A recent Healthline.com study, reported in Forbes, found that “76% of generation Z and 57% of millennials were more likely to find value in health influencers. Generation X ranked third highest at 44%.” In every industry, brands seek influencers for partnerships to amplify their digital presence and message. In our regulated industry, however, influencer marketing works very differently. Our goal is to improve lives by helping to deliver care to the right patients – a far more complex idea than most consumer brands face. Yet, despite the challenges, it’s more important than ever to work with health influencers, and to do so with expert precision:

76% of generation Z and 57% of millennials were more likely to find value in health influencers. Generation X ranked third highest at 44%. – Healthline.com Study

Here, we talk about best practices for working with influencers in positive, responsible ways, both generally, as well as taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Get Clarity From the Beginning
What do you want your content to accomplish? What types of content do you want? Being extremely clear about the goals you hope to achieve helps to determine whether an influencer – or, which influencer – is a good match for your brand.

Moreover, ask probing questions about the influencers under consideration. Is their voice respected? Are they solving problems? Do they reach an audience that your brand doesn’t? Choosing an influencer who cares deeply about sharing accurate information that improves people’s health can be the foundation of an excellent partnership. Conversely, choosing an influencer who is less passionate about the specifics of the condition in question can be a disappointment.

The Importance of Empathy
Brands that try to pay lip service to ideals usually discover that their half-hearted attempts fool no one. Brands that demonstrate empathy and understanding, and thoughtfully offer help, are much likelier to fare better. Often, our industry defaults to non-involvement in social-media conversations out of an abundance of caution; but currently, not addressing the realities and difficulties of the pandemic and racial unrest is often seen as being out-of-touch or even socially irresponsible.

Brands are seen with more skepticism than ever today. Those that are silent are scrutinized, and those that act are often criticized for inauthenticity or insufficient action. As pharma marketers, we must remember that our remit is to help everyone: we’re here to support the products that can save lives, no matter how much we may personally disagree with another person’s point of view.

By the People, For the People
We’re seeing a de-evolution of the brand voice, and a de-evolution of its power, as people become increasingly more accustomed to a media landscape in which they get information from a variety of smaller, but more specific, voices. People want to hear from people — and that, of course, means all types of people, including healthcare professionals, themselves.

Patient influencers can play an especially important role in getting brand messaging out to audiences. Humans are drawn to stories, and stories that echo their own lives and experiences — particularly when it comes to health and well-being — are even more appealing. Lorraine C. Ladish is a 57-year-old Latina who shares stories about her struggles with anxiety, depression, a 20-year-long eating disorder that included self-harm, and how she works to stay fit and healthy today. Her stories resonate with her listeners, who ask advice, thank her for her vulnerability, and often share their own stories.

Social listening efforts can help you find influencers with authentic connections who are likeliest to be your best brand ambassadors. And a robust regulatory process, begun months in advance, ensures that influencer content — and comment monitoring and moderating — is carefully managed.

How Micro-Influencers Can Help Your Brand
While they don’t have the millions of followers that mega-influencers do, micro-influencers — those with about 10,000-50,000 followers, but sometimes up to 100,000– they’re more focused on certain topics, more likely to get engagement, and are also perceived as more trustworthy. Micro-influencers can amplify the brand voice and lend credibility and authority to messaging, all while connecting with consumers where they are, on their terms.

Angelique Miles is a Black Instagrammer from New York City who has a following of around 30K and focuses on health, well-being, and living her best post-50 life. A scroll through her feed shows Angelique has worked with pain-relief brands, health drink and multivitamin manufacturers, CVS and more.

Brands have to become more comfortable with influencers much more quickly than they may have planned. The days of thinking that an influencer’s online persona has to perfectly conform to every item on the brand’s wish list are behind us. Ultimately, the authenticity that a brand builds through an influencer partnership is vital to its success.

As brands expand their influencer strategy, they must understand this new, nuanced, dynamic world, in which they must find new ways to leverage the best of an influencer’s cache, while keeping their character at arm’s length.