It’s cuffing season in the influencer world. Are you and your brand’s influencer ready to go the distance?

The numbers don’t lie: 39% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budget.

But identifying, building, and maintaining a relationship that will not only justify the investment, but also produce a lasting, successful partnership can be tricky. If you’re ready for a blissful brand-influencer union, read on for #TMGInsights.

Identifying the right influencer

As anyone on the modern dating scene knows, finding “the one” is a daunting endeavor. When it comes to pursuing influencers for your brand, haphazard methods like trial and error or playing the field will only serve to tarnish your reputation. Instead, follow your heart, but proceed carefully. Look for people whose values, audiences, and voices align with your brand. At its best, influencer marketing can be a natural extension of your brand’s own marketing (with the added benefit of it being from a third party), so finding a perfect match is key.

Look for someone with a strong voice, authentic content, and who offers something different. Someone who is respected by their peers and can shine in all media mediums. Basically, someone who is the total package online and IRL.

While choosing an influencer with a strong reach is important, don’t be blinded by an army of followers. Followers don’t necessarily mean an engaged, targeted audience, which is more likely to convert to meaningful brand building in the long run.

Building a lasting relationship

It’s true what your mother always said: relationships are work. Getting it right – and keeping it on track – requires investment in time and energy, and there are no shortcuts. New media, same old relationship-building tactics. Relationships are earned through communication, trust, and openness.

Don’t just reach out to your influencers when your brand needs them for a last-minute project or damage control. If you haven’t nurtured the relationship along the way, the damage is already done. We’ve all learned the hard way: ghosting is the kiss of death. Make sure to lay the foundation for a two-way street on which your brand and your influencer mutually benefit. That’s the recipe for long-term success.

Try making genuine gestures, like sending a hand-written thank-you note, delivering flowers on their birthday, or pitching new ideas with their success in mind. This will help separate you from other brands and earn you good-will that might go a long way in earning authentic endorsement.

Protecting relationships and reputations

Part of any lasting and successful brand-influencer relationship is balance. You need to balance your brand’s business goals with your influencer’s business goals. Think of where those goals intersect and work towards them as a team.

Helping your influencer remain authentic and unbiased, even when promoting your brand, is tricky, but essential. Give them an insider’s look into what your brand is all about and how it relates to their personal brand and life. Let them tell you how they can best communicate your brand to their audience, not the other way around.

If your influencer has any negative feedback for your brand, protect your brand and your relationship simultaneously by communicating early and often. What went wrong? What opportunities can rectify it? How can you (authentically) spin it to show brand growth and improvement, and how does your influencer fit into that narrative? Negativity, or at best non-glowing reviews, is part of the influencer game, and the authenticity behind it is why it works in the first place. How you approach the situation when it happens is the differentiator in how your brand is reflected and protected.

Marketing sells, PR tells

Now that you’ve gone from fling to ring with your influencer, don’t be tempted to just Netflix and chill. Your influencer and their audience will tire of the same old content surrounding your brand, so work with them to find the marriage of marketing and PR that will keep their content fresh and their audience engaged for the long haul.

While you always want your influencer to lead on content creation, it’s your job to continually provide them new information about your brand that their audience can’t get anywhere else. If you give your influencer what they need and trust them to deliver authentic content, they can create relevance for you even when there’s no new news.

Remember: Education, not instruction; collaboration, not arrangement.

Now get out there and seal the deal!

Ellen Huber