By Dalene Heck and Tawny Bertolozzi
We have been facilitating influencer campaigns now for almost a decade – well before the word influencer was even remotely mainstream.
A lot has changed since those early days, and influencer marketing has taken off to epic proportions since. At first, it was all about bloggers, and then came the rise in social media-focused content, and now short-form video rules engaged media. What tourism brands and destinations now have is an abundance of options, from broadly appealing to hyper-niche content creators, and today’s most successful campaigns include a mix of all. With that meteoric rise in options, the smartest brands are narrowing in on their specific needs.
As facilitators between creators and brands, this specificity impacts our decision-making and selection process. And understandably, we receive a lot of questions from influencers about how and why we do what we do. We constructed this post to address the most frequently asked questions and provide some clarity behind our process. If interested, read on below to see some behind-the-scenes of how we do what we do.
Why do you use an application form?
It’s true that by now, several of you have had to fill out application forms more than once, sometimes within months of each other. We completely understand that this can be annoying to fill out similar information multiple times, rather than just applying one set of info from one campaign to another. We do this for several reasons:
Each brand has different needs, and each time, the information you are asked to provide will be slightly different. The differences may seem miniscule to you, but they could make a big difference in the particular desires of the brand.
Your stats change – some of you, quite quickly even! If you had a viral TikTok video cause your followers to make a not-insignificant bump up overnight, we want the refreshed number.
We opt to be less dictative when it comes to deliverables – we want you to tell us what works for you and your audience based on the parameters of the campaign, and not the other way around. A submission form allows for that flexibility.
Having all applicants fill out the same form for a particular campaign allows us to most easily make comparisons and thus decisions, cutting down on the time required in our process.
Why do you run travel campaigns that don’t pay influencers?
We understand that for some of you, this is a hot-button issue (yeah, we’ve seen your angry emails)!
Just because someone is taking an unpaid trip with a destination, it doesn’t mean that there’s no potential to earn. There are still multiple ways to turn that trip into income: resultant blog posts generate ad income, plus there are also photos that can be sold or freelance articles that can be written. Frankly, if you’re looking at an unpaid trip as wasted time, you’re probably leaving money on the table.
Plus, there are also intangibles that come along with these trips, which are especially important within the first couple of years. Proving yourself as a creator will sometimes mean taking a trip without payment for the practical experience, content, and potential exposure. Just because you publish things on the internet doesn’t mean you deserve to get paid for it; building value takes time. And the more you travel, the more cred you build as an influencer. You have to start somewhere – early trips (unpaid or not) can be extremely valuable.
So yeah, as an agency, we will continue to accept these campaigns from brands if we are confident we can fill the brief. We firmly believe in the value they can still create for both sides.
What type of expenses are covered on campaigns? How are they paid out?
This is highly dependent on the campaign, and the client.
If it involves travel to a specific destination, the general consensus is that all expenses are covered, with some exclusions for tipping and alcohol (for most, but not all clients). Some destinations will facilitate everything to be paid ahead of your arrival, others may ask you to pay for it and submit receipts for reimbursement. If it is a campaign that necessitates travel to a destination, we like to suggest utilizing per diems to give you, the influencers, the ability to be flexible with your choices on where to go and how to spend money in the destination.
For one-off content campaigns, there may not be any expense allotment. Sometimes, however, there will be some money apportioned to amplify posts on social media and reach more people. In that case, we wait for your invoice with the receipt before paying that out.
We pay within 30 days of invoice receipt, but how we pay influencers is often dependent on where they reside. If in Canada or the USA, we pay by e-transfer. If you are further abroad (or your account is not in CAD or USD), we will pay via wire transfer in your home account currency.
How can I stand out and get selected for a campaign?
To answer this question we need a WHOLE other blog post. (And is the subject of most of our creator consults, where we can give guidance specific to the creator.)
We will save you from the buzzwords that you’ll find in numerous resources, like authenticity, engagement, uniqueness, and more. While those are all important, there are two things that are often missing from these resources that we’ll share here:
Align the pitch to the brand, don’t just make it about yourself.
“I really want to go to Nova Scotia,” is not a reason for Nova Scotia to choose you for a campaign.
What are the current stories they are trying to get out into the world, and how can you help them do that? What unique angle can you bring to your promotion that they won’t find elsewhere? How does your audience align with their target market?
These are just SOME of the questions you should consider, and then tailor your pitch to include the answers. Yes, it will require some homework (dig around on the brand websites, look at recent industry publications, etc.), but it will make a world of difference to how you will be evaluated. Not only does it show your true interest in that brand or destination, but it will also give them direct insight into how your promotion will align with their goals.
It is always shocking to us how few people actually do this, and those who do always stand out.
Really, we can’t believe this needs to be said, but it does. Drop the entitlement, and be that person whom people like to work with. If you want a good reference or repeat business, this is how you do it. Simply being nice goes a long way.
How does your selection process work?
After we receive all the applications, we do an internal first pass to remove anyone who is obviously not a fit. This may be because of audience misalignment, overall brand fit, or other reasons we deem important. (I.e. The person who applied for Creator House Banff and stated she couldn’t wait to canoe on Lake Louise – in February – we’re sorry, but clearly, it wasn’t going to work out.)
After the first pass, we usually schedule a (LONG) meeting with the client where they review our reduced list to make choices. While we will put forth our thoughts and recommendations, the final decision is always with the brand. Sometimes a selection may be dependent on further negotiations with the influencer which we will embark on right away. Following that, we will proceed to contract once negotiations are satisfied and final choices are made.
Do you have a “do-not-work-with” list? What makes someone get added?
Yes, we do – influencers who are difficult to work with or who have wronged our clients on previous campaigns are on there. Thankfully, the list is very short.
What are some red flags that make an influencer not get selected?
“Red flags” do emerge, of course, and they are often based on previous experiences and/or an influencer not having done even the basic amount of homework about the brand or campaign they are pitching (i.e. canoeing in Lake Louise in February).
But more often than not — and this is one concept we wish influencers would grasp more — non-selection often means that they are just not a right fit at that time. Whether it’s because the brand is more focused on Instagram but you’re a blogger, or that they have new hiking routes to promote that year but you’re a foodie, often it’s not that you’ve presented any “red flags”, it’s just that you’re not a great fit. Next year the brand may want blog posts or have new restaurants they want to push! So don’t be dismayed just because it didn’t work this time. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, you just aren’t the right influencer for that particular campaign.
Will you let me know if I’m not selected?
We hate to say it, but not always.
For some campaigns, we get hundreds of applications. While we would love to reach out to all of you to let you know when you are not selected and to give feedback on why, it’s just not feasible given our small staff. We try, but sometimes it is just impossible.
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