaptable. Before one partnership of mine in particular was postponed due to COVID-19, I had been in talks with the company around potentially hosting an event tied to their new product launch. But, being aware of the news coming out around the pandemic, I said while an event might be fun, in the current climate, it probably doesn’t make sense especially as we’re seeing (again, awareness!) more and more events getting cancelled, so let’s look at some other options that aren’t tied to events. They agreed with this call. In another example, I was supposed to post about a particular sponsored topic with an organization that month, but instead suggested to them that—due to the crisis—we shift angles. I felt that the nature of this particular business lent itself well to educating audiences on a specific topic that was important during this crisis, and made recommendations to the company on how I thought we could shift gears but still make an influencer marketing post work—that wouldn’t seem tone deaf and instead would be timely and helpful. In times of crisis, both influencer and company need to be able to quickly adapt—don’t be stuck with initial strategies or plans, be open to change, a different perspective, and applying a more critical lens to the proposed content. Your content should always aim to be useful for audiences—I believe this to be true crisis or not—but it is especially true in crisis. If you’re going to be doing influencer marketing in times of, or shortly following a crisis, be adaptable and be sure your post solves a problem, answers a question and/or is useful, in context of the crisis. 
  • Authenticity: As I’ve written in previous influencer marketing blog posts: authenticity, credibility, and that trust audiences have in an influencer is vital, and even moreso during crisis. Choosing to partner with an authentic influencer who has built a reputation on being a trusted and credible source, can make the difference in the success of the campaign. Influencers, scrutinize the ask. Does it feel disingenuous? Do you actually believe or support this message? Companies, ensure your selected influencer is someone your audience can trust, perhaps, someone you have worked with (successfully) before. 

I have other thoughts on effective influencer marketing strategies during or following a crisis—considerations around how companies can lean on long-term ambassadors in a more authentic way, or how influencers who personalize, and don’t narrow their niche / topic focuses as much are in a better position to effectively adapt and communicate, but, I’ll save those for a one-on-one discussion! ;) 

I absolutely think it is the right call for businesses to pause / postpone their influencer marketing partnerships when a crisis hits, and in the time immediately following that crisis. But also I believe there can be immense value in partnering with a trusted source (relevant to your audience) and shifting how you approach the content, in order to communicate key messages or services in times of crisis that can be useful and meaningful for who you’re trying to reach. Of course it may not work in all instances (do NOT be tone deaf or insensitive! Weigh that awareness, adaptability and authenticity!), but it shouldn’t be a flat-out no it won’t work.

Challenge yourself (as a company and as an influencer) to really consider whether influencer marketing could work. 

In Part Six of my Influencer Marketing Education Series, I’ll be writing about How Much Influencers Should Be Paid. Stay tuned! 

Influencer Marketing Education Series - Influencers in Times of Crisis
Share my Influencer Marketing Blog Post Series Part Five - Influencer Marketing in Times of Crisis

View all blog posts in Linda Hoang’s Influencer Marketing Education Series

A new blog post in the ten-post series will be shared each Monday from Feb 24 to April 27, 2020. 

ABOUT LINDA HOANG. Linda Hoang is an experienced Alberta, Canada-based social media strategist as well as a social media influencer and content creator. As a strategist she also regularly delivers social media training and develops strategies and content plans for a wide range of companies and individuals. As a social media influencer, she regularly works with companies to develop engaging content that helps reach their goals. This allows Linda to bring a dual perspective to influencer marketing and specifically, deliver an approach that focuses on authenticity and credibility. 


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