Brands and Influencers need to get a whole lot more transparent when commercial ‘click for like’ interests are involved, with new industry guidelines coming into force on 1 March. In the second of this two part series, we’ve got some tips for Influencers in how to avoid falling foul of the fake news trap.
The Code rules out activities that involve a commercial gain and expected quid pro: “we want to come to your restaurant in exchange for writing a blog post” or “we will give you 3 items and in return we ask for 3 posts on instagram”. While other areas are not yet covered (eg being invited to attend events or experiences for free) this doesn’t mean that your responsibility ends there. Read on.
1. The good news is that social involvement in brand campaigns is here to stay. The updated AANA Code is not about undermining Influencers and follower engagement, rather they give further professional recognition to a dynamic industry. High standards of transparency already used by many means that involving social Influencers in brand campaigns has become legitimate and expected – and this is a good thing.
2. Develop Guiding Principles On Transparency For Your Blog. Jot down why it makes sense for you to work with Brands, and also what rules you will operate by (and ask of them) to ensure transparency. Professional Influencers already do this with a disclosure statement being a good start. Go further and consider eg each of your social channels and how content might need to differ there. Have a read of ethics standards used by media and communications professions (for instance MEAA IABC) Be as specific as you can about what specific types of Brands / campaigns make sense for you, and also the rules you will ask Brands/PRs to operate by. Share it.
3. Create Visible Cues and include these with your Guiding Principles. How will you make sponsored content highly visible and transparent – from consistent hashtags eg #ad #sponsored #gifted #promotion #invited – to your own buzzwords, images, email marketing. Be creative. Be consistent. And raise these with Brands or their PRs when discussing any campaign motivated content.
4. Be Your Own Chief Counsel. A blog gives editorial freedom and this opens up a world of creativity. It usually doesn’t take long for influencers to start receiving offers. Before you hit ‘post’ give yourself a moment to be your own filter, think about your content from the perspective of transperency and ethics (including the AANA Code). Think also about your followers wallet. Protect your independence, reputation and legitimacy, and keep your content genuine and real. Again, many Influencers do this already and the new Code should help make it more widespread.
5. Practice The Rule of Seven. Plan for seven times that you can declare a specific commercial interest with a Brand to your followers and importantly why it makes sense – from website to social channels to newsletters. Make sure the Brand does same for you. Think about ways you can declare it together in ways that fit. A picture of you with the brand
6. Work it out in partnership with both Brands or their PRs – and expect two way transparency. If you are working directly with a Brand be clear on your expectations of them, and work out together how you can meet the requirements of the Code and wider expectations on transparency in a way that makes most sense for both of you. It’s an evolving industry and technologies are changing – working together will be the best way to maintain transparency as new scenarios emerge.
7. Don’t be limited by the AANA rules. You are invited to attend a dinner at a restaurant for free and there has been no specified quid pro quo – this is not strictly in breach of the AANA Code. But is it relevant to your followers to know that you attended the event for free? Probably. And what about products sent to you for free? That too. Paying for followers? Yeah, pretty much. Think about it from the perspective of your customers and people who matter to you – and keep it genuine, transparent and real.
8. Biggest risk? Beware reputation damage from negative publicity. While the Code has no power to punish, complaints can be made and assessed by the Board so expect some naming and shaming – and Brands that have customers to keep happy are not going to want to work with Influencers that don’t keep it real.