Jess Hunichen and Emily Ward, co-founders of Shine Talent Group

Launched in 2015, Shine Talent Group, a global influencer talent-management agency, serves as a resource for brands and marketing/PR agencies to create and manage campaigns, cast influencers, launch events and more. Here, co-founders Jess Hunichen and Emily Ward share their tips and advice for working with influencers/creators in the restaurant and hotel space.

Q: What should foodservice and hotel businesses consider before working with influencers?

Businesses need to know if they’re primarily looking to reach the talent’s audience or if the campaign focus is to find a talent who can act as an ambassador for your brand. If it’s the former, businesses are going to want to give more creative freedom to the talent themselves as they’re the experts in what resonates with their audience.

For businesses looking for more of an ambassador campaign, they need to ensure that the program truly allows the talent to understand and become connected with the purpose behind the brand and the particular campaign, allowing the new ambassador to speak genuinely on behalf of the brand.

Q: How can businesses decide between long-term partnerships versus one-off collaborations with influencers?

Ambassador-focused campaigns should always be looked at as a long-term partnership. They simply won’t translate if attempted as a one-off campaign. That said, one-off campaigns are a great way to target a new demographic, test a new offering or highlight special events, such as a grand opening. They also offer an opportunity for brands to start new relationships with talent and start to understand the unique offerings they have.

Q: What is the role of UGC (User Generated Content) in influencer marketing, and why is it valuable for restaurants and hotels?

UGC is a valuable tool for restaurants and hotels because it lends itself well to imagery/video without showing particular faces. To put it another way, businesses don’t need to tie themselves to a specific creator or “face” of a restaurant/hotel. As a result, businesses can stock up on content with one UGC creator, which is more cost effective and allows them to be more prescriptive with the type of content they’re looking for.

Q: How do businesses identify and collaborate with the right influencers to reach their target audience?

First and foremost, businesses need to be clear about who their target consumer is and the goal of their campaign. From there, they need to either work with an influencer talent-management agency or have someone in-house/freelance pull together a list of creators with insights, demographics, et cetera, to ensure they can align and reach your target consumer.

Q: What is the difference between micro- and macro-influencers, and how can businesses decide which type is more suitable for their goals?

There isn’t one set metric to define when a micro-influencer turns into a macro-influencer. Each brand/agency likely has different numbers that they refer to internally, but as a general rule, someone with under 50K followers would typically be considered a micro-influencer while a macro-influencer would have 250K+ followers. In most cases, engagement rates will drop off as audience numbers increase. Both have strengths and we encourage clients to look not only at the number of followers but also engagement rate because it’s a true indicator on whether the influencer will be able to reach and share a brand/establishment in a meaningful way.

Q: What strategies can businesses deploy to maximize the impact of influencer collaborations?

As social platforms evolve, so do the strategies used to maximize their impact. Staying on top of a new feature that platforms are offering is essential. They’re often prioritized in algorithms when first introduced. Non-vanity metrics such as direct messages, saves and shares are also telling. Creating strong briefs and contracts that require specific metrics to be shared with the client is a great way to ensure businesses are getting the information they need to evaluate the success of a campaign. Additionally, having strong KPIs from the start ensures businesses are looking at the right data versus being diverted by the percentage of comments or reach of a post.

Q: What is the most common pitfall that leads to the failure of influencer campaigns?

The most common pitfall is being too prescriptive with the language and visual a client wants to see. Influencers are always going to be the expert on what resonates with their followers, so allowing enough room for creative freedom is a must.

Q: How can businesses handle potential crises or negative outcomes associated with influencer marketing, and how can they mitigate reputational risks?

For minor slip ups, our recommendation is to keep open communication with the talent and their management team. Communities are the most forgiving when mistakes are recognized and the steps towards rectifying the situation are clearly outlined, backed up and followed through.

To mitigate reputation risk, businesses must ensure that they have an escalation plan in place so that issues can be addressed and handled quickly. Create a communications plan that doesn’t shut down dialogue, but directs it to the appropriate source. Where these situations can be intense, social communities also have a lot of power in self-correcting, so ensuring a brand is investing in developing a strong loyal follower base will always be the best insurance.

Q: What trends do you anticipate shaping the future of influencer marketing in the restaurant/hotel space, and how can businesses prepare for these changes?

Both industries have been able to rely on service exchanges in the past in order to pay for influencer campaigns. While this still might be the case with emerging influencers, there’s a clear division now between talent who are playing in the space and those who have built a career out of it. Professional influencers know their value and are holding the bar for what that is worth even when it comes to hotel collaborations. Brands should be prepared in the future with budgets to support their campaigns if they’re expecting impact from their collaborations.


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