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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
For years, Gen Z has been disrupting the marketing and advertising world, challenging traditional methods and breaking ground in the digital arena. Covid-19 created an even greater push toward online advertising. This urgent race to claim a piece of the social marketing space has started what I like to call the “Gold Rush” for Influencers. This is giving rise to another disturbing trend: Influencers and talent are being taken advantage of by the people they rely on most – their management.
Companies need influencers more than ever to create buzz for their brands. Unfortunately, some of these powerful players are being signed under managements that use manipulative techniques to bring them on board. This can be everything from promising them a lavish lifestyle to buying them expensive items. These enticements tend to be extremely materialistic, and very temporary.
It is very important to find reputable management, not one that is just created or has little to no proven track record.
I ended up getting in on the other end of the influencer world. In my work, I deal directly with both management and influencers on a daily basis. Here are a few things that anyone who is getting into this space should know:
1. Talent should always have access to their deal flow and external communication
I have seen many management teams act like trolls on bridges, making it almost impossible to make a deal happen unless they are paid to “activate multiple influencers” from their Google excel spreadsheet roster or increase the initial offer drastically in order to satisfy what they would personally like to make from the deals. Many influencers have absolutely no idea what deals are being left without response or butchered at the hands of management. Every influencer should have a say in what deals they take on and what the communication looks like if it is about them. The solution is to have an inbox that the talent is also able to access and regularly check. If the talent is too young, parents need to supervise the inbox closely.
2. Transparency in transactions
Numbers that are being sent out should be mutually agreed upon or there should be guidelines around them. For example, John Doe charges between $1,000 & 4,000 for ONE dedicated Instagram post and between $2,500 – 5,000 for ONE dedicated TikTok post. These numbers should be set, not fluctuating outside this window, and if it does there needs to be direct communication with the talent to notify them of such change. I have seen managers keep as much as 80% of the deals. Meanwhile, the murky structure means that the influencer feels like they are winning, not knowing they are in reality getting the shortest end of the stick.
Just like any youth program, there needs to be training and awareness that takes place. Many programs use “YPT” – Youth Protection Training. For example, it is important a minor is not sleeping or staying in the same hotel room or house as a “manager” alone. Parents tend to be blind to this because they have “trust” in the management. It is extremely unprofessional and opens the talent up to many risks when this topic is brushed over. It is smart to always bring a friend or two when going on these “trips” or staying in new accommodations. It is also important to make sure that the manager is not playing “friend” when there is a drastic age gap. I have seen managers send Snapchats and make inappropriate comments so casually that the relationship doesn’t even seem like one of a manager and talent. It is, at minimum unprofessional; and at worst criminal.
4. Understand the relationship
Leaving management should not be a disaster for one’s career or somethign to be afraid of initiating. After all, it is the talent who is in charge of the management and not the other way around. The relationship of a manager should be that of a “Vice President” to a CEO. Too much reliance on the manager by talent can lead to improper control creatively, thus adversely impacting their careers. Managers are in charge of helping bring in deals, managing them, and can sometimes be someone to help make career decisions. They should never have full control of a career they did not manufacture. It is important to take all input with a grain of salt to ensure the talent doesn’t end up on a path that they don’t want to be on.
5. Know the red flags
Just like any relationship, it is important to know what the red flags look like. Managements can be the breeding grounds for toxic and narcissistic people. So it is very important to understand what that means and be aware of the red flags. I have heard things like “without me this deal wouldn’t even be possible so you can take what you get” or “If I leave you would be nothing.” These manipulations are the same seen in any abusive relationship and are just some of the many red flags to keep in mind.
6. Managers aren’t “in control of talent”
The role of a manager is to be an extension and help the talent manage communication with businesses and assist when there is a need for backup. They are not creatives, videographers, or photographers. They shouldn’t tell talent what to post or not to post. Talent should always remember that the managers are there as a support to them, not to take away their power.
7. It’s important to build a team
Checks and balances are important no matter the industry. It is always good to have someone from the outside supervise and ensure all communication is following ethical rules, not taking shady under the table deals or pocketing cash that was never disclosed. Bring on people to help with creativity and supervise communication as an added level of protection. Videographers/photographers will help grow the talent’s vision. Perhaps more importantly, hiring someone to help handle the finances will help make good choices and be there to go over P&L and earnings.
8. Read your contracts
Managers often try to make it impossible to have you leave them by adding clauses that will harm your income. Exclusivity rights can also be dangerous when it comes to deals coming from the talent end. It is important to have an experienced and trusted set of eyes to review ALL paperwork. This way the talent doesn’t end up having to hand over their social media accounts upon exiting the relationship. The same goes for contracts that the manager is signing. For example, Bang Energy has been really loud and proud on the influencer fronts the last year. At the same time, I have had drink clients reach out to talent just for them to find out afterward that Bang includes a very strict exclusivity agreement within all paperwork, meaning the talent can not work with any other drink brands.
9. Managers are not creative experts
I have seen so many influencers and brands get hurt by bringing on a manager. They expect the manager to start helping them with videos and content creation. That is not the case. I blame it on the word “manager” because it seems like they would be managing everything. In reality, the managers should be properly viewed as assistants – they are there as backup and support on the external situations so the talent can stay focused on doing what brought them in that position in the first place – creating great content.
These are just a few of the many points I very often see jump out and what I would say are essential when assessing the management relationships. My hope is that this can help anyone better navigate the quickly-growing industry of influencer marketing and to protect