'Influencers aren't just the face of the company': WeAreTenzing's Brooke Howard-Smith on authentic relationships

  • Marketing
  • August 3, 2017
  • StopPress Team
'Influencers aren't just the face of the company': WeAreTenzing's Brooke Howard-Smith on authentic relationships

The rapid rise of influencer marketing has raised numerous questions and many have jumped in with a transactional model that can harm clients. WeAreTenzing takes a different approach, as it focuses on long-term holistic client welfare.

StopPress: Why does influencer marketing work and does it work better for some brands than others?

WeAreTenzing CEO Brooke Howard-Smith: Marketing needs to live where people live, and more and more people spend their time-consuming content through their social media. The average person spends 116 minutes a day between Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat and the content and products they are likely to view and buy are those recommended by people they know and follow. Most importantly people trust people over brands, so having a trusted external advocate who’s creating amazing content that’s passionate about your product or service on social media is very powerful.

The biggest shift in influencer marketing in the past 12 months has been around measuring success, moving from campaigns that are focused on large followings and brand awareness to more measurable metrics, and with the improvement in technology across Facebook and Instagram, paired with tracking tools it now means we can now tell if an influencer is actually driving real engagement and sales, in that sense it’s one of advertising's most powerful new tools.

The ROI on influencer marketing varies across categories more so than brands with Rhythm One’s research finding wide variances across sectors, for example, every $1 spent on influencer marketing returned $12.54 in the "Tourism Destinations & Travel" sector, $12.21 in the "Bath, Body and Beauty" and a still creditable $4.50 in "Retailers and Apparel". Success often comes down to strong content creation, something we work hard to develop with our influencers in concert with the brands they are working with.


Brooke Howard-Smith working with Fitness advocate, Cancer survivor, inspirational speaker and client Jess Quinn.

WeAreTenzing’s founders—Adam Thomson, Derek Handly, Sam Hazledine and you—have high profiles themselves. What sparked you guys to create the company?  

Derek and I were shocked at how transactional the athlete management industry had become. Having over 50 percent of your clients end up broke five years after retirement is a damning indictment on the current global athlete management model, so we built a holistic, complete management company that recognized this amazing resource that our brightest stars have, the ability to talk to millions of people every day through their own media channels. Now, paired with solid financial management we can build long term, authentic, purpose lead brand alignments.

As proud as we are of Derek, Sam and Adam’s accomplishments, perhaps our highest profile owner is Ben Boyle who was on the short list for The Bachelor.

Why the name WeAreTenzing?

Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first people to reach the summit of Mt Everest. While being a part of the partnership to reach the top of Everest was a huge accomplishment, arguably their greatest impact came in the subsequent work done in places like Nepal; the platform of being the first to the top of Everest was what made these achievements possible.

WeAreTenzing, the company, provides that partnership to exceptional people to assist them to reach the top of their personal ‘Everest’ and to then use that accomplishment to go beyond their talent to lead significant lives and have a meaningful impact in the world.

A lot of the influencers WeAreTenzing works with are athletes. Why do athletes make good influencers?

We wanted to focus on a specific category of influencers and given our passion for improving athlete welfare it made sense to start with many of New Zealand’s best athletes. As people, they are also often passionate about health and well-being, something that we believe in. This helped us as we expanded our clients from pure athletes into influencers like Amber Peebles, Jess Quinn, Daisy Dagg and Anjuli Mack who aren’t competitive athletes but who are also focused on health and well-being.


Adam Thomson working with client and Northern Mystics player Storm Purvis.

What are the concerns when connecting influencers with a brand?

Most importantly the connection must be based on an authentic belief, a shared purpose and a genuine connection between the influencer and the brand or product. Traditional advertising dies a terrible death on social media, and mercenary brand alignments are likely to generate more negative engagement than positive.

What does WeAreTenzing do to overcome those?

We help define these relationships by mapping a company’s corporate social responsibility pillars, getting a real understanding of what makes a brand tick, once we have this we can match their beliefs against our database of clients and find a perfect match.

From a brand perspective, they are also keen to get to know who they are aligning themselves with. We have a pretty rigorous vetting process with our influencers so that the brands we partner with can have peace of mind.

What’s your advice to brands looking to use influencers?

Make sure the influencer you choose is talking to the customers you want. Every decent influencer or influencer agency should be able to help break down who they are talking to and how engaged their followers are. Also, large followings do not necessarily equal advocacy, you may be better to find a focused and passionate smaller influencer that is speaking directly to your target market. Or even a group of people that are aligned, something we often build for companies we call a “node mesh”.


Adam Thomson working with Silver Fern Kayla Cullen.

What do you think about transparency of commercial partnerships? Do you think posts should be labelled when they’re an ad?

Although most partnerships are declared now, any well-designed collaboration should be an obvious partnership. If you begin with an authentic partnership built around shared beliefs there’s no reason to try to disguise it. In the past ads included a rugby player standing in front of a garage, those types of ambassadorial roles are dead, we prefer to build partnerships like our latest between rugby player Vince Aso and Zambrero, Vince is able to post authentically about how they are teaming up to fight hunger in the third world, something both he and they are truly passionate about (Zambrero has donated 15 million meals so far).

How is WeAreTenzing’s approach to influencer marketing different to other agencies?

We believe we are the first management company in the world that is purpose focused. That allows us to help build out real partnerships where the influencer isn’t just the face of the company, they are the heart. Once you define those key social responsibility commonalities, relationships simply fall into place.

What lessons has WeAreTenzing learned about influencer marketing since starting?

There are so many lessons here. It’s such a fast-growing segment and many of those involved including us are learning what works as we go. The best part about this part of the industry is that companies can start small and experiment. There’s no need to commit huge amounts to a campaign, influencers charge as little as $350 a post, start small and progress from there. 

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