Adventures in Digital Talent Management: 3 Experiences You Might Have as an Influencer Manager

Working in the digital Wild West of influencer marketing is new, thrilling, and often challenging. Together, though, we’re finding ways to mature our industry in order to survive and succeed. In this article, I’d like to share my experiences from my previous career as a talent manager, and advocate for the importance of network/creator transparency.

1. Hell hath no fury like a creator who needs to get paid.

“My rent is due next week, my microphone broke and I barely have enough cash to get a beer this Friday night. When do I get paid for my campaign?”

I’m sure that every influencer manager can relate to this question. Creators, used to the fast-paced service industry, want to get their wishes granted as quickly as possible. Understandable, since after all: money talks, and it’s not always easy being a digital influencer. Since they rely on your payment system, they have no shame in emailing, texting, calling, Whatsapping, Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagramming, Skyping and pinging you every Friday and Saturday night until they receive their funds. Most times, they do this while you’re still waiting for the PO number so you can actually bill your client! ARGGG!!

As an influencer manager you have to deal with creative digital talent that has no clue about essential details such as invoices, contracts, and client relationships. After all, this is YOUR job.

The creator usually trusts you because you’re an amazing human being with interpersonal skills. Yes – they like you, they trust you and they (hopefully) listen to you.

You are an irreplaceable factor for them to succeed. Be flattered! But since their dependence can be a double-edged sword, also remain vigilant. If they leave, you have the possibility of losing everything that you built up. You need to bust your ass – and show it – in order to actually earn your 20% commission! If the creator doesn’t see the actual benefit of working with you, it can be a slippery slope. This is because:

2. Influencers don’t always think they need you.

“Why am I paying you any commission for my work? I might as well have done this without you and put the extra cash in my own pocket.”

“I know you have proposed the other blonde girl for this campaign. Why don’t you ever propose me to a client?”

I’ve noticed over the years that for some talent, nurturing them is so important that it can take up your entire day: relaying information and comforting them. After all, you don’t want to lose your talent to another agency. The creators want to be sure of having access to the best business deals, feeling confident in how often you try to get them into a campaign and mostly, feeling safe with you. There is no business without trust. This requires valuable time and hand-holding from your side, when you need those same hours to focus on building proposals, compiling campaign reports, and sending those damn invoices to get your talent paid!

Most talent managers have multiple influencers to manage. And talent behavior varies from simple back-and-forth on negotiations and tax handling to Jenna Maroney levels of hysteria (from 30 Rock, if you aren’t familiar). One time, I was working with an A-list celebrity who didn’t want to join in on a campaign because one of his rivals was in it as well. The talent cancelled…10 hours before the shoot. European contracts are not super strict, so the talent just refused to show up on set….The solution was certainly not to threaten the talent, so guess who could fix the matter?

3) Talent manager to the rescue.

During those situations you’ll have to do something like I did: put on your talent manager super power suit and comfort the client, the agency, and the old talent, while finding a new talent, keeping the financial deal intact, and offering the same (or better!) reach+engagements. These crises make you stand out from the crowd and allow you to be a warrior for all parties (even though your client does hate you for a few minutes).

Of course I told the talent that they were never ever allowed to do that again, and that they have to consider such things way in advance. It kind of feels like you’re raising a child. Nurture and praise them, but call them out at moments they need it most.

Sometimes it seems like you can never win. There is not enough time to curate, negotiate, administer, and communicate with all your creators and clients all day every day, while keeping the manager-talent relationship light and fun.

My solution to this? Eliminate the yucky details and automate, so you can focus on relationships.

I don’t manage talent anymore but ever since I joined Paladin, I’ve been able to help talent managers alleviate their workload with solutions to automate their payments, contracts, and more. Not to mention curating and packaging talent for campaigns, and automating engagement reports for the brand client. No delays, all the interactive displays you could want, all in the cloud. The talent have their payments in the correct amount and on time, and the brands have all the engagement data they could want. You’re showing transparency, and everyone’s happy.

Heck, with automated solutions you can even evaluate your creators’ channels through auditing, so you can praise them for their 25% growth over the past six months or give some tough love on their lack of regular uploads. Doesn’t that feel good?!

