Opinion: Seven deadly ways to approach an influencer

Following yesterday’s launch of Gorkana‘s Guide to Influencer Marketing, Joe Friel, head of influencer relations at Good Relations, says there are seven ways PRs should NOT approach influencers when wanting to work with them: “If you feel you might be guilty of a bad influencer approach, look away now!”


Good Relations Joe Friel

Joe Friel

For a while now there has been lots of chat about influencer marketing. From case studies showing that influencer marketing drives 11x more ROI than other digital advertising, through to 74% of consumers saying word-of-mouth is the key influencer in purchasing decisions, it is clear to see why it’s important to have a successful influencer strategy.

Having a robust and scientific approach to influencer marketing is crucial – from initial identification, to activation, to evaluation. However, it is just as important to remember that influencers are people too!

By their nature, influencers are people who have built up their “followings” by creating and sharing quality content with like-minded individuals around specific passions – this is what gives them such authenticity with their audience. You’re looking to tap into the intimate relationship that exists, between the influencer and their followers, to drive engagement and advocacy for your brand.

Yet, so often when brands approach influencers they forget this human touch. From impersonal emails to undervaluing what they offer, brands and agencies often show a lack of care for the very people they’re looking to endorse their product. If you don’t care about the influencer, why should they care enough about your brand to recommend it to their audience?

And be aware, influencers often share brand experiences with fellow influencers, meaning you may end up alienating an entire community, destroying your campaign before you’ve even started!

At Good Relations, we’re lucky to have a number of influencers in our team; we’ve combined their experiences with those of the many influencers we work with to give you the seven deadly ways to approach influencers. If you feel you might be guilty of a bad influencer approach, look away now!


1. The lazy-but-pretending-not-to-be-approach

“Dear %FirstName% we loved your recent post on %PostNameHere% a lot!”

This is the classic mail merge fail. Even worse than doing impersonal mass send-outs to thousands of people is pretending not to and then getting caught out! Not only will impersonal messages like these get deleted, but you’ve also undermined any future approach.

2. The massive cock-up

Inviting a dad blogger to an event “especially created for mums like you!”

This is certainly a pet peeve for the dad blogger in our team! Again, it comes down to a lack of attention in the first place. Put the time in at the start to really work out which influencers you need to work with why they should consider a partnership with your brand. If you know that from the start, then the communication becomes simpler, more authentic and less likely to lead to mistakes like this.

3. The meanie freebie

“We want to send you out a T-shirt to try out and review – please make sure you send us the shirt back after!”

Regardless of your view on paid vs earned influence, there always should be some sort of transaction, whether that’s monetary, exposure or an exciting experience or product. After all, you want something from them, so surely you need to provide something of value in return. Clearly undervaluing the influencer will not lead to a successful relationship.

4. The bait-and-switch

“We’d love to work with you – we all love your content!!”… two emails later “Actually, your audience is too small – bye!”

This again comes down to preparation and authenticity. With a robust and scientific approach to identifying talent you should be able to determine the right influencers to work with at an early stage. Influencers are also happy to provide you audience data if needed.

However, don’t make out they are the only ones you want to work with if there are still factors at play. You just end up messing them around and ruining your chances on working with them again.

5. The pesterer

“I sent you an email about some anal cream last week – have you had a chance to think about it yet?”

There is nothing wrong with following up, but think about why you might have not received a response. If you’ve given influencers an actual interesting reason for working together generally they will reply. If you haven’t then use the follow up email to genuinely demonstrate why you feel you should work together and what value this can offer the influencer.

6. The patroniser (a.k.a. the deluded)

“We can’t pay you to write it, but we’ll Tweet about it on all our (tiny) social channels, and it’s AMAZING exposure for you…”

Offering value in terms of exposure is not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a number of ways to amplify influencer’s content (from paid promotion through to working with the influencer to provide quotes for your wider PR strategy) that will drive further impact for your campaign and also will be well-received by some influencers as it helps further build their own profile.

However, be honest with yourself about the value of the exposure you’re offering. You are dealing with people who have built their influence online – that’s why you’re approaching them! So, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to pull the wool over the eyes.

7. The lazy press release

“Here’s the press release for our latest iPhone app, retailing at £1.99. Please let us know when you have written the post…”

Their relationship with the audience is always paramount. They aren’t going to annoy them and just promote products because you’ve sent them a press release.

Influencer partnerships are about creative collaboration. Some initial effort needs to go into thinking about how you could work together. This will not only lead to more interest from the influencer, but you will set up a dialogue where they will most likely help you deliver something truly engaging for their – and your – audience.


If there’s one key message, it is to treat influencers how you would like to be treated! Influencer marketing is shown to drive more consumer trust than any other marketing channel. You can build long-term partnerships where you build strong, authentic ambassadors around your brand. So make sure you don’t drive them away before you’ve even started!

  • Good Relations launched a specialist influencer marketing division last week (9 November), with Joe Friel brought in as head of influencer relations. He joined the agency  from social talent platform Social Circle, where he was a director. He has also led the development of influencer marketing software to enable brands to track trends and the fastest-growing talent across all major social platforms.

  • Gorkana launched a Guide to Influencer Marketing White Paper this week, whGorksWP alertich seeks to find out how an “influencer” is defined, what impact they have on PR, whether an influencer campaign can really be determined as earned media and what PRs need to think about before trying to find the right person who can positively impact their brand.
    Download your free copy here.
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