The Off-Duty Influencer

    September 27 2018

    There's no arguing about the recent surge within the influencer marketing space — but one thing to remember is that the influencer "experience" is not uniform. In fact, many of the world's leading influencers have risen to fame as a result of their professional experiences at other companies. Naturally, we're fascinated (and impressed) by many of these influencers' abilities to hold traditional "9-5" positions within organizations as well as balance outside opportunities, and today's article will dive deeper into why this can positively impact all involved parties. Discover our take below and also enjoy exclusive insights from a couple of leading fashion and media professionals who share more on their experiences as "off-duty" influencers.

    The Impact of the Off-Duty Influencer

    In the age of the side-hustle, it's not uncommon for individuals to have creative projects, hobbies, or side businesses while working at a company. But aside from the perks of free products, luxurious getaways, and access to some of the most sought- after parties and events, the experience and impact of an influencer can translate far beyond a product post or collaboration — especially if they work for another company. First and foremost, influencers have an entrepreneurial spirit that is unmatched. With each opportunity to work with brands, influencers become more and more skilled in the art of negotiation and communication. These factors alone can bring tremendous value to an organization, as it's crucial to have employees who can communicate and advocate for themselves (and others) effectively. At the other end of the spectrum, influencers who also work at others companies can build upon the skills they've learned in their respective positions and use their increased experience to work with brands in new ways. Arguably, this motivation to succeed both at work and in one's influencer endeavors will help boost morale for both parties as a result of inspired and engaged employees.

    But that's not all. Influencers can also help brands inspire new ways of thinking and engaging with customers. No matter the industry, most influencers are known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to emerging platforms, technologies, and content trends. These insights can help brands make informed decisions about what's currently trending — and even if their employee/influencer's audience isn't necessarily the same demographic as their customer base, brands will still have useful insights should they want to acquire or go after specific markets. Another key element to remember is that influencers are known (and listened to) for a particular expertise or niche interest — which is especially powerful in a time where attention spans are only getting shorter! Fortunately, many innovative companies are catching wind of this, and not only supporting influencers in their endeavors but helping to build their followings in tandem with the company too. Look at Refinery29 for example. The innovative media and entertainment company employs some of the most sought-after influencers in fashion and lifestyle like Alyssa Coscarelli, Lucie Fink, and more. While these individuals continue to grow their followings outside of their 9-5 Refinery29 also includes them in their content initiatives as on-air talent and models within certain stories. This approach demonstrates Refinery29's digital savvy and commitment to championing their team members in a way that is mutually beneficial for the business and their employee's careers.

    Hear from the Influencers

    Perhaps most importantly, we wanted to speak with a few influencers who also currently hold positions at some of the most coveted companies. Discover how they have struck a balance between these two obligations and how it's ultimately served them and impacted their industry for the better.

    "Mixing my full-time gig with influencer work pushes me to be more creative and inspired."
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    1. Lauren Caruso, Managing Editor at The Zoe Report

    Lauren's Background:
    "I've been an editor in the fashion/beauty space for more than seven years now — I got my start at Refinery29 as a staff writer when the brand was still in start-up mode, and later spent some time at brands like Allure and Bandier. I'm currently the managing editor at The Zoe Report, which was acquired by Bustle earlier this year. As far as Instagram goes, I started casually taking outfit photos about five years ago, and though I've never thought about starting a blog, I got more serious about using Instagram as a platform to discover and give love to smaller brands — especially female-founded ones — and tried to be more consistent with my posting when I realized it could also be lucrative, right around late 2016." On 9-5 and Influencer Work:
    "Though I wouldn't say it was a conscious choice to keep a full-time job, I'm definitely more Type A and crave the structure and camaraderie that comes with a full-time gig. When I took on my most recent role at TZR, I made sure that my boss understood it was important for me to continue to take on campaign work as part of Instagram. To be sure each partnership is vetted and journalistically sound — there's a lot of crossover with the things I write about and assign on TZR — I just have to be transparent about it at work. It's a set-up that definitely works for me, but I could see how someone else might crave more flexibility to work on any and all projects that come their way." Why Being an Influencer Positively Impacts Her Organization and Industry
    "I really think it definitely keeps me on my toes! Instagram is a really great vehicle for discovering new brands, but my full-time gig means that I also have access to leads that come from PR relationships and industry friends, and the trend cycle seems that much quicker. Additionally, my professional experience with writing and creative direction have afforded me the opportunity to take on freelance projects like styling or brand storytelling with confidence. At the same time, I feel like mixing my full-time gig with influencer work pushes me to be more creative and inspired, because no two projects are exactly the same. I wouldn't have it any other way!"

