Management advise, ethics and brand values inside influencer marketing strategy. An insightful interview with young entrepreneur Natalia Cortazar and the future of the influencer business.

Interviewer: What are the most important steps in order to create a successful influencer marketing strategy?

Natalia Cortazar: We need to think that our target is the audience of influence not the influencers themselves, that is quite an important thing to have in mind when creating a successful influencer marketing strategy from the start. I mean, the selection of those influencers is strategical, their type of content and their reach numbers, of course those steps are important, but it is way more relevant to understand their audience, all the variables that move the fandom, as taste, way of life, interests and how they search for content.  

As for the talent, any strategist needs to remember that influencers are people, in the first place, not just media robots. We are not dealing with just an algorithm; they have relevance in their area and people listen to them. It is not just paid media or advertising, it is not like that. 

You have to put the people at the forefront to succeed. The strategy approach has to be more human.  

I: Then, in your view, comparing influencer marketing with paid media is not accurate?

NC: Yes, they are not the same thing. Influencer marketing is more than just paying for an ad. If you work with an influencer to promote a product, service or an initiative it is not limited as placing a fixed ad on a website or television. What marketers and people don’t see is that an influencer gives us production, because they create the content; and strategy, because they are also creative and propose original ways to showcase the product/service (although we brief them). They do the distribution in the channel, upload the content in their social media platforms, plus as clients, we may be able to reuse their content in the brand’s official social media accounts. 

If you compare influencers CPV’s (cost per view) rates sometimes yes, the fee will be higher because it includes a way more things than just displaying an ad, as in an online banner or a page in a magazine.

“What works for certain brands may not work for the other one. You need to adapt your strategy”

I: Can an influencer help to build brand awareness? Or do you think its purpose is more action-oriented, as boost selling or activating promotions?

NC: They can raise brand awareness, absolutely, I think they are better in that rather than just impulsive purchases. Although, it depends on the sector, for some brands influencer marketing can boost sales, but it depends on what you want to achieve with a certain type of content creator.  

I worked for Public Health in England years ago. We were promoting health tests with an influencer marketing strategy, so every woman, about twenty-one and twenty-five in the UK should go and get tested to avoid Cancer. In this case, the immediate action was not selling. Instead, we wanted to make a point, raise consciousness about it, a discussion. And that was the goal, not only track success based on sales. 

I: How did you start in this business?

NC: I was working on marketing agencies for a few years and then I was promoted from Senior to Director, to Head of Area, in three years. I was very close on the agency side and taking care of clients. Then, I started to engage with debates in professional social media, like LinkedIn, about influencer marketing topics and I started viewing things from a different perspective. So, I decided to take the lead and create my own project. 

I called it ‘The Good Egg’, because, in English this means ‘made of a good person’, a nice person to hang around with. Then, we started working for little agencies, which is something as a team we do, as well as white labelling, to work for big agencies that need help. I’m not an ego person, what I care about is that our work is good and people are happy. We have worked for Hackett, Pepe Jeans, Adobe, Hype Collective, Decathlon, among others. At the moment we’re looking after Stereo, which is a massive audio social media platform.

As a brand you try to associate with values, doing it you are thinking in a long-term strategy, that’s brand awareness

I: What are the key skills every influencer marketing manager should have to succeed in the field?

NC: It depends what part of the business you are. If you are in management, you may need to have a lot of accountability, because you are going to be the direct contact with the talent, with the agency or the client, you need to be trustable person, a people’s person.

Also being really aware of what is going on through different social media channels, what’s new, what’s coming, what are the platform changes, even if you don’t personally engage in the platforms. You have to be in the loop. 

I: How can you generate authentic value in a market (influencer economy) that sometimes is banned as fake and prone to fabricating false narratives?

NC: Some of the influencers are generating a variety of content and value through different topics such as entertainment, education, inspiring content, fashion content, for free. You cannot really demand that the influencer has to be authentic –just for you– because, at the end of the day, they can be whoever they want. They have certain values, certain narrative and a way of doing things that engage with their audience. 

Obviously, fake influencers eventually will lose their influence and status because no one is going to follow their content anymore and it is easy to track which of them are being serious and professional and which of them are not. So, it is up to them to play this game, but it is completely up to the audience to follow or unfollow. 

“If we identify something that feels homophobic, racist, or not quite right, we should flag it, always”

I: What ethical practices do you think are needed in talents, agencies or brands? How do you see the future of the business of influence?

NC: A little bit more welcoming, in the business side, everyone should be more responsible and respectful. First, the pay gap, it is very important that we show some kind of benchmark numbers around influencer marketing, it is beneficial for everybody, brands, talents, agencies.  

Second, honesty and transparency in brand values and commitments. I fully support Black Lives Matter, also, everything that is going on with the trans community, with black-trans community, with the LGBT community. Respect is so important to have in mind on not to use any of those minority groups or communities as a token.

In order toward a more ethical world, we should try to be inclusive. Every time we receive a brief, if we identify something that feels homophobic, racist, or not quite right, we should flag it, always. And also, we should check out the talent that has not had any allegations against those issues. It is important for the brand and for the job.

I: What do you consider to be the most passionate thing about your job?

NC: The joy of working with people and seeing your influencer marketing campaigns out. When people are seeing it on YouTube, or discussing it on television or someone on a newspaper is doing an article because they think it is really good, that is exciting.