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How Brand Leaders Can Work Smoothly With Influencers

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How Brand Leaders Can Work Smoothly With Influencers

Dan Kahn is the president and CEO of Kahn Media.

A few decades ago, the earned media landscape was relatively straightforward for PR and business leaders to navigate. Many newspapers and magazines had full-time staff members entrenched in the communities they covered. PR and business leaders looking to secure press coverage for their brands knew the “who’s who” of media—and were able to cultivate long-lasting relationships with them.

However, three factors upended the earned media landscape. First, in 1996, the Clinton administration’s Telecommunications Act of 1996 spurred deregulation in the industry. Whereas news outlets previously had local ownership, suddenly, bigger national companies started taking over them by the dozens, consolidating ownership. As a result, many news outlets became increasingly disconnected from their communities, making it more challenging for PR and business leaders to form working relationships with the press.

Then there was the rise of the internet in the early 2000s. Newspapers and magazines didn’t change their publishing models quickly enough. Fearing cannibalizing their print publications, they didn’t implement web-first strategies to get news out the door. The result? They were late to the online publishing game, ultimately hindering their ability to monetize their content effectively for the digital age.

Finally, the traditional news distribution model changed due to declining sales. Whereas newsstands once lined public streets and grocery store checkout lines, they’re no longer as prominent.

Combined, these three factors led the news industry to where it is today—dominated by private equity firms, cash-strapped and more reliant on decentralized freelancers rather than in-house staff. That’s not to say that earned media as we once knew it is completely gone; major news outlets still exist, and PR and business leaders should try to secure coverage from traditional news outlets. However, they should not rely on traditional news outlets for their earned media efforts—they should seek earned media coverage from influencers.

More people than ever are out there who can spread the word about a company’s products or services. They’re just not sitting in traditional newsrooms. PR and business leaders should follow five strategies to connect with them and form strong working relationships.

1. Remember The Difference Between Earned And Paid Media

When people think about how influencers interact with brands, they often think of affiliate marketing—paid media. Paid media is a valuable strategy, but it’s a marketing strategy, not a PR one. Earned media is a PR strategy.

While paid media has its benefits, the costs can quickly add up. Paying an influencer, say, $500 per post, can cost a company thousands of dollars over a year. By contrast, earned media is more cost-effective and has the added benefit of greater authenticity to audiences.

2. Set A Strategy—And Avoid Only Reaching Out To Macro- And Mega-Influencers

Before reaching out to any influencers, PR and business leaders should craft earned media strategies so that they have a clear, aligned understanding of what they want to accomplish, why they want to achieve it, how they will accomplish it and how they will ultimately measure success.

When crafting earned media strategies, PR and business leaders might be tempted to only pursue macro- and mega-influencers with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers, respectively. But doing so is a mistake. There’s value in seeking influences with fewer followers; these influencers are often more accessible and less expensive to work with. Additionally, because they don’t have massive followings, they’re usually better able to forge strong connections with their followers. In my experience, PR and business leaders should consider influencers with 10,000 followers as the baseline starting point. Once an influencer has 10,000 followers, that’s usually a sign that they are intentionally growing their audience; they have something to say. PR and business leaders should also check for brand alignment and sift through influencers’ online interactions with followers to ensure they’re positive. Of course, they should also check to see that influencers aren’t involved in controversies.

Once PR and business leaders identify the first several influencers they want to pitch, they should note to repeat the search routinely. New influencers are constantly popping up, and the more influencers a brand works with, the better it can spread its message.

3. Set Clear Expectations

PR and business leaders should set clear expectations when engaging in initial talks with influencers to minimize the chances of misunderstandings.

In my experience, I’ve found influencers to be transparent, and they appreciate transparency in kind. To be transparent, PR and business leaders should explain why they’re reaching out and how they’ll engage with the influencer. Moreover, they should be clear on what they’re asking for in return—and the ask should never be, “We love your work; we’ll send you our product in exchange for a good review.” Instead, it should be, “We love your work; we’d like you to share your honest thoughts with your audience after trying our product or service.” What an influencer says after hearing that statement will clue in PR and business leaders on whether or not they’re a good fit. If the influencer asks for money in return, the brand’s leaders should remember that it’s affiliate marketing. If they want to pursue that route, it’s okay, but they’re no longer in the realm of earned media.

Additionally, PR and business leaders should always have written agreements with influencers and not rely on verbal promises. If an influencer doesn’t keep their end of the agreement, the brand’s stakeholders need to follow up. For instance, if the company sent an influencer a product in exchange for an honest review on YouTube within a month, but it’s been over a month, and the influencer hasn’t posted, then the company’s leaders can reach out and tell the influencer to post a review or send back the product.

