Why it’s important to celebrate the power of African women in media

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Why it’s important to celebrate the power of African women in media

November 11, 2020

I am the CEO of an influencer marketing agency. Sure, we have offices in Cape Town and London. Yes, I am a committee member of the IAB France and the Chairman of the Digital Influencer Marketing Committee for the IAB South Africa. But why would I be invited to judge the APO Group African Women in Media Awards 2020? And why would I be rubbing shoulders with luminaries like Naomi Campbell (yes, THE Naomi Campbell – supermodel, actor, business tycoon), Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard (founder of APO Group), Fatma Samoura (Secretary-General of FIFA), Dr Rasha Kelej (CEO of Merck Foundation) and a ton of world-renowned heads of business, industry, organisations and governments?

Where does an industry driven by enhancing brand profiles and creating engaging and creative connections between influencers, audiences and brands fit in with an event that seeks to recognise journalists – African women journalists – and their work?

I believe it has everything to do with authenticity.

Our world is in turmoil right now. We are seeing unprecedented events across the globe from pandemics to natural disasters to political upheaval. People are uncertain and afraid and looking for leaders to help them understand what is happening and to give them guidance, to give them hope – to lead.

Unfortunately, we are also seeing a proliferation of partisan voices that are telling us different stories, that are sowing seeds of doubt in our minds, that are putting clicks and viewer numbers ahead of the truth.

We’ve all heard the buzzwords: fake news, mainstream media, partisan, political agenda, conspiracies, deep state and the list goes on. The most powerful people in the world are dividing nations and the people we look to for giving us the real truths – the media – are choosing sides and only showing us what they want us to see. If it only affected the countries involved it would still be a travesty but it doesn’t, it affects the whole world. There is an African saying: when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

This is where events like the APO Group African Women in Media becomes so important. Where the power of the voices of African women become so important. Because it brings us authenticity. It brings us the real stories of the real people on our continent. Just like influencer marketing adds a personal, genuine, believable voice to a brand’s communications, these inspirational African women bring personal, genuine and believable stories – of our people, for our people – to us.

By bringing attention to the entrepreneurial spirit of Africa, by bringing us the real news – from a community, from a city, from a country, from a continent – they are helping to develop a real interest, a real understanding and a real impact on matters that affect us personally, that will grow our continent and that will shape our futures and the futures of the next generation of African women journalists and the African people.

And for that they should be applauded and rewarded.

To understand the power that these women hold, you only need to go back to the list of judges at the APO Group African Women in Media Awards 2020. These are not judges that are chosen from within the industry, these are judges that come from the very pinnacle of the most formidable bodies in the world. Microsoft, the Jack Ma Foundation, IBM, Siemens, Cisco, Hilton, World Rugby, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Coca-Cola, Visa, KPMG, Yale, UNCDF, the NBA, even Harley-Davidson, LEGO, Sotheby’s, WWF (World Wildlife Fund not the wrestling empire!). Judges from international banks, pharma companies, governments, lifestyle and beauty companies, telecoms, education.

And a small global influencer marketing agency.

All gathered to show their respect and admiration for the journalists who put their real voices behind the real stories that will make a real impact for Africa.

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Freedom through syndication

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Freedom through syndication

July 8, 2020

We know the value of syndicated thinking and working between agencies, between influencer marketing, creative agencies, PR firms and paid media. But there is another aspect to syndication that is especially relevant to influencer marketing:
The syndication between influencer marketing agency, the brand and the influencer.

At R-Squared, we put this collaboration to the front of everything we do. It is what guides our strategic thinking, and it is what sets us apart – because it all comes from a belief in freedom.

There are many agencies who keep a ‘book’ of influencers, people they work with on a regular basis, people they know they can call and direct to add their campaign to the influencer’s feed.

Our thinking is a far more innovative and, together with other true influencer marketing experts, is fast becoming the way forward for this industry: find the influencer that fits the brand and message, not fit the brand to the influencer.

