Creative Content Development

How to Develop Smart Partnerships with Content Creators

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This article originally appeared in iMedia Connection.

Last October, popular Vine user and Snapchat celebrity, Jerome Jarre, turned down a one-year, million-dollar deal from a top New York ad agency. The video Jarre released, explaining the situation, doesn’t identify the agency, the brand, or any details of the campaign, but it certainly paints the advertising agency in a bad light.

The only binding term of the deal revealed in the video was that Jarre would have had to stay in New York for one full year. This was ultimately the deal-breaker for him, but there are other hints that Jarre’s creativity and overall freedom would have been limited in a way he was not comfortable with.

“Do I really want to sell my freedom, and be told what to do with all my videos?” Jarre asked.

While the details of the deal are unclear, as more and more marketers recruit creators as their sponsors and brand partners, the concerns this video raises for parties on both sides of the table are very real:

How can marketers form on-brand partnerships with popular, influential creators while maintaining their campaign messages?

How can creators earn money from their content without compromising their artistic freedom?

A perfect harmony can be struck, but it has to be done so in a way that benefits both sides equally. Here’s how:

Nobody likes a sellout, so don’t create one
Yes, even the interests of the creator should be your priority as a marketer. This is because his fans (your potential customers) have a history with him. They can see right through dishonest brand relationships. Striking a lucky lopsided deal with that big-time YouTuber might win you plenty of earned media, but it comes at a price: The fans’ respect for the creator will be diminished, while your brand will be dismissed as the root of all evil. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Pick someone who means something for you and your brand, not just someone who has a million fans. Do your homework: Does this person and his audience have shared interests with your brand? Can he speak in the voice of the brand? Is he engaged with his audience?

Your choices should ultimately hinge on whether the creators can influence your key demographic, but the actual content they produce is also of importance. Try to take an objective stance. Put yourself in the viewer’s shoes, and see if your brand partnership/sponsorship makes sense. All they want is the creator’s content: Does your brand add anything to that, or is it just an impediment to their enjoyment?

Leave them be — not everything is meant to be branded
There’s nothing worse than a brand milking every last ounce of attention from a one-hit web wonder or contributing to the meme-ification of media. Trying to capitalize on a viral hit by recreating it — but this time with your logo slapped on it — will very rarely work out in your favor. The same goes for certain content creators: You may be tempted to partner with a creator that’s getting a lot of attention at the moment, but just because they’re popular doesn’t mean they have the ability to enhance your brand.

Leverage your agency as your brand steward
A smart agency will act as the steward between the brand and the influencer, ensuring that the influencer stays on brand while still acting in his own voice. In the case of Jarre, the agency should have never enforced its “you must stay in New York” decree. A wiser play would have been to incorporate Jarre’s love of travel and take advantage of it, incorporating the brand into what he’s already doing. A goose is laying golden eggs. Don’t mess it up.

Had the agency approached this project the right way, they wouldn’t have been on the receiving end of a man who can reach 8 million people in six seconds or less.

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