How to manage influencer relationships

People work with people they like. Here's how you can build better relationships with influencers

Read time: 4 minutes 42 seconds

A big hello to all the new faces. Scooch on in and make yourselves comfy. I’m your host, Eleni, from Modash, and this is Return on Influence, the only influencer marketing newsletter that has won both an Oscar and an Olympic Bronze Medal. (Don’t try to verify my claim; you can trust me)

Let’s talk about that GRWM (Get Ready With Me) trend where influencers call out the brands they’ll never work with and why. 

After watching way too many, I grouped their reasons into 3 main categories:

1. They don’t use the product category. If they don’t drink, they won’t work with alcohol brands. Fair. Marketers can do a better job researching before reaching out.

2. The product or brand doesn’t match their values or lifestyle. Say their content is about overcoming an eating disorder. They won’t work with calorie-counting apps. Makes sense. Again, this is easily solved by understanding who you’re reaching out to.

3. A bad experience with the person reaching out to them or a previous collab. Ouch. I cringed thinking of the marketers ignoring an influencer’s experience with their brand. You can score big with influencers (or anyone) if you’re pleasant to work with.

So, how do we build relationships with creators so they like working with us? That’s what you’re getting in this issue.


Get on a call with your prospective creator partners

Nycole Hampton, Senior Marketing Director at GoodRx, preaches getting on a call with influencers as much as possible. Especially after the initial outreach, but before signing the contract.


There’s nothing worse than someone exaggerating their love of the brand in an email. Then, their content falls flat because of how surface-level it feels. On a call, you can really get to know how someone feels about a brand. If they aren't interested in discussing and showing some excitement, chances are it's transactional and about a check.

Some marketers say that face-to-face calls lead to better-quality posts and campaigns. This could be for many reasons, but like Nycole advocates, calls help you evaluate an influencer’s level of excitement about your brand. 

Adding a filter like a call helps you choose influencers who are a better fit, and that could lead to better campaign outcomes.  

You don’t need to get on a call with everyone every single day. 

Email-only relationships have downsides. Calls have downsides. If the benefits of introducing calls outweigh the costs, schedule them. 

You could start by calling influencers on your shortlist to kick off the relationship in the right way. Then, have occasional check-ins at whatever frequency works for both parties. 

As I always say, not all tactics will work in all situations. In this case, getting on calls might not be right if you’re using product seeding or scaling very quickly. But you might want to consider calls if you’re working with up to 50 creators per month.


Do you prefer F2F calls, email-only relationships, or a mix of both? Pick an answer, and you’ll see what everyone else has chosen.

Choose one

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Take a collaborative approach

Repeat after me. I’m a partner, not a dictator. I’m a partner, not a dictator. 

You want to make time for collaboration during briefing and brainstorming because you’re more likely to surface ideas that turn yawn content into electric content.  

And, as a bonus, influencers love working with brands that give them creative freedom.

You provide guidelines & high-level messaging. Creators decide how to deliver it

Your influencer partners need guidance on your brand’s products, target customers, goals, and high-level messaging.

They don’t need a script.

When Tom Higgins from Gifta asked influencers to share what brands have asked them to do in the past, he got some red-flag responses

  • “Scripted voiceovers”

  • “Repeat their tagline over and over, completely forced and unrealistic”

  • “Asked for a role-play from a 1-year-old to fit their brief more.”

Exerting too much control is an easy mistake to make. When we desperately need good results, we think more control will get us there. But it typically doesn’t.

Sarah Saffari, Founder of Influencer Nexus, offers an example of what a collaborative briefing process should sound like:  

Set standards about what you’d like your creator partners to illuminate, but let them do the task in their own way. Instead of saying, ‘I’d like you to cover this, make sure you follow it,’ say, ‘Here’s the feeling we’d like to get across; how do you think we could do that?

“How do you think we could do that?” is a great question because it shows the influencer that you want to hear their ideas. How they choose to deliver your message should be left up to them. 

Instead of shooting down their ideas wholesale, communicate your hesitations politely and specifically. Tell them what seems off. Why do you think it won’t work? Allow creators to show their thinking process. 

Breakdown performance together

Following a collaboration mindset when judging the performance of influencers helps you build better relationships.

Don’t exclude the creator or come up with conclusions in-house before giving feedback.

Instead of saying, “This is how it’s going; we’d like you to do this next,” say, “This is what our goals are, and here’s the gap; how do you think we can improve?”

Make space for influencers to influencers to share how they see the collaboration is going. What do they think is missing from their content? What is their audience DMing them about when they post about your brand? Encourage them to share common comments/questions they get.

Fiona Macpherson, Head of Influencer Marketing at Wild, emphasizes this is crucial because creators have more context on their (and your) target audience:

They are the ones that are “face-to-face” with customers. Through their daily community management, they receive much more feedback about campaigns, products, and their followers than any marketing will ever do.

Do your homework and have suggestions on how they can improve, but don’t scaffold the conversation to only your ideas. Be open to hearing their point of view and talk about how you can improve content performance as a team.

🤓 Want more tactics and workflow improvements? Read How to build great influencer relationships.


Design your relationship-building activities intentionally 

 You want to consider how your influencer partners will experience your brand across every touchpoint, including outreach, negotiations, collaborations, payments, etc, and design your relationship-building activities around them. 

I’ve seen a brand do this by running a design workshop and interviewing influencers to understand their motivations, desires, and pain points regarding working with brands. Eventually, Adore Me built a community of 6000 influencers and was acquired by Victoria’s Secret.

You don’t need to run fancy days-long workshops, but you can think through an influencer’s journey as they work with your brand. 

List out the various phases (outreach, negotiations, content creation, feedback etc) and then ask these three questions: 

  • What can I do to make the influencer’s job easier here? 

  • What can I do to create a genuine relationship?  

  • What can I do to make influencers feel like they’re part of my team, even temporarily? 

These questions will unlock a ton of relationship-building ideas. For example, you could -

  • Create a landing page/Notion doc answering FAQs about working together, payment processes, brand details, etc, so influencers can have a point of reference.

  • Get on a 15-minute call with influencers on your shortlist as a selection filter and introduction to the relationship. 

  • Share a weekly influencer newsletter updating creators on top-performing content, your KPIs, and other housekeeping

  • Decide to communicate with affiliates by email only, while long-term partners get a check-in call once per month. 

  • Reward top-performing creators with X. 

  • Pay influencers on time so they don’t have to keep track and follow up on payments

You don’t need to do everything on the list you create. Instead, choose 2-3 things you can do consistently and well

Before you go, did you enjoy this issue of ROI? Will you use any of these ideas? Reply to this email with your comments. I love to hear about what’s working, what’s not working, and how I can get Return on Influence to be more valuable to you.

Have the best day,
Eleni Zoe xx
Marketing @ Modash, Lady Who Just Had a Birthday And Is Walking Around Whispering “What is time?” To Herself.

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