Brands paying influencers more fairly now 'veil pulled back' over payment

Brands increasingly realise they must pay influencers fairly – and influencers are more aware of their own monetary value to brands.

(Picture credit: Artem Varnitsin/EyeEm via Getty Images)
(Picture credit: Artem Varnitsin/EyeEm via Getty Images)

That's according to influencer marketing experts speaking on a panel at PRWeek's Influencer360 event on Friday.

Their comments follow reports this year about the pay gap that exists between different influencers, especially regarding payment to white versus non-white social-media stars. The issue was put under the spotlight by an Instagram account called Influencer Pay Gap, which lets influencers anonymously share fees they receive from brands.

BCW influencer specialist Vik Khagram pointed to the "unionisation" of influencers through organisations like the Creator Union, and said: "Brands are really starting to realise it's a responsibility to pay influencers fairly.

"It's not a 'nice to have', it's not a [case of] 'let's try to get as much as we can out of them', because you're not enabling them or enticing them to do their best work if you're constantly trying to cut back their rates and haggle with them."

He said influencer pay gap reports have "really shone a light on some of the underhand things that are going on", so influencers are "now educating themselves as to what their time is worth".

"Thankfully the veil is starting to be pulled back, with less smoke and mirrors, and I think it's up to us and agency partners, as brand partners, to make sure that the brands really understand what they're paying the influencer for."

Also speaking on the panel about the "next generation of influencers", Ogilvy UK head of influence Rahul Titus said agencies should act.

Ogilvy recently introduced a 'maximum margin rate' when working with suppliers to help ensure most of the money goes to influencers rather than "random middle men".

Titus said: "We don't pay fast enough. There are also issues in terms of how much of the final revenue goes to the actual talent.

"We are starting to do more to make sure the pay gap is non-existent, not just from a diversity point of view, but from a speed and agency point of view. But we have to be a lot faster around that."

Shocked and scared

Shannon Walker, founder of agency Social Disruption, believes brands will be "more upfront" about payment "so everyone knows where they stand at the beginning".

She added: "I do believe the influencer pay gap has probably shocked and scared a lot of brands into having those conversations."

Walker added that agencies are now taking on the role of "educating" influencers, saying she knows of some that tell influencers their rate is too low and they should ask for more money.

Cody Eastmond, senior UK director at The Communications Store, said marketers have "created problems for ourselves" in the past, with a lack of consistency on payment.

"The budgets were: whatever you had, you gave. And if you really wanted that person, you'd find more. It was just a bit of a battlefield."

He called for more guidelines on payment to ensure consistency, and also stressed the need for brands to properly value creativity.

"You would be amazed how much photographers sometimes get paid to take a picture, but we value that; why do we not do the same for an influencer – because they are still delivering great creative in that way. I think more respect for the craft would help."

The panellists agreed that in general influencers' reputations have grown during the coronavirus pandemic.

Walker pointed to the fact they are used to working within the constraints of the lockdown, and many of their approaches have been adopted by brands more widely. She labelled it a "crisis-proof method of communications".

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