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Tips for Staying Brand-Safe During a Pandemic

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“Now more than ever creators have a responsibility with the platform they have.” — Lina Renzina, Talent Partnerships, Ad Council

Join us for #SMWONE May 5 - 28, 2020 and hear from 300+ speakers across 150 sessions.


With the COVID-19 pandemic, tons of influencers and brands are trying to “influence for good.” In last week’s #SMWONE session, CreatorIQ’s COO, Tim Sovay was joined by Lena Renzina who manages talent partnerships at Ad Council to discuss how to reevaluate brand safety policies during this unprecedented time and how content creators can mindfully manage their channels and influence.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Influencers are leading impact-oriented campaigns
  • Creators have a responsibility with the platforms they have to share positivity and keep people informed
  • The key to brand safety is vetting and testing

Overall, creators have been using their influence for good

“Creators today are delivering millions of posts to their audiences around their interest and involvement in COVID-19,” Sovay states. Specifically, the content and campaigns being pushed out during this time show that there’s a shift from “broader pandemic content to more cause and impact-oriented campaigns,” especially with topics that are centered around thanking heroes and staying at home, plus supporting small businesses. In fact, overall engagement on influencer has surpassed 4.6 billion, and Sovay says this is because of the efforts of influencers, brands, government agencies, and efforts from AdCouncil to rally around this important cause and get people to engage.

Mobilizing the industry for good

During this time, Renzina’s team at AdCouncil had to rally their clients to quickly respond to the crisis and push out messages around critical news. They focused on five issue areas: social distancing messages, hygiene such as washing hands, stay at home orders, mental health, and parenting. The team wanted to hit different markets yet still push out the “general messaging that the public needed to hear, in a quick time period” Renzina points out.

With their talent partners, Renzina really wanted to make sure that the influencers were using their voices for good around the issues that each influencer was most passionate about. Sharing critical and time-sensitive information needed to be fully vetted so that their platforms don’t seem outdated or fake, and should continue to be vetted on an ongoing basis.

The challenges to ‘create’ during this time

Now more than ever “creators have a responsibility with the platform they have, ” Renzina points out, and it’s important that they send out the right message. Her tips during the session included always finding the source before influencers post anything (so making sure the source is credible and they double-check the info) and gut-checking a post with a friend or team before sharing it widely. She also warns that influencers should not shy away from sharing resources at this time that might be helpful to their audience. While influencers are trying to strike a balance between staying positive yet away of what’s going on globally, it’s important to remember that good information should be shared so that it can possibly help others during this time.

How to stay brand-safe

Savoy notes that some areas brands can takeaway are:

  • While individual companies guidelines and risk tolerances are unique, brands and legal teams should think to adjust guidelines for COVID-19 content. This is an entirely new subject matter, so content needs to be revisited for both “subject and tone”.
  • As these are fast evolving topics, content that might be brand-safe today can be super risky tomorrow, so staying nimble and adaptable is key too
  • To respond to some of these challenges, Creator IQ can screen influencers for brand safety keywords so that brands remain careful in who they choose to partner up with

How future and current content creators can stay on top

Vetting talent is really important, according to Ranzina. With so much uncertainty, she shared her screening test “the good, the bad and the ugly” to vet influencers. The good means the creator is uplifting or brand-safe for a specific campaign or organization, the bad can be a red flag like posting something that might be tone-deaf in the past, and the ugly is a deal-breaker that you don’t want to align your brand with. So, it’s important for brands to really look at the content creators channels. Brand safety is especially key during these times.

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