We do not keep a ‘book’ of influencers. Our clients have faith in us and give us the freedom to search out the influencer that will best suit the campaign. Which means we can find that person or persons who actually have an interest in our campaign, who have knowledge of our subject and who believe in what they are telling their audience. It tends to lead to a far more honest and resonant campaign.

Because added to finding the perfect fit is the giving of freedom. Our influencers have the freedom to be themselves, to speak as themselves. By finding the influencers in their own environments, in their own countries, we engage with the audience in their own language, their own style and their own culture. Influence is all about resonance, about believability and authenticity which you only achieve if your influencer is being open and honest – and having the freedom to add your message to their existing voice.

Giving someone a script makes them an actor. Giving someone the freedom to be themselves makes them an influencer.

This is not to say we let them loose like a kid in a candy store. Our expertise comes in the careful management of the campaign. We create a framework that combines the brief, the strategy and the influencer. They know the goals. They know the product. They know the audience. And they know the environment, including all local and international regulations and nuances. Everything is set up with an almost scientific attention to detail.

And then we give them their freedom.

This approach is only possible through syndication, through collaboration and trust between every person involved from the influencer to the agencies to the brand. By having the freedom to work with the best of the best we are able to offer you, the brand, the best. The best influencer, backed by the best influencer marketers, supporting the best creative, social media, PR and paid media agencies.

To bring you the best, most resonant marketing campaigns for local and global audiences.

We call it authenticity. And it will make a huge difference to your campaign.

Stephane Rogovsky

Stephane is a 41-year-old Belgian citizen. He grew up in Brussels, lived in Switzerland, before moving to South Africa. Authentic conversations with real people inspire Stephane, an entrepreneur with more than 15 years’ leadership experience, utilising strategic foresight, analytical abilities, and trend spotting in diverse areas. He founded R-Squared Digital, a leading Influencer Marketing Agency that partners with some of the largest brands, media, and advertising agencies in South Africa and internationally.

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One Voice Can Make A Difference

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One Voice Can Make A Difference

July 2, 2020

It’s what makes putting paid media behind your influencer marketing such a great idea. You get the power and reach of paid media, the vast audiences with their volume of impressions but with a select voice giving you true authenticity and bringing focus to your campaign.

Think of it as an orchestra. Paid media bring in the violins and flutes, the bassoons and clarinets, woodwind, strings, brass, percussion – all combined to give us a classical feeling of grandeur. Add in a perfect voice, a pure soloist rising from the background to emphasise, to counterpoint, to add goose-bumps that run along your arms, and you have a nuanced and impactful campaign that resonates with its audience.

At R-Squared, we are leading the move to integrate experts from every field into one powerful orchestra that gets brands the maximum reach and the maximum impact. We believe that syndicated partnerships between local and global experts, from big agencies to small boutique shops, is the way forward for the industry.

Paid media and influencer marketing – our particular area of expertise – is a case in point.

Paid media offers us a channel that reaches millions – billions – of people. The potential within that audience is massive, but the dangers of these unsolicited impressions is that once the user scrolls past, the message may be diluted by other unsolicited messages in a feed.

For influencer marketing, the opposite is often true. Here we have a specific audience that are looking to a specific influencer for views and opinions. But it is a much smaller audience.

Syndicating these two channels brings an entirely new dynamic to the partnership. Now we have the huge reach of paid media enhanced with the one-on-one focus of influencer marketing. Which leads to that audience engaging more with the paid media, and the paid media audience being led to an authentic and resonant opinion leader for validation. And this builds and builds and builds to a crescendo for brands.

Add in a maestro conductor, an expert in collaborative thinking and execution, and you are practically guaranteed a virtuoso performance.
This collaborative thinking, not just between paid media and influencer marketing but between any teams working on a brand’s image and message from creative agencies to social media to paid media to production to editing and everything in between, is how we take individual skills and turn them into a symphonic, harmonious whole that raises a brand beyond the ordinary.