Say goodbye to those damn Excel sheets and email searches and you can spend the extra hours on nurturing your creators.

Sebastian Wulff is an award-winning child actor, video producer, social media manager and influencer manager from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Throughout his professional career, he has learned the challenges of being in front of and behind the camera first-hand. He recently moved to Los Angeles to explore the online video industry in the United States and to advocate for a more mature industry globally. As a growth manager at Paladin he handles clients throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States.

If you’d like to learn more about the automation solutions Sebastian described, contact him at [email protected].

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How Digital Marketers Can Think Outside the Box: Adventures at Buffer Festival

Last week, in the midst of a busy time in Toronto, the fifth annual Buffer Festival solidified its place in the digital video world. Taking place directly after the Toronto International Film Festival, Buffer Fest set its sights on the independent digital creator and highlighted up-and-coming voices in various content verticals.

More than ever, Buffer Fest was an opportunity for creators to see their impact, as fans lined up at screenings with the hopes of meeting their favorite online personality. It was an obvious reminder that entertainment is moving in the direction of independent voices.

Creator-first festivals are always my favorite. They allow us to explore the industry from their point of view and understand why, in the first place, they were successful in building an audience.

As a way of structuring the conversation between creators and the companies they work with, Buffer Fest did a very nice job of setting up an Industry Day.  As someone who’s worked with companies that operate alongside YouTubers for a few years now, I’ve been to many similar events. But this round of speakers stands out in my mind due to their bluntness and solid understanding of how marketers can be successful working with digital creators.

Today’s Marketer is a Content Producer

The main through-line that emerged: Marketing as a whole is rapidly changing, and needs to be reimagined from all angles. Working with creators is no exception. David Beebe began the morning explaining how his previous role as a marketing VP at Marriott felt more like being an executive producer at a TV studio. He was creating engaging content that wasn’t focused on selling hotel rooms, but rather selling the spirit of adventure. He accomplished this by developing several digital series (similar in format to TV shows) that follow characters as they interact with Marriott properties worldwide.

Interruptive Marketing Needs to Evolve

The need to innovate away from interruptive marketing (any ad format that stands in the way of content, i.e. commercials, pre-roll ads, banner ads) was at the core of every presentation, and what better lens to examine this through than influencer marketing. Many of the attendees came from agencies and brands: the perfect audience to hear this narrative.

Two important perspectives came directly from creators who have built huge audiences on their own skills and merit. These creators shared their experiences of how they found it best to work with brands, and also shared stories about not-so-smooth integrations.

Words of Wisdom from Creators

Stevie Boebi, in her first-ever solo keynote, expressed how important it is to allow creators to remain authentic while working with your brand. In her case, she is known for sex-ed content directed toward LGBTQ+ youth. Very plainly, she told the crowd: If your brand can’t mix with the content I’ve made in the past, you shouldn’t be trying to force it.

Creator Stevie Boebi.


Sarah Dietschy and Dodie Clark (prominent YouTubers) echoed Stevie on their panel, explaining how important it is to find a creator that fits your brand (and vice versa) and work to integrate it in creative ways over a long period of time.  For example: rather than paying the creator to pitch the latest flavored water, send the creator enough product to fill a fridge! This makes for cool visuals and more easily allows the creator to make content. I can’t emphasize it enough: every creator stressed the importance of being involved in discovery conversations and creative brainstorming.

The importance of thinking outside the box was the message I took away from Buffer Fest. I don’t mean that in the most generic, cliched type of way about creative thinking. Thinking outside the box as a brand marketer means that you should first deeply understand the medium you’re buying into, and then do your best to think like a creator and a subscriber.

Famed TV and film producer Dana Brunetti, responsible for bringing House of Cards and The Social Network to screens of various sizes, shared his thoughts on the digital space.  As a perfect knot to tie the entire day together, his insight into disrupting the ‘norm’ in Hollywood complemented the need to shake up our marketing efforts. Brunetti is a proponent of digital disruption: he was an early believer in Netflix, even when most were still making the safe choice of not primarily distributing content on the Internet.

Definitely put Buffer Fest on your list!  I’m excited to see what we’ll be talking about next year!

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