4. Stay Up-To-Date With Influencers

PR and business leaders need to stay up-to-date with the influencers they’re working with. That doesn’t mean watching every single one of their YouTube videos and Instagram Stories the second they upload them, but it does mean having a general pulse on the types of content influencers are posting and how they’re interacting with their followers. By doing so, PR and business leaders can pitch influencers more effectively—and get ahead of any controversies that erupt.

Moreover, it’s critical for PR and business leaders to create crisis response plans so that in the event of a controversy, they aren’t scrambling to figure out what to do but can instead act swiftly to save their companies’ reputations.

5. Treat Working With Influencers As Partnerships

Ultimately, PR and business leaders should treat working with influencers as partnerships. At their best, these partnerships are mutually beneficial; brands and influencers increase their reach together.

If brand stakeholders treat influencers with respect and grow those relationships over time, both parties can go on to work together in bigger and better ways—creating content that helps them both grow their brands.


Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


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NLRB Drops Expanded Joint Employer Appeal

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NLRB Drops Expanded Joint Employer Appeal

The proposed expanded joint employer rule, which an International Franchise Association (IFA)-led coalition challenged in federal court, was defeated Friday when The National Labor Relations Board dropped its appeal of an earlier ruling in favor of the coalition.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

“This announcement means that the latest attempt to implement joint employer is finally finished and represents a landmark victory for franchise small businesses in communities across America,” Matt Haller, IFA president and CEO, said in a statement. “The franchise business model is the best vehicle for American workers to generate upward mobility and create small business ownership from all walks of life. Make no mistake: while today’s news means the current threat is behind us, IFA will remain vigilant against any attempts to target the franchise model or our members.”

Related: Find Out Which Brands Have Ranked on the Franchise 500 for Longest, Earning a Spot In our New ‘Hall of Fame’

Some form of the Joint Employer Rule has existed for years, but in 2023, the NLRB expanded it in a way that directly impacted the franchise industry. Under the proposed expanded version of the rule, two companies — say, McDonald’s and a McDonald’s franchisee — could more easily be considered “joint employers” of the same employees. That would make McDonald’s legally liable for any labor violation committed by one of its franchisees, even though McDonald’s itself did not hire and does not manage that employee.

Although this is the end of this attempt to expand the rule, attorney Jim Paretti of labor relations law firm Littler Mendelson recently told Entrepreneur what the NLRB’s options are moving forward. “The short answer is that the board can keep trying to write a rule,” Paretti said. “They can go back to the drawing board, try again and write something more narrow.”

Read More: Bloomberg Law

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The Top 5 AI Tools That Can Revolutionize Your Workflow and Boost Productivity

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The Top 5 AI Tools That Can Revolutionize Your Workflow and Boost Productivity

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Discover the top 5 AI tools for marketing and content creation that every marketer needs to know! As AI transforms the business landscape, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. In this video, I dive deep into essential AI marketing tools that can revolutionize your workflow and boost productivity.

Download the free ‘AI Success Kit‘ (limited time only). And you’ll also get a free chapter from Ben’s brand new book, ‘The Wolf is at The Door – How to Survive and Thrive in an AI-Driven World.’

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4 Takeaways For Franchising From the RNC

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4 Takeaways For Franchising From the RNC

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Kicking off hours after an assassination attempt on a presidential candidate, the Republican National Convention took on heightened significance this year. In my role as President and CEO of the International Franchise Association (IFA), I traveled to Milwaukee for a policy roundtable entitled “Franchising, the American Dream,” with U.S. Representative Kevin Hern (R-OK), who is the co-chair of the congressional franchise caucus, McDonald’s franchisee Jimmy Williams, and hotelier Jyoti Sarolia.

Matt Haller and Jyoti Sarolia Credit: Matt Haller

To be clear, IFA is non-partisan and does not take sides in presidential campaigns. We will be in Chicago for the Democratic National Convention in August, and we work with anyone from any party who champions our priorities and fights for our franchise small business owners. That’s also why we partnered with POLITICO and CNN with Milwaukee-based Batteries+. We created a brand activation at the POLITICO/CNN Grill, where over four days we gave away wireless battery chargers to over a thousand attendees, communicating the economic benefits of franchising to convention-goers, with a QR-code that linked to IFA’s Open for Opportunity campaign.

Related: Check out the 2024 Franchise 500 Ranking

Political conventions are always exciting, and this year was no different, especially after COVID-19 curtailed the in-person festivities in 2020. The buzz and energy were palpable. In my conversations with various stakeholders from all walks of life, certain commonalities emerged. Here are four of them.

1. Unions and franchising are not incompatible

The fiery speech from Sean O’Brien, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, got people’s attention. It marked the first time a teamster addressed the RNC in its 121-year history. The Wall Street Journal headline read, “Trump Courts the Union Vote.” The GOP is not used to speakers at their convention railing about “economic terrorism.” But as O’Brien pointed out, the Teamsters have supported Republican candidates before, including Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

For the franchise community, O’Brien’s presence served as a reminder that we have a compelling story to tell and we need to tell it.

