Use Your Influence: 7 Common Pitfalls of Working with Brands (and how to avoid them)


Starting out as an influencer and being approached by brands to work on myriad projects can be nothing short of overwhelming. With so many different ways to collaborate, it can be difficult to see the best way forward as a mutually beneficial partnership.

To help steer you in the right direction, we’ve put together a guide to anticipating, navigating and avoiding the problems that can often be real barriers to successful brand-influencer partnerships. Here are seven of the most common pitfalls of working with brands, and, of course, how to avoid them.

Pitfall 1: Working with the wrong brand

As much as it can be tempting to partner with a brand that is hugely well-known and has massive reach, and/or is willing to pay the big bucks, these are not usually the projects that pay off in the long term. This is for the simple reason that working with brands for any other reason than you really believe in what they represent and want to share it with your audience, comes across and ingenuine – inauthentic brand promotion can be sniffed out a mile away by consumers, and, more importantly, your audience.

How to avoid it

Of course, it is often tricky to tell a good brand collaboration opportunity from one that might not be quite right. There is one golden rule however, that is hugely instrumental in ensuring a successful partnership – audience alignment. Almost invariably, if your audience as an influencer aligns with who your chosen brand is trying to reach, the campaigns you undertake together will work. It makes sense really – if the content you produce in collaboration with a brand is the kind of thing your audience will engage with (i.e. in your unique style) they will be more receptive to it. Put audience alignment at the top of your brand collaboration checklist, and you won’t go far wrong.

Pitfall 2: Not agreeing your terms in advance

Working as an influencer is largely working as a freelancer. And as any freelancer will tell you, contracts and agreeing the terms of the collaboration in advance is essential. Not doing so can result in brands and influencers not knowing what is expected of each other, and disputes at a later date, particularly when it comes to being paid on time.

How to avoid it

Put simply – insist that you have written agreement of terms that work for both you and the brand before any work begins. This can consist of simply email communication, as long as there is written proof of agreement on both sides. Trust us – doing so will save a lot of time, effort and stress at a later date!

Pitfall 3: Advertising the brand instead of talking about it

Although it sounds obvious, it is always pertinent to remember why brands are approaching you as an influencer in the first place – you can engage the audience they want to market to, because this audience trusts you as an individual. You are able to introduce a brand to your audience in an authentic, genuinely interesting manner, which is something the brand can’t do for themselves. A survey by AdWeek found that a staggering 92% of consumers trust recommendations from influencers they trust over those of brands. Note the word ‘trust’. Authenticity is key – if you put a brand or a brand’s products in front of your audience in a way that screams ‘I’ve been paid to say this’, the audience will switch off. And that’s bad news for you and the brand.

How to avoid it

Remember why your audience follow, engage with and trust you. Make sure you bring this to any brand collaboration you enter into. If you’ve been selective about the brand you’re working with, and made sure it’s one your audience will be interested in, this will be all the easier. Be honest and open when you talk about a brand, in the style that your audience expect from you, and always conduct an assessment of the content you’ve produced before putting it live. If it seems contrived and inauthentic to you, your audience will definitely think so too.

Pitfall 4: Letting the brand dictate the terms too much

When partnering with large brands, particularly for the first time, influencers can understandably feel intimidated. After all, you want to do as good a job as possible for the brand to secure future collaborative work. But, and this is a very significant but, brands are working with you because you know how to talk to the audience they want to reach, and have spent a lot of time doing so. All too often, influencers become too caught up in the brand objectives, and forget their own. This can lead to, at best, an inauthentic partnership and at worst, a failed campaign.

How to avoid it

If at any point you feel as though a brand is trying to take a partnership in the wrong direction, or include elements that your audience will respond negatively to, it is essential that you raise it. Remember that no one knows how to engage with your audience like you do.

Pitfall 5: Not setting clear and achievable ROIs

Influencer marketing projects are notoriously hard to measure the results of, but there are ways to do so, and agreeing them prior to starting work on a collab is vital. Not knowing what you and/or your brand are hoping to achieve through your partnership will mean it is not optimised, efficient and targeted.

How to avoid it

If the brand hasn’t already clearly defined their objectives and communicated them to you, instigate the conversation yourself, then agree the ways in which you’ll measure them. Make this an essential step of the planning process, and ensure that both you and your brand are 100% clear on what working together should§ achieve, by when, and how it will be measured. This not only means that the whole process will run a lot smoother and be easier to carry out, but you will have a clear agreement to refer back to if there are any discrepancies regarding its success.

Pitfall 6: Forgetting your audience

It’s easy to get caught up in ideas and enthusiasm for a brand collaboration, but many partnerships ultimately fail because the people who really matter get sidelined – the audience. Whatever brand you are working with and whatever product or service you are promoting, never do so unless you are sure that your audience will be interested to hear about it. The reasons for this are obvious – a disengaged audience is pretty much the worst outcome of any influencer marketing endeavour.

How to avoid it

As well as carefully considering what it is about your style as an influencer that your audience respond to and channelling this into your work with a brand, pay attention to your audience’s online presence too. This especially involves being aware of the platforms through which you are going to conduct your brand collaboration, if your audience is more active and engaged on Instagram that Twitter for example, use it. Another thing to consider is your audience’s ‘digital day’ (what times they are most active and receptive online) – factor this into the brand collaboration too.

Pitfall 7: Being in it for the wrong reasons

Undeniably, making a living from being an influencer relies on a steady income from partnering with brands. But, working with brands purely for monetary reasons is a very dangerous game to play. For brand-influencer partnerships to be mutually beneficial, you should believe in the brand as much as they do in you. If you’re not enthusiastic and engaged with a brand, how can you expect your audience to be?

How to avoid it

Although it seems counter intuitive to turn down paid work, it’s important to remember just what the paid work is trying to achieve, and just how hard that will be if you don’t believe in what you’re doing. With a bit of luck, you will be approached by brands that you would naturally gravitate towards anyway. If not, carefully think about whether there is any way you can make a collaboration that you would not naturally conceive of work for you and your audience. Sometimes devising an out-of-the-box plan might just be the solution, and sometimes it still won’t work. Whatever way you look at it, if you partner with a brand you’re not passionate about, this will come across to your audience, and just isn’t worth the risk.

Final thoughts…

Getting to grips with your newfound position as an influencer is always going to come with its challenges. At the end of the day, there’s no better way to ensure as high a level of success as possible than keeping your audience at the heart of everything you do, and staying true to what made you and influencer in the first place!