8 ways to protect your brand from influencer blackmail


The growing number of bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers willing to work with brands are an increasingly attractive and affordable option for many marketing managers.

The basic principle is that an influencer receives a complimentary product or service in exchange for promoting it to their network via a written review, video or image.

As a brand owner, you hope and pray this leads to a glowing endorsement. However, sometimes nothing you do will be good enough when you find yourself in the company of a small minority of influencers who have unreasonably high expectations and threaten to write negative reviews when their demands are not met.

Digital influencers can inflict lots of damage to brands, presenting a real dilemma for brand owners.

While some marketers can simply choose to accommodate demands to protect their reputation, not everyone has the luxury of large budgets or will reward shady behaviour.

Here are eight ways you can avoid a PR fiasco:

1. Agree on the terms before anything else is exchanged

The rules surrounding freebies, disclosure and working relationships with influencers are still being carved out, and many people lack experience in negotiating terms in the early stages.

If you want to protect your brand from an unintentionally scorned influencer, you need to agree on exactly what you will provide and exactly what you will get in return before you send them an item or invitation.

Not only does this give you the chance to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, but it also provides you both with a written agreement or recorded phone call should one of you fail to deliver on your promises. You can record your phone calls using specialist call tracking software from providers like Mediahawk.

2. Put your money where your mouth is

It’s a dangerous game to ask an influencer to promote your brand with the promise of compensation only to withdraw it at the last minute and cry “blogger blackmail” when they get upset.

While “blagger bloggers” are becoming unpopular among their peers, there is nothing to stop someone from calling you out when you’re the one in the wrong.

Ensure the relevant employees know what’s expected to make the entire process run more smoothly.

3. Don’t overreact if they still demand too much

If you find yourself with a diva on your hands, remind them of any pre-agreed terms while remaining polite and professional.

As tempting as it may be, try not to say anything that might provoke the influencer to rant about you on their social media profiles.

The best outcome in situations like this is for the influencer to agree not to post anything about you at all.

However, sometimes a threat will manifest into a negative review regardless, in which case there are a few ways of lessening the damage:

4. Responding to false reviews online

Whoever’s in the wrong, you don’t want to get into a public mudslinging match, but you may want to reassure other customers by responding to the negative feedback in a diplomatic way.

5. Report it

If an influencer has threatened to leave a bad review and you believe what they have written about you is a result of your incompliance, you can dispute it with the host site.

For example, TripAdvisor for Business allows business owners to report blackmail before or after the review is posted.

Of course, where an influencer hosts their own website where a false negative review about you is held, you have one final option:

7. The law is there to protect you

Many people head online to vent when they receive poor customer service, but few realise they have a legal responsibility to be fair, accurate and truthful when leaving a poor review.

If an influencer threatens to publish something defamatory, untrue and unfair review of you or your business, it’s a good idea to cite UK libel law.

Giving fair warning that you’re aware of the laws should make influencers think twice about posting.

However, if this fails to deter them and the hosting site cannot o remove the post a course of legal action may be the only way forward.

8. Monitor online conversations

Learn how to use tools like HootSuite and Google Alerts to monitor social media and websites. It’s good practice to monitor your online reputation regardless of whether you’re being threatened as you can also discover genuinely unhappy customers and turn it around to minimise any damage they could do.