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Have you ever seen a Gymshark fitness influencer promoting the fitness apparel brand while eating fast food? Probably not—and there’s a good reason why.
Influencers and affiliates are an extension of your brand, and the way they present your products determines the perception others have.
While working with the right influencers is a big part of seeing success, it’s key to create detailed brand guidelines so influencers speak about and promote your products the right way, which is exactly what Gymshark and other brands do.
Why help influencers create content that aligns with your brand? It’s simple: consistency.
“Unified branding is essential for legitimacy. With influencers and affiliates, advertisers will achieve far more ubiquity, however without a consistent brand feel and message, the compounding effect of this effort will be lost,” explained Charley T, Creator of the Facebook Ads MBA Program.
Now that you understand the importance of brand guidelines for your influencers, let’s chat about how to actually create them.
So what are brand guidelines?
Kendall Dickieson, Independent Content Creator and Social Marketing Consultant for brands like Canopy and Nuggs, said brand guidelines are to “educate your influencers and affiliates about the specific campaign they may be taking part in, or to give them evergreen assets that they can refer to about the product selection.”
9 steps for creating your brand guidelines
Before creating your brand kit, know that all brands will have different guidelines for different reasons—as they should.
In Charley’s experience, the most important thing to answer is the “why.”
“I want more than anything for influencers to know the ‘why.’ I'm a big believer in the Golden Circle concept, and we are asking them to put their own spin on it,” he said.
Keeping that in mind, here are a few essentials that every brand should include.
1. Share standard key messages and background info
The most important information to share is about your company and the campaign background, key messages, and assets. Charley adds that “when relevant, include any metrics that will help creators understand your ‘why.’”
Holstee is a great example of presenting background information. They share why they started, their mission, and include branded assets for creators to use.
Including assets ensures consistency with color, images, font, and placement. A great example is Starbucks’ directions for their assets:
2. State your expected deliverables and goals
What you specifically ask the influencer to do differs from project to project.
This is why Ali Smith, blogging influencer and founder of Rebarkable, said “are they focusing on sales, brand awareness, or do they just want an earnest review of a product? I want to know what people want to achieve with their campaign, and what they can provide to help me get them there.”
Without sharing your goal, the influencer won’t know how to create their content in a way that meets it.
“I want brands to leave me feeling happy that they've achieved what they wanted to. Also, I can bluntly tell them that I'm the wrong influencer for them, or that I think they'd achieve their goals better if they did X, Y, or Z. But I can only tell them that if they share what they expect from me.” - Ali Smith
3. Share key talking points
When putting together influencer guidelines, some brands go overboard.
Creators are creative people. And you don’t want to take away their creativity, right? They’re the experts, after all.
For the content direction, share a few talking points to help inspire the influencer—don’t tell them exactly what to do.
“I think adding in a tone of voice takes away from the creator's writing freedom,” said Kendall. “Instead, I simply give the main talking points about the product and the benefits, and I urge them to pick one or two points and expand on how they relate to them.”
4. Show visual content do’s and don’t’s
On one hand, helping creators understand what you don’t want is one way to communicate your vision.
CROSSNET does a great job with this in their brand guidelines, showing detailed information about their design, brand values, and even what they don’t accept when using their logo.
On the other hand, showing influencers examples of other creators that you think did a good job can help them visualize their own campaigns better.
“I like to include images of previous UGC (crediting those creators of course) who have hit the nail on the head and describe quickly what we want and don't,” said Kendall.
5. Add a crib sheet on the specific product (when necessary)
A crib sheet can be helpful if you’re looking for influencers and affiliates to promote a specific product. By listing product-specific information like key benefits or ingredients, you can be sure their audience understands your product.
This is especially important if you want to build a positive relationship where an influencer will work with you again. Ali Smith said, “The easier you make it for me, the more likely I am to work with you again. A crib sheet with strength metrics, design ideals, etc would be wonderful.”
Within your brand kit, you can provide information and assets on products. Ashley May creates a navigable guideline, including product information and images.
6. Add your desired CTA and social links
Before sending your influencer brand guidelines, ask yourself…
“What’s the next step these followers should take?”
With an influencer, you’re in front of thousands of their loyal followers—people who are ready to take action.
Make sure the influencer knows where they’re driving people to. This could be
- A personalized landing page with a discount
- Your brand’s social media page
- A product page
- An opt-in page for you to collect someone’s email
- Or wherever you need to drive people in order to reach your goal.
7. Provide a personalized referral code
Attribution is an age-old marketing challenge. However, providing each creator with a personalized referral code can help you track traffic and conversions from each influencer better.
You can place this in your brand kit, or if you have a referral marketing software, provide them a link to create an account or log-in.
Knowing a visitor or follower came from a social media site isn’t enough, which is why Kendall says using a referral link is key: “I am a fan of affiliates and influencers being given a link and/or code. There is an attribution point so that you are able to see who is converting best and bringing tangible results.”
8. Share additional links to educational material or influencer community resources
Sharing educational resources is never a bad idea to help influencers get inspired.
If you have information about your brand, your products, or even resources not related to your brand—like influencer best practices—the creators you work with will appreciate it.
According to Kendall, “Brands like Goli actually build brand kits very well for their affiliates. They allow their community to have access to free assets, educational info they can always refer to, such as best time to post, how to post, and how to increase sales.”
How helpful is that? Key takeaway: be like Goli.
9. Specify the realistic campaign deadline
Include the timeline and any important deadlines. Posting at the wrong time may mean a missed opportunity to promote your brand.
Tell influencers when they should have their content ready to go live and when to post the content by. You don’t necessarily need to give them an exact time of day, but a range of days helps them fit it into their schedule easier.
For example, Black Friday campaigns are often time-sensitive, like this one run by Kopari Beauty, where influencers created their own wishlist. Running a campaign like this requires more time than just snapping a pic of a product, so the timeline is key for the influencer to share their content at the same time you’re running your BF/CM promos.
Don’t forget: if you have a content approval process, outline it.
Finally, give a realistic deadline. Creators are likely working with many other brands, and they need time to plan accordingly.
But don’t overwhelm influencers with too much information
The best advice I can give you is to keep your brand guidelines simple.
Charley shares the blunt truth: “The average influencer is not invested in your brand; nobody cares nearly as much as you do. Keep it simple, keep it motivational, and remember, you hired them to do what they do.”
What he’s saying is… Give influencers what they need to do their job, but give them enough freedom to explore and create using their own style.
Key takeaway: Stick to sharing information that will give influencers context, but avoid telling them how they should specifically create their post.
“At the end of the day, influencers and creators are typically creative people, so they usually thrive in the creation process. Too many numbers or strictness to content can bring out a sub-par product. For it to flourish? I find keywords, goals, and meshing of company ethics works really nicely.” - Ali Smith
3 key takeaways for preparing your brand kit
Using the nine steps mentioned in this article, you can create a brand kit that helps your influencers and affiliates create engaging content that drives sales.
Just remember to do the following:
- Show off your brand’s personality in your guidelines
- Keep them simple and straightforward
- Don’t overwhelm influencers with too much information
Your brand kit is important, but it isn’t the most important factor in your overall influencer marketing.
There is so much more that goes into every relationship with influencers, but arming them with your brand kit will set up your influencer marketing strategy for success.
“The talent you hire is what truly matters. Set them up for success, and don't be afraid to ask what they would like. Often these kits aren’t the first touchpoint with people, so don't treat it like it needs to comprise an entire conversation.” said Charley.