First of all, our model provides nearly 9 million direct jobs, and not a single one is being outsourced overseas. Second, jobs in franchising pay up to 3.4 percent higher wages and provide higher rates of paid leave and other benefits than those at non-franchises, according to data from Oxford Economics. Third, franchises ARE small businesses, and that is the benefit of our business model.

Related: 7 Ways The Expanded Joint Employer Rule Would Hurt Franchises — And Your Wallet

While we are not going to agree with the Teamsters or other unions on much, one thing we do agree on is that policymakers should be focused on creating good jobs right here in America, and that’s what the franchising community is doing. Even when our brands open new franchises overseas, we are bringing money back ashore to the U.S. via the royalty stream paid to operate a U.S. brand abroad, creating a net-trade benefit to the U.S. economy.

We must push back on the idea that the franchise model and unions are incompatible. It’s false. We can and do have both. It is true that the union’s top policy agenda, the PRO Act and an expanded definition of joint employer, and franchising cannot co-exist, but unions are not inherently an opponent. It’s their history of policy priorities that would bring down franchising that we oppose.

2. Franchising is re-aligning party lines

Second, the traditional political and party lines are re-aligning, creating another golden opportunity to expand the franchise tent. For example, public polls have shown former President Donald Trump receiving as high as 30 percent of the Black vote — nearly three times higher than the 12 percent he earned in 2020.

Here again, franchising has an important role to play. Franchising has higher rates of business ownership among women, veterans and minorities. In fact, more than one-quarter (26 percent) of franchises are owned by people of color, compared to 17 percent of non-franchised businesses.

1721501763 1 4 Takeaways For Franchising From the RNC

Paul Calkins (IFA), House Speaker Mike Johnson and Matt Haller (IFA) Credit: Matt Haller

As Clement Troutman, an IFA member, U.S. Navy veteran, author, and Maryland-based Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchisee, wrote in a column for the Washington Times observing Juneteenth, “the last few years have been challenging for Black entrepreneurs. From challenges accessing capital to a disproportionate impact stemming from the pandemic, Black small business owners face major obstacles.”

Clement noted, “Franchising can help, but only if elected leaders do their part in creating the right business environment.” These are wise words and lessons that all candidates should take to heart if they want to expand their political base of supporters.

3. J.D. Vance has sided with franchising in the past

There was a lot of scrutiny on Senator J.D. Vance after his selection as the vice-presidential nominee, and nearly every conversation I had with members of Congress and others in Milwaukee centered around what to make of Senator Vance’s selection. In the event of a Trump victory, many view him as the natural GOP standard-bearer in 2028. Throughout his two years in the Senate, Vance has raised eyebrows by deviating from traditional Republican orthodoxy. For example, he has marched on union picket lines and famously praised Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan as “one of the few people in the Biden administration who I think is doing a pretty good job.” Yet when it came to franchise issues, particularly joint employer, Senator Vance sided with franchising. When the stakes were the highest during this spring’s repeal of the joint employer rule, Vance stood with us, and that is telling.

4. The next president will have a huge impact on franchising

Members of the franchise community — like all voters — are assessing their presidential choices through the prism of past policies. We have a sense of what a second Trump and Biden administration could look like by evaluating their previous time in office. Certainly, IFA is focused much more on economic and regulatory visions than we do on political ideology. What is the plan for job creators?

Related: Decoding the Massive Impact of the NLRB’s Joint Employer Rule

For example, the individual tax provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) are set to expire next year. The law significantly restructured numerous aspects of the federal tax system for small businesses, including reductions in individual and corporate tax rates, a new 20% deduction for income from pass-through businesses, 100% bonus depreciation for capital investments, and a new limitation on the deductibility of business interest. The GOP platform expressly calls for tax cuts and many Ways and Means Committee members who will write the next tax law, including Chairman Jason Smith of Missouri, Vern Buchanan of Florida, and Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania, have all highlighted the importance of ensuring pass-through businesses like most franchises are treated fairly in the next round of tax reform.

Beyond tax issues, the next president will choose their own FTC chair, who can in turn update the Franchise Rule, something that hasn’t happened since 2007 — the same year the first iPhone was introduced — and will make appointments to the NLRB, including the general counsel, who is arguably the most powerful position at that agency.

The stakes are high for franchisors and franchisees alike. We do not vote as a monolith or along strict party lines. But one thing is clear, the list of issues facing franchising is long, and the importance of having a seat at the table is more important than ever. Thanks to the support of so many IFA members, and what our brands, franchisees and suppliers do every day, I’m confident that whatever November brings, franchising will continue to thrive and IFA will be at the forefront fighting for the best interest of franchising.

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