Balancing the real with the reward – authenticity versus accountability in influencer marketing


See what is happening in our world – who is influencing whom and why.

Balancing the real with the reward – authenticity versus accountability in influencer marketing

November 4, 2020

The influencer marketing industry has grown exponentially in the last few years, partly because people – not consumers, people – are desperate for a personal connection. The irony of the world becoming more accessible through the web but also more insular due to current geopolitical tensions is not lost on the next generation, and it is causing them to actively search for the real in the world.

They are no longer content to be viewed as consumers. They are people and they want to connect with other people. They want to be seen as people and treated as people.

Above all, they want honesty. This is where the tension in the influencer marketing industry is beginning to rise.

Influencers know that their audience wants real stories, real experiences and real connections to the brand.

Brands need to accomplish goals and ensure they maintain and expand on their brand equity.

Influencers want to showcase their creativity and have the freedom to be themselves.

Brands are risk-averse and seek to direct and control how, when and where the influencer engages.

Influencers need to ensure their reputations live up to the brands’ values.
Do brands do the same for the influencers?

With accountability being the go-to word of the moment, every aspect and detail of public figures’ lives is under scrutiny. From their current opinions to their history. From who they follow to who follows them. A scandal, even a minor one, can ruin an influencer. A small mistake can lose them followers. And a brand will not hesitate to cut an influencer loose if they feel the influencer may be bringing negative press their way.

The influencer often doesn’t have the same recourse. If a brand does something that goes against the current zeitgeist, the influencer is, by association, also caught up in the ensuing storm and their reputations are damaged.

So, how do we ensure that the rights and reputations of both influencers and brands are protected?

It seems obvious on a surface level that the influencer should be responsible for everything that they post, and that they should be forthright and honest about their pasts. They are, after all, being paid to be the ideal version of themselves for the brand. But remember, influencers are people. They make mistakes, just like all people do. The only difference is that their mistakes can damage a brand.

At the same time, brands are these monolithic entities that often take on a life of their own. They are businesses and so it would seem simple to keep themselves out of the negativity spotlight. But they are staffed by people, they are run by people. And, as we have mentioned, people make mistakes.
This is where the words dreaded by creative and free-spirited influencers and the teams that run the marketing for brands makes its appearance – contracts and management.

The only way to ensure the reputations of all parties is to have contracts in place. Creative minds look on contracts as some form of stifling document that they must sign in blood, while brands and corporates see contracts as legal minefields in the event something goes wrong.

They shouldn’t. A proper influencer contract set up by experts and managed by experts in influencer marketing takes the risk away from everybody. The influencer now knows what is expected of them and is secure in the knowledge that they will be paid and will be protected. The brand knows that they are not dictating terms, they are partnering for mutual benefit and that they too have a responsibility toward ethical behaviour.

Two of the biggest issues during this time of global uncertainty brought on by the COVID pandemic is the abrupt cancelling of work by brands leading to financial losses by influencers, and the unheard-of restrictions that are limiting how influencers can go about their work leading to a dip in the brand’s perception and reach. Tailored contracts give influencers protection from loss of income due to no fault on their part. Contracts also give brands protection from loss of exposure or negative exposure during a crisis.

Expert management gives both influencer and brand a far greater benefit than just protection, it gives them access to teams that are able to help them through any crisis, advise them on how best to manage situations and ensure that a positive outcome is available to everyone.

At R-Squared Agency we have a global connection to influencers and brands and we know how the industry can shift and change. Our expertise allows us to manage the processes and ensure professionalism, protection and positive outcomes for all parties.

Influencer marketing, by its very nature, is fluid. Our presence on various international boards means we are able to both see where the industry is moving and help guide its course. But it will take more than oversight to ensure the validity and growth of influencer marketing, it will take partnerships and understanding.

True partnerships between brands and influencers and the understanding that we are people working with people for people.

With all the flaws and mistakes, the laughter and the tears, the good times and the bad times that come with them.

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Creating connections in a time of isolation


See what is happening in our world – who is influencing whom and why.

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.


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.


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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