As brands and influencers engage in relationships for their mutual survival, the public is the beneficiary
Every day you are probably reading content that is the result of a brand’s relationship with a blogger or influencer. The reality of today’s media landscape is that there is too much information for anyone to stay informed about all things all the time, and it would be impossible for bloggers, journalists and other media to be everywhere and to know everything that’s happening at any given time, and so these professionals have formed symbiotic relationships that serve themselves and ultimately serve their audience and the general public.
These relationships exist so that brands can educate consumers about their products and services, and media in turn benefit by obtaining content — which amounts to their product or service, whereby content consumers gain knowledge. While this arrangement may seem that it could lead to favoritism, there are inherent checks and balances in the system that prevent this from occurring. For instance, if a blogger or influencer consistently wrote positive, non-critical reviews for a particular brand, they would lose credibility and eventually lose their audience. As the currency for influencers is followers, this would be the death knell for their business. On the flipside, brands that only provide information and samples to those bloggers and influencers who promise positive reviews restrict their audience and thereby get less exposure; and as those bloggers and influencers are labeled biased ambassadors for those brands, they lose credibility, and their sphere of influence dwindles.
Savvy brands take the chance in distributing product samples and conducting wide-ranging media relations efforts to reach a broad spectrum of Bloggers and other media. While on occasion they may receive a bad review, the odds are that if they have a good product, the majority of reviews will accurately reflect that, and truth and fairness will reign. With many consumers, determining accuracy in reviews is a numbers game. If a product receives 200 positive reviews out of 230, chances are the overwhelming number of positive reviews is a reliable indicator for most would-be buyers that the product will meet expectations.
Likewise, sophisticated bloggers are aware that they must honestly review products or else risk the perception of being a paid spokesperson for a brand. While the media landscape has changed, whereas in the past journalists were not permitted to accept samples or otherwise experience a product given to them as a gift from a brand, it has become common practice now, even at established media outlets, due to shrinking operational budgets among traditional media.
Advertising dollars lost to online advertising has forced many newspapers to use freelancer’s and other contributors who are not bound by the same employment contracts that prohibit them from accepting gifts. Additionally, the reality is that most media can no longer afford to buy products or send their writers on trips, etc., in order to review products, services or destinations.
Many public relations professionals, like Nancy Berhman of Behrman Communications have embraced this new shift in how the public gets their information by forging programs that join together like-minded brands and bloggers who work together to achieve mutual goals. Consumers in this new world of brand and influencer relationships can consider this new paradigm as a boon to objectivism. This is how it works: As traditional media evolves to compete with digital media, the new wave of influencers recognize that their power comes from trust with their audience, and if they lose that trust by engaging in pay-for-play ethics, then they will also go the way of the newspapers, magazines and traditional media of yore, like a product with a one star, no one will buy them, or rather no one will buy anything they have to say.