Despite COVID-19, the influencer marketing industry is growing globally and will be worth 15 billion by 2022. Yet, many influencers feel overlooked because of the pay discrepancies that exist within the industry.
The Black influencer community has taken the matter into its own hands by using social media platforms to highlight how its white counterparts are paid more for posting the same branded content. Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek cites interviews with over a dozen influencers which found that Black influencers are more likely to receive products from brands instead of cash.
PR pros can support Black influencers during brand partnerships by understanding the racially-motivated nuances that exist within the industry. Here are five ways PR pros can support Black influencers:
1. Include Black influencers in your budget.
PR pros often work with influencers to build digital campaigns and are the liaison between brand and online celebrity. These professionals can advocate for Black influencers by allocating funds in the budget to ensure equal pay for all.
PRO TIP: Communicate the importance of having diverse voices telling a brand’s story. Consider emphasizing ROI or the added value influencers bring to digital campaigns.
2. Make influencers part of the team.
It is important to make influencers feel part of the team by inviting them to a relevant team meeting. Ask influencers about their ideas or how they want to create for the brand’s product or service.
PRO TIP: The best way to keep up with the new trends is by asking those who are creating them. There is a reason you connected the influencer with the brand; help them discover their own connection.
3. Build long-term partnerships.
Black influencers are more than just diversity campaigns. Brands focus on multiracial influencers to ensure consumers know they care about communities of color. PR pros must maintain relationships with Black influencers to be able to strategically think of new content they can create and build for brand or client overtime.
As Cision notes, “Communicators will need to be nimbler in maintaining these relationships, think about how they connect with individuals and be sure they are continually providing value to keep relationships strong despite the changes and challenges.”
PRO TIP: Transactional relationships feel inauthentic, and the lack of real connection can show up in the influencer’s content for your brand or client. Keep the relationship going; hop on a Zoom call.
4. Give proper credit.
Giving credit where it is due matters because of situations like Sydnee McRae, who created a viral dance to “Captain Hook” by Megan Thee Stallion, but Universal Music Group paid another white influencer thousands for her imitation of it.
Brands can give influencers products, pay them, and tag them in the post—and they should do all of the above. Social currency is real. Give credit where credit is due.
5. Continuously scout for multidisciplinary POC influencers.
Many young Millennials and Gen Zers are doing creative things on apps like TikTok, Instagram, Twitch, Clubhouse and other new apps. There are many ways to tell a brand’s story on different platforms.
PRO TIP: Use strategic planning to think outside of the box. You have three seconds to capture consumer’s attention. Using the most popular celebrity will not increase engagement long-term.
Black influencers are often left feeling unsupported and underappreciated. PR pros can support Black influencers by applying these best practices to their strategic planning.
Ketia M. Jeune is a New York City-based public relations pro who works at Edelman and freelances as a publicist for influencers and multidisciplinary creatives.