While the R-Squared expertise is in the influencer marketing sector, our knowledge, skill and experience, locally and internationally, is helping this change from silo thinking to expert syndication. Our partnerships with other experts in the marketing world – from paid media, to PR firms, to big agencies and boutique specialists – and our on-the-ground teams have the resources and expertise to hand-pick the voices you need to add to your creative campaigns and your paid media and make you stand out.

Stephane Rogovsky

Stephane is a 41-year-old Belgian citizen. He grew up in Brussels, lived in Switzerland, before moving to South Africa. Authentic conversations with real people inspire Stephane, an entrepreneur with more than 15 years’ leadership experience, utilising strategic foresight, analytical abilities, and trend spotting in diverse areas. He founded R-Squared Digital, a leading Influencer Marketing Agency that partners with some of the largest brands, media, and advertising agencies in South Africa and internationally.

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Creating connections in a time of isolation

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Creating connections in a time of isolation

June 3, 2020

If the recent global lockdowns, social distancing and isolation have proven anything it’s that – even in this digital age – we are a social animal and we crave personal connections.

And that this is the time for influencer marketing – true influencer marketing – to really take the lead for the future of brands and information. It is the time for influencer marketing to become part and parcel of your marketing communications. Not just an afterthought by a marketing assistant who has a friend with an Instagram account, but a well thought out, budgeted and strategically aligned pillar of your communications.

I was struck recently by the impact many celebrities have been making on social media – through words of support, through actions, even with how they are engaging with their fans about their everyday lives and the normalcy of their times with their families.

And then we have the celebrities who have struck an incredibly tone-deaf chord with their social offerings.

Keep in mind, these celebs are not doing what they are doing to make people mock them (well not all of them anyway), they genuinely believe that their posts, instas, and tweets are making a difference, are imparting wisdom and happy feelings.

They genuinely believe that they are creating a connection.

So, where did they go wrong?

This is where a proper influencer marketing model comes in.

Your audience needs to make a connection. A billionaire telling me how delicious a packet of two-minute noodles is will make me switch off – probably snort in derision first and then switch off. But a billionaire telling me a story about how those same noodles were what got him or her through college while they were still dreaming about changing the world? That is a different story.

Why?

Because I can relate to it. I can see myself sitting in a dorm room, fork buried in a microwaved bowl of noodles as I doodle my ideas onto a pad of paper.

Why?

Because it is genuine. It is a real moment, in a real person’s life. It is an authentic connection.

And connections are what make influencer marketing one of the most powerful tools in modern marketing.

Followers are not connections.

The word ‘influencer’ has taken on a negative connotation. The hordes of entitled demanding free drinks or meals or holidays because they will give you ‘exposure’ to their hundreds of followers are NOT influencers.

Ryan Reynolds inviting you into his home to share his experiences and family situation during lockdown – HE is an influencer.

A mom showing you how to create delicious meals on a minimal budget that are healthy and nutritious for your kids – SHE is an influencer.

Each of these people, in their own way, is defining a trend or setting an aspirational goal or demonstrating expertise. One might have millions of followers while the other only has a few hundred, but they share one thing in common: authenticity. And each has a very defined role to play in the influencer market – trendsetter, innovator, expert, reliable source, trusted caregiver, the characters in this play of life are endless.

All you need to do is find the one who resonates with you, your brand, your message, your dream. The one who really believes in your vision. The one who connects with you.The one who is real.

Influencers are real.

Real people with real lives and real stories and real experiences. In a world that is absolutely jam-packed with messages, it is the real voice that stands out. Finding that voice is not always easy.

For companies like R-Squared, it is our life’s work. We make connections. Not between brands and products and consumers and ROI and target audiences. Between people.

We find the real people, with the real stories. And then we let them tell their stories to the world. We do not tailor-make, we tailor source. We take your product, and we search out the people that actually connect with it. And that connect with others like them.

When a campaign is designed, executed and managed by experts, you go from a product endorsement to a life affiliation.

Budgeting for billions.

