Branching out from our “Founders” and “Speaking to Media” blog series, we’re introducing “How to work with an influencer”. Here we’ll deep dive into a saturated industry to understand how it best aligns with the world of PR and marketing right now. First up is Elise Purdon from A Piece of Elise, who moved to Bangkok from Canada at the age of 18 and started a blog as an outlet to express her creative thoughts. Fast-forward to today, she’s a major player in the Toronto blogger-sphere and is the creative mind behind her own namesake silk lounge-wear label, ÉLISE. She’s a hustler wearing multiple hats working as a writer, stylist, designer and influencer.
See through the lens of an influencer with Elise in this Q&A to read her POV on the industry today, the path she took to get to the top of her game and what she values most when collaborating with a brand.
Did you become an influencer organically? What was the process?
I was living abroad in Bangkok studying business and really needed a creative outlet, so I started my website more as a means of artistic expression. I quickly realized that actually telling stories was what I’m most passionate about, so I just kept at it for years until eventually, I had accumulated an online audience attentive enough to make this my job. I guess it really was “organic” in that I just kept at it because I loved it. It never feels like work (unless I’m hungry, then even the best photoshoot feels like work haha).
What’s next in creative ways for brands to engage with an influencer’s audience?
I would love to see more events catered to the influencer and THEIR audience. There are so many things happening for the influencers to share with their readers online, but I think it would be super cool to see something centred around bringing together an influencer AND their audience. The internet is a powerful tool, but it’s also very saturated, so I think that removing the digital middleman every once in awhile could be a great way to leave a next level impression. I know that my readers I’ve met with in real life end up being some of my most dedicated online audience members too.
Do you have a set guideline on how you choose to accept a brand deal? If so, what are some of the key things you look at?
It’s not really set because it’s not always just about the brand, but also the specific campaign or storyline they’re looking to run within that partnership. I could love a brand, but not be excited about the message of the campaign or vice versa. I typically go by the very unofficial “excitement factor” of a brand deal – if my mind starts spinning with possibilities and I can’t wait to create the content then I’ll accept. If I roll my eyes and don’t feel inspired, it’s not for me. Because my platform really is about telling stories as opposed to providing tutorials, tips and what to do/where to shop, I actually have quite a bit of freedom with what brand deals to accept in that I’m leaving my audience to deduct their own thoughts and opinions on something.
What’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to collaborating with a brand?
Sometimes brands try to assert too much control over the finished product of a collaboration. I totally understand that a brand has specific campaign goals and knows their product better than anyone, but influencers also know their audience better than anyone and their audience is choosing to follow along because they like that person. I’ve had brands submit changes to my content that completely erases the creative approach I’ve taken, as well as my personality from the message. If that were to be posted online it wouldn’t just be ineffective, but potentially a negative one too. An influencer’s audience really does know them and if they aren’t seeing “them” in their work then it’s a lost investment because they won’t listen.
Which social media platform do you get the most engagement from and what creative ways do you use to build a following on it?
I get the most engagement from Instagram because it’s the platform I dedicate the most time to – because I love it the most. I’m a very visual person, so I love the image/gallery concept of the platform. I have noticed that one way to increase your audience is by shooting product videos using smartphones (e.g. iPhone). When products are professionally shot and edited, the garnered reach seems to be less. I also love to hit up a trendy spot or event and get in on that hashtag. I got hundreds of followers from one post about the Kusama exhibit at the AGO because it’s too trendy.
What’s your take on keeping transparency as an influencer when you do promotional posts?
This is a huge subject in the media right now and I don’t really know what the answer is. I always mentioned if it’s been paid, but I don’t necessarily think it makes sense to state that it’s an “ad” when something has been gifted. I think it’s different if one’s audience is really young, but mine is older and I’m quite confident that they’re fully aware of the amount of gifted product we receive. Sometimes I’ll get a product randomly without even knowing it’s coming, use it for a few months, totally fall in love with it and then choose to share it. This really doesn’t feel like an “ad” to me, but according to the current rules I’m supposed to say that it is. The influencer industry is at the point where most of what people are using is gifted; I think that’s something one should make sure their audience is generally aware of instead of explaining what’s gifted and what’s not in each individual post.
How do you maintain brand integrity and authenticity in your work?
I actually find this quite simple. If I’m working on a project that energizes me, excites me and I love to talk about, then I know it’s for me. If I’m not excited about it and I struggle to talk about it for more than like thirty seconds, it’s probably not for me. I’m pretty unapologetically myself in all aspects of life, so maybe that’s why staying authentic in my work is easy too, but out of all the aspects of my job, integrity is one of the easiest thing to maintain.