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Trust And Influence

Kelly Olive

An Interview with Four Creators on Why Authenticity and Expertise Matter Most to Canadians

In 2018, the majority of integrated marketing campaigns – whether B2B or B2C – include an influencer component. The 2018 Proof Inc. CanTrust Index showed that Canadians continue to put their trust in these thought leaders, but what does ‘influencer’ mean nowadays?

Canadians trust their friends and family members above anyone else to influence their opinions and actions (73%). Next come industry thought leaders and professionals (58%), regular people like me (48%) and those perceived as experts – either professional services (48%) or lifestyle (43%). An influencer is that friend (you may know them in person or simply online), thought leader and/or subject matter-expert that you look to for their opinion because you trust them.

In influencer marketing, we historically looked at those with the biggest reach or following as the ones to work with to help solve our clients’ business challenges. But as a Canadian public relations agency that focuses on understanding our country’s mindset, we know that most of us actually base our level of trust in influencers on their expertise (authority and contextual relevance) and authenticity rather than their engagement and reach.

As curious communicators, we wanted to have a frank conversation about the importance of expertise and authenticity. And who better to sit down with than some of Canada’s top influencers to gain additional insight into why it’s more important than ever to keep it real?

(L-R) Lifestyle creator Lauren McPhillips (This Renegade Love), Dad with attitude Clive Felice (Dads with Attitude), Personal finance writer Desirae Odjick (Half Banked) and Food photographer Kelly Neil (Bacon and Bailey’s)

What changes have you witnessed in the influencer world since you started in this space?

LAUREN: It became a lot more saturated as people began to see the opportunity to make money from platforms like Instagram. Many now start off with the intention of being an influencer, rather than organically becoming influential through creating content they’re passionate about. Brands are recognizing that the landscape has changed – if they want to get involved in influencer marketing, they need to set budget aside for it.

CLIVE: The potential is growing. I’m not a fan of the word Influencer myself. I like to call myself an entertainer – my purpose is to entertain. I consider and treat my channel like a television station. You come to my channel to be entertained and in order to keep my station running, I need to run advertisements. This is why it’s important to pick and choose the right partners to give brands and viewers value.

DESIRAE: I think the coolest evolution has been to see more brands that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to work with influencers realizing that authentic storytelling can be a boost to their product or company.

Why do you think influencers have become known as authentic voices for brands?

LAUREN: Humans connect to other humans. When it comes to purchasing products and services, people are more likely to trust someone they’ve been following for months (or even years) and who they feel they actually know, rather than trust traditional advertisements or even a magazine, whose editorial is often dictated by advertisers. It’s the responsibility of the brand to choose influencers who are a great brand fit, have an authentic voice and speak to an actively engaged (and legit) audience.

DESIRAE: Everyone wants to hear from someone like them who uses a product, right? If you’re a brand who’s trying to get a message out there about a new product or service, there’s really no better way to connect with your audience than to have someone they already know and trust tell a great story about how it’s been useful or joyful for them. When the right partnership comes together it creates an authentic connection with their audiences — and a big win for the brands involved.

KELLY: It’s important to me that the brands I choose to work with reflect my actual life and some simply don’t. If I worked on every campaign that came my way my viewers would question my values, which are more important to me than money.

What do you do to keep your content authentic?

LAUREN: I sometimes struggle to answer this question, because I honestly don’t know how to be anything other than myself! I think the easiest way to create authentically is to think, “Would I talk to my friend about this? Is this how I would speak to them or text them? Does this sound like me?” I also think that while it’s great to be inspired by the work of others, it’s important to step away when you’re trying to figure out your own voice and vision – log out of Instagram, close Pinterest, and create without anyone else’s noise interfering with your own ideas.

CLIVE: I feel like I just keep it real and make sure the viewers know I’m not perfect because I’m not. I show that I can make mistakes and work with it. I showcase that a lot in my Stories. From day one I made content that I love and enjoy and throw it out there for people to join me in my fun.

KELLY: It can be hard because brands can be choosy about what messages you can relay to your audience, but I love to inject my sense of humour when I can. It’s one of the main things my viewers tell me they love about reading my thoughts and watching my online shenanigans.

Have you experienced backlash from your audience to certain brand partnerships?

DESIRAE: I’ve been very lucky that I haven’t. The only times I ever get comments is when there’s a feature missing, or a use case I haven’t considered, that honestly didn’t even cross my mind. I think in cases where a partnership is done thoughtfully, you’ll really only get positive feedback on both sides. Plus, I know my audience appreciates the content I put out, and that companies are willing to support the blog.

CLIVE: I have yet experienced any backlash for my page for any brand partnerships because I ensure that every brand post I do meets my set criteria: A) It’s entertaining – something that’s well written like a commercial spot, B) it is of value to my followers, like a giveaway, or C) it presents the opportunity for open discussion.

KELLY: I think because I only partner with brands that fit my life in a seamless way, it hasn’t. I have to say, if my content involves anything baked and gooey, my peeps are pretty happy. Comfort food for the win!

What does your audience react best to?

 LAUREN: I find that my community reacts best to content that is honest and has their best intentions in mind. Whenever I’m developing and sharing a piece of content, I’m very mindful of it being purpose-driven – how does it serve my audience? How does it make them feel? How am I pulling them into the conversation? What is the takeaway for them? I KNOW my audience better than anyone. I know what content will resonate and what won’t, and I believe that’s true for most bloggers and influencers.

DESIRAE: My audience really likes to hear about products and brands that are easy to use, that are accessible to them (yay Canadian companies!) and that are relevant to their stage of life. There’s a lot of financial decision-making that happens in your 20s and 30s and for them to hear about how different products can help in the context of their lives – not to mention how easy they are to use – is one of the best types of content I can create for them.

CLIVE: My audience react best to videos – harder to create because it takes a bit more time, but it gives them much more value.