    "Public relations is my passion, but I was always looking for another creative outlet."
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    2. Jennifer Lake, SVP at Zapwater Communications

    Jennifer's Background:
    "For the past 15+ years, I've worked full-time in public relations. All of my career aptitude tests pointed towards a communications-focused career. From day one of college, I majored in public relations. Currently, I am the Senior Vice President of Zapwater Communications, where I lead new business development and also drive the travel, fashion, beauty, and retail divisions of the agency. While many people subscribe to the idea of 'working to live,' I live to work. I love our agency, our clients, and the incredible campaigns we deliver. Zapwater is a very metrics-focused firm, and it allows us to show tangible business results to our brand partners. Public relations is my passion, but I was always looking for another creative outlet. In 2008, I launched a bridal blog called "Third Coast Bride," which documented my wedding planning process. The site took off, and I gained a strong readership base and several offers for collaborations. Sadly, after our wedding had passed, I quickly realized that the only time I really enjoyed writing about weddings was when I was actually planning one. Therefore, I shut down the site but always kept an open mind about launching another site. In 2014, a few bloggers I trust and respect encouraged me to start a fashion blog. This time, I took nearly a year to plan out the site — from the branding to the layout and beyond. Knowing I had a full-time job, I structured the blog to be fairly straightforward. At the start, each post only had photos and links — no text. In the past few years, I have challenged myself to include more long-form content, travel guides, and more. Three years later, I am so proud of the work that's been accomplished on the site, and we have big plans ahead!" How Her Work in PR and as an Influencer Intersect:
    "In general, I keep my full-time job and the blog separate. I believe it's very important to not allow for conflicts of interest on either side of the coin. Often, that means declining partnerships that wouldn't serve the best interests of my full-time job or those from a key competitor of a PR client. Moreover, I would never take on a formal collaboration with one of our current clients. Although I share aspects of my workday or travels on my blog and social media channels, I do so in an organic way. Sometimes, I will document the details of a work trip in Instagram Stories and other times I'll just go radio silent. I never feel obligated either way, and I prefer to keep it that way. Now, there are often opportunities where the two worlds intersect in symbiotic ways. As with most modern PR firms, we do a lot of work with bloggers and influencers. As such, I have found that my opinions on strategies, itineraries, contracts, outreach, and more prove helpful because I can easily look at these aspects from the blogger's perspective. Moreover, I'm able to quickly discern the authenticity of a blogger's following and engagement. When you've been a part of the industry for years, it becomes second nature. Also, I have had the opportunity to meet so many fellow bloggers at conferences, fashion weeks, events, sponsored trips, and more. I've been consistently impressed by the professionalism of so many influencers and always make sure to relay that information to my colleagues for the sake of our clients. The best example of these worlds intersecting is pitching and working with rewardStyle to relaunch their influencer trips. Years ago, I remember rewardStyle being among the first to gather a group of bloggers for a vacation. The trips looked so fun, and you could tell that the participants had an absolute blast. Then, for some reason, these gatherings stopped. Flash forward to 2017, I decided to pitch my blogging contacts at rewardStyle the idea of partnering with our travel client, Fairmont Mayakoba, in order to reinstate their 'LTKgetaways.' After months of coordination with their team, our agency helped relaunch this initiative and will be partnering with rewardStyle again for another international destination this fall." The Biggest Benefit of Having a 9-5 While Also Being an Influencer:
    "I'm a big believer that retaining a full-time job AND being a blogger has countless life and professional benefits. At the same time, I support anyone who has decided to blog full-time. It's an incredible accomplishment, and nearly all of my closest blogging friends are either doing it or in a position to do so. Blogging is not easy or stable. Beyond the lack of a set salary, blogging doesn't bring benefits like health care, retirement, dental, and the like. Influencer campaigns come and go, payments from brands take longer than expected, affiliate sales can be all over the place, and ads might not get as many clicks as you were hoping for. Not to mention, changes in social media algorithms have really turned things upside down! For me, not only do I love my full-time job, but the sanity and solace of a reliable and predictable paycheck (with benefits) are, well, priceless. Moreover, I love my colleagues. They inspire and challenge me in ways that blogging never could. Plus, working alongside such a talented office of professionals is absolutely invaluable."

    "Every company wants their employees to be vocal brand ambassadors."
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    3. Kayleigh Harrington, Social Media Manager at M.Gemi

    How Kayleigh Approaches Potential Influencer Opportunities:
    "If it's an opportunity that I think would make me more valuable to my work, like a trip where I get to network with other big brands or influencers, I'm happy to ask for it and see if there is content that I can create that will work for both the brand opportunity and our social. However, there are times when you, unfortunately, have to say no to things that you would otherwise love to do because they conflict with important meetings or deadlines." Why Employers Should Support Influencers:
    "Every company wants their employees to be vocal brand ambassadors, and they should think of this as brand advocacy with a much bigger audience. When I started posting about M.Gemi, friends assumed I was just a huge fan (which I am), but I am also leading our social and influencer programs full time! The success of founder brands that we are seeing (Summer Fridays, Outdoor Voices, Glossier, Megababe) comes from people connecting deeply with a product because they relate to and want to be friends with the people behind it. If you're not a brand founded by an influencer, having influencers on your team will go a long way in creating awareness and community in an authentic way." Kayleigh's Advice for Those Balancing a 9-5 and Influencer Jobs:
    "Use your time wisely. It's easy to get caught up in things you 'have to do.' If you focus on things that will help you grow professionally, it will contribute to your success across both your day job and your blogging or photography. Setting goals are important. Will it help you meet your goals? Make it work. Is it just something that would be fun to do? Maybe you can sit this one out so that you can ask for flexibility when you have a different opportunity."


    While some brands may have qualms about outside or "competitive" work, it's important to remember that influencers bring a unique perspective and set of skills to the table that may ultimately serve the organization down the line. When the two parties lean into this dynamic, they can create mutually beneficial partnerships that may end up shifting the modern workplace into a more fluid and collaborative environment.


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