This is why influencer marketing is growing into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Pre-COVID estimates were that the influencer market would be worth over $10 billion in 2020. With the pandemic upon us, it was expected to slow down, but the opposite seems to be happening.

This time of isolation and increasing tension is showing us the real need for human-to-human connections. The bombardment of brand messages and unbelievable endorsements is coming to an end. Real people and real experiences are rising. Whether it’s a mom with a few hundred followers or a movie star with a million fans, people want genuine in a world filled with false promises and false hopes.

A personal connection.

Personally, I find this a very exciting time. A time of change and innovation for sure, but more a time of building humanity and building human connections – real human connections.

I have been at the helm of R-Squared for six years and have watched, and involved myself in, the growth of this incredibly exciting industry. I have seen it falter (see the entitled ones comment above) and I have seen it truly put the best of human empathy and emotion on display (see the switched-on celebs comment above).

As an agency shortlisted for Best Global Boutique Influencer Marketing Agency (holding thumbs for the awards in September), R-Squared is at the forefront of making influencer marketing an essential resource for brands and an authentic experience for people around the world.

Our mission is simple: keep it real.

Stephane Rogovsky

Stephane is a 41-year-old Belgian citizen. He grew up in Brussels, lived in Switzerland, before moving to South Africa. Authentic conversations with real people inspire Stephane, an entrepreneur with more than 15 years’ leadership experience, utilising strategic foresight, analytical abilities, and trend spotting in diverse areas. He founded R-Squared Digital, a leading Influencer Marketing Agency that partners with some of the largest brands, media, and advertising agencies in South Africa and internationally.

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Influencer Marketing: Adapting to Markets and Cultures

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Influencer Marketing: Adapting to Markets and Cultures

May 11, 2020

Managing influencer campaigns within specific territories or cultures can be very challenging, particularly for brands and marketers who don’t have expertise within particular regions. There are challenges related to culture, audiences and legislative requirements and restrictions.

At R-Squared, we operate globally, running influencer campaigns for multi-national groups in a variety of vertical markets. We have expertise in managing campaigns within a range of regions and cultural realities. We believe that understanding how influencer marketing differs from region to region is fundamental to the overall success of a campaign, affecting engagement and campaign costs.

Setting individualised missions for influencers is essential, factoring in all of the market and influencer-related specifics. Questions to be considered include market maturity – is influencer marketing well established in the region, or is it still a developing market? The answers will affect how competitive the market is, whether an audience will click on a link (conversion rate), influencer fees and influencer availability.

Once a brand or agency has established the above in the specific local markets internationally, and has created a brief for the influencers, the brand or agency should work with the influencer to understand their lifestyle, and how to integrate the brand concept into authentic content.

By sending one brief to all influencers for the same campaign, all influencers will produce very similar content. Within specific verticals, there is often an audience overlap, in which case, followers following several influencers who are all part of the same campaign will see the same type of content produced, which may alienate the audience. At this point, the importance of influencer mission setting plays a role in the success of the overall campaign.

It’s paramount to match the missions to the influencers and not the influencers to the missions. With the influencer tailoring lifestyle journeys, the content the influencers’ create will reinforce the brand message in their signature style. The tasks the brand or agency set should be a framework for the influencer to work from, not a script.

Thinking out of the box is necessary when it comes to dealing with influencers. It’s all about creating the perfect framework that allows for full creativity, authenticity and engagement while remaining aligned with the brand’s objectives and protecting its brand equity. Authenticity in the content is crucial to ensuring the message resonates with the target audience, in a way that is original and organic. In our opinion, agencies discussing individual missions with the influencers, and agreeing on those missions and objectives together, ensures that the content perfectly tells the influencer’s story, while aligning with the needs of the campaign.

Michelle Marais, Digital Marketing Manager

Michelle Marais

Michelle Marais is the Digital Marketing Manager at R-Squared, a leading influencer marketing agency partnering with some of the largest brands in South Africa and internationally. Our team focuses on out of the box solutions for authenticity in influencer marketing.

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