Jess Hunichen and Emily Ward, co-founders of Shine Talent Group, started Shine as a boutique PR agency in 2015, but moved into influencer talent management when they began to see the shift in the market for brands working with bloggers and influencers. We had the opportunity to interview them and hear more about their business story and learn what it’s like for brands to work with influencers.
In an effort to carve out their niche and stand out from other boutique agencies, they decided to follow the ad dollars all the way to blogger and influencer talent. They saw the power of brands partnering with influencers and built an influencer talent management agency to help harness that power. In fact, they took their passion for collaboration and turned into one of the first influencer talent management groups.
“There is so much that goes into starting a business and the first year of Shine was a wild year that came with a ton of learning…and truly determining what our core values were as an agency and as Co-Founders,” recalls Emily. Jess and Emily had to navigate and establish their unique place in the industry, while also building their network. Additionally, they established a process for vetting the best opportunities to pursue for them and their clients.
Shine started as a remote agency in Canada which allowed them unique opportunities for growth within their business. Jess and Emily use lots of 5-minute phone calls throughout the day to stay in touch with each other and to stay on top of the ever evolving details since they are often not in the same location. They shared, “We now have two offices, one in LA and one in Toronto with 34 staff who represent over 100 exclusive talent.” Not only have they been able to expand to the US, but they have been able to stick to their values in the process, something that has been a high priority from the start.
Shine works hard to ensure that both brands and influencers are experiencing the best partnerships possible. What that looks like varies day by day, but one of the most important values they have seen is trust. Brands trust the talent to deliver their unique message to their audience, in a way only they can. This also means that influencers represented by Shine are compensated for the value they bring to the table through their unique platforms, audiences, and creative work.
“The industry is ever evolving and there is no playbook on how to deal with every circumstance that crosses our desks. When navigating a tricky situation, we always go back to our core principle as being true collaborators. We believe that both talent and our brand partners can get what they want out of a collaboration – it’s our role as the team who sits in between to make sure everyone is heard and to help set out a pathway for mutual success.”
So what do you need to know about working with influencers? Well, from Jess and Emily’s experience there are a few things you should keep in mind if you’re planning to pursue partnerships with influencers for your brand. The first nugget of advice is to be sure to involve the influencer in the process as much as possible, in order to yield the best results. “The talent has grown their audience, so they know how best to communicate with them.”
The second piece of advice for working with influencer talent is be prepared to pay for exclusivity. If you’re envisioning a marketing campaign and ask for the influencer to sign off on an exclusivity contract (i.e. not working with your competitors for a certain time frame), it is going to cost you. “You need to be prepared to pay for the potential lost income for the term you are requiring.”
Thirdly, and possibly the most important piece of advice for working with influencers is to know that, “Long term campaigns are always going to perform better than one-off hits.” The investment may be higher when working with major influencers, but “it’s best to work with any talent on a series of posts that take the followers through their consumer journey versus a single touch point of endorsement.”
#1 Be sure to involve the influencer in the process as much as possible
#2 Be prepared to pay for exclusivity
#3 Long term campaigns are always going to perform better than one-off hits
Just like we see in PR, much of the value in influencer partnerships comes from building social proof for your brand. This is why Jess & Emily suggest focusing on longer term partnerships, potentially with fewer influencers, so that the influencer’s audience has time to see the impact that your brand can have. It also feels more organic to see a person using something consistently over a longer period of time, rather than just a one-off shout out. Investing in influencer partnerships does often come at a high cost, but building social proof for your brand is invaluable.
Connect with Shine Talent Group
Also, hear more about Shine from a recent podcast interview we did with them!