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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Things I Have Learned About Delegating: COO Blog

Recently I gave a talk to our team at Paladin about how to delegate effectively. In preparing for this talk, I found there are a lot of articles about delegating, most of which were recycled from some ancient listicle patient-zero. I also found few resources reflecting what I’ve found to be important lessons learned first-hand from managing teams locally and internationally. So I wrote down the abridged versions.

Delegate what needs delegating, not your bullshit.

The purpose of delegating is to reap benefits from focus and efficiency. Not so you can literally interpret the title of “The 4-Hour Work Week.” Don’t simply shove a task you don’t want to deal with onto someone else’s plate.

Here is when you should delegate:

  • When you know your employee is the best person for the job.
  • When delegating creates a learning opportunity for your employee, creating future efficiencies.
  • When you’re expanding team capacity for a certain functions and you’re assigning employees their share of the work.
  • When you have other critical work that takes priority, and only you can do it.

Context can change everything.

Always make sure whomever you delegate a task to knows why they are doing it. If the person responsible for a delegated task understands the team or company’s end goals, both short and long term, they can better act as a check point to ensure the team is moving toward those goals, or to suggest better paths toward those goals.

There are many ways to skin a cat, and context is critical information to ensure your employees skin it the right way right meow. Remember that a task can be accomplished as instructed without serving wider goals, or in detriment to them. You don’t want that.

The success of delegation is conditional.

There are a number of questions that should be asked before delegating a task to ensure the best chance of success. If the answer to any of these questions is no, it is likely whomever you’ve delegated the task to will fail.

  • Are the right resources for the job being activated?
  • Is there enough time to achieve the task?
  • Is it technically possible to complete the task?
  • Is delegating this task creating any resource conflicts with other projects?
  • Do the resources being activated have enough capacity?
  • Will the resources being activated be hijacked?

Delegation is negotiation.

If everything was purely top down, our business would have failed many times over. Make sure your employees understand that just because someone is asking them to do something, it doesn’t mean they do not have a voice to flag important considerations, set expectations, and ask further questions. Such conversations can materially change the scope, objectives, and timelines associated with a delegated task.

When you empower others, they become smarter.

When given extreme ownership of a project/product/whatever, people shift their mindset from requesting solutions to solving problems. When one’s own success or failure is hinged to the success or failure of things they are made responsible for, they are motivated to figure it out. Over time this is especially beneficial, as the individuals closest to products/clients/problems/etc are the ones crafting solutions.

Don’t get in the way.

There are many paths to a destination. Make sure that the goal of the task being delegated is clearly defined, but allow for independent thought and for employees to find their own way to the end objective. This will bring you an incredible amount of ideas that you never would have otherwise considered. That said, keeping an open mind with regard to pathways doesn’t mean abandoning your role in providing guidance — you may have learned an efficient path the hard way, and be able to save your employees a lot of time and headaches with course corrections. That said, learning the difference between subjectivity and substance in this regard is critical.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

It takes time to dial in a delegation process that’s successful for you, and that subordinates respond to. Consider failure as an opportunity to improve how you delegate. Don’t use failure to re-absorb responsibility, negating the benefits of delegating.

Parting Thoughts:

Do:

Make noise when the team wins.
Give credit to those responsible, don’t take it for yourself.
Make yourself available to inform or to teach, but not to do what has been delegated.

Don’t:

Blame. If a delegated task ends in failure, you did not properly account for conditions, did not properly fulfill negotiation, did not provide context, or you empowered the wrong person. If you set an example of accountability, you empower a culture of accountability.

Set arbitrary deadlines. How long will a task take with respect to the conditions and the resources available? Ask the person responsible for delivering, and let that be the deadline. Deadlines can move for a lot of reasons. Check in on delivery estimations, but don’t nag.

Interrupt (unless you have to).


Thomas Kramer is Paladin’s COO. Over the past several years he has managed teams in diverse areas, from technology developers and content optimization strategists to operations and marketing staff.

If you’d like to learn more about Paladin, start here.

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