On Monday B&T ran a Piece about Melbourne Hairdresser and part-time model Rhiannon Langley blogging about her Thailand nose job to her 200,000 Twitter followers. To say the story got inundated with hits to the B&T site would be an understatement.
Was Langley free to post whatever she chooses or was her trivialising a dangerous operation – and its recuperation time – entirely the wrong message, particularly to young people?
Regardless of whether an individual chooses to share the behind-the-scenes of a nose job, brands have an ethical responsibility when they choose to promote the activities of influencers for their own commercial gain.
In the case of #rhiannongetsrhino, Ms Langley was simply sharing an experience. From a marketing perspective, this raises concerns over what an ‘ethical campaign’ looks like and whether brands bear any responsibility over the content their chosen brand influencers/ambassadors create.
Hugh Cameron, head of innovation at Bastion Group says the opportunities for brands and earned content is huge; given they understand the reputational flow on effects.
“There’s a large amount of effort involved in developing the capability [for earned media] however the scale and opportunity is huge. The role preventative reputational management plays is often overlooked. Preventative consideration accounts for a huge element of our service [to Bastion clients], regardless of whether it’s sponsorship, activation, influencer engagement, digital or government outreach.”
Luke Kelly, digital director at HBT Agency says marketers need to select influencers correctly. “Essentially influencers are spreading the word on your behalf and marketers therefore have to be careful and consider what kind of message is being communicated about their brand.
“Brands have to be mindful of the types of audience an influencer has, and whether the audience and demographic is relevant to their product or service. Essentially they have to establish whether the influencer is the right person to endorse their product/service.”
Kelly says the role of ‘aspirational marketing’ has big implications for brands, and the role of earned media is growing in importance in the communications mix.
“’Aspirational association’ starts with brand recognition and it comes through traditional mechanisms of marketing, supplemented with peer-to-peer review and aspirational ‘web cred’. These influencers and bloggers are building up a profile around their own experiences and expertise and what people aspire to be.”
Cameron says an earned strategy needs to be considered early in the campaign development cycle so as to complement the other communication channels.
“As the impact of social, organic and peer-to-peer discussion of brands increase, so does the responsibility of marketers to provide balanced guidance with clear context to their client at the concept stage.
“When a campaign makes headlines, the influencer and your brand has a new range of readers – much wider than their immediate social following. This can distort the story and message significantly, and how a brand responds to this is critical.”
Most marketers understand the risks of communicating through social means and that their message has the potential to be interpreted in ways that weren’t intended. Cameron says preventative reputation management plays a key role in any campaign, regardless of whether it’s earned, paid or organic.
“One of the first places any creative or marketer needs to start at is prevention. They need to put their ‘worst case scenario’ lens on and ask, ‘what might happen as a result of communicating this message’? If there is any chance that your campaign will be controversial, will not conform with industry regulations (in this case AHPRA) or may have legal or ethical repercussions, you will be wise to rethink your approach.”