When it was first introduced, influencer marketing was a strategy used by brands leveraging predominately white content creators. As a result, there was a visible gap in influencer partnerships, as brands oftentimes neglected to include diverse representation in their campaigns.
Black-owned influencer agencies are spearheading campaigns to correct a whitewashed influencer economy. Without them, historically disenfranchised creators have missed out on receiving the credit they deserve and appropriate compensation for their work. As a result, these agencies are advocating for an equitable social media influencer landscape that is representative of all races and backgrounds.
Kensington Grey is an influencer talent management agency rooted in diversity. Its co-founder, Shannae Ingleton Smith, identified a bias gap in the market between influencer agencies and content creators. She established Kensington Grey as a way to facilitate marketing campaigns that represented what the world really looks like. These campaigns are helping to break down barriers between influencers of all backgrounds and levels of success, ensuring equal access to the influencer economy for everyone.
“We noticed a pattern where existing agencies would consistently overbook white creators, at the exclusion of Black creators,” said Shannae Ingleton Smith. “This resulted in a predominantly white influencer marketing industry. Black creatives had the talent, the metrics and the results companies needed in their marketing initiatives, but many agencies weren’t able to see it. As a response, we decided to create Kensington Grey to amplify Black voices and ensure that our stories were being told outside of Black History Month and Juneteenth campaigns.”
With an expert pulse on the industry, not only is Kensington Grey a champion of diverse representation in the media, but the agency was also established on the foundation of educating BIPOC creators on knowing their worth, how much to charge, and how to negotiate with brands.
Transparency in influencer marketing has been a growing trend in recent months, with many creators sharing their rates and the factors that affect them. Having experienced agencies like Kensington Grey guide their talent throughout the financial process helps to establish equitable opportunities and representation for BIPOC creators. The increased transparency in influencer rates is leading to higher budgets for influencer marketing campaigns and businesses need to adapt by offering better value, building genuine relationships and trust, and showing a desire for long-term collaboration.
“It was very clear from our first day as a company that a lot of creatives didn’t know the value their content provided brands.” – Shannae Ingleton Smith
Considering this, previously self-represented content creators and social media influencers, LaTroy and Nicole Tillery, made the decision to sign on with Kensington Grey. “All talent agencies are not created equally,” they explained, “we weren’t just looking for representation, we were looking for a team that could represent us better than we could represent ourselves.”
They went on to say, “As soon as Kensington Grey came up on our radar, it became the most obvious option for us. They understand the value of working with Black creatives and have consistently shown that they go to bat for their team. We wanted to be in the trenches with people who showed up for us every single day, and that’s what we got.”
LaTroy and Nicole are just two examples of BIPOC content creators who understand the value an agency like Kensington Grey has to offer to them. “Something we were both really cognizant of was making sure we didn’t sign a contract with an agency that put us in a box. We didn’t want to be limited to campaigns relating to being a minority creator,” they added.
Diverse representation in marketing matters. It is important for consumers to feel like they are seen and understood by the brands they purchase their products from. However, brands need to recognize that diversity is more than a marketing play. Yes, it can have the power to expand your customer base but without authentic inclusion and BIPOC input, it falls short and comes across as superficial.
Creating inclusive representation all starts with working with BIPOC creators and the talent agencies that represent them. “As an agency, racial justice is the center of our ethos,” Shannae explained. “We are achieving equality and shattering glass ceilings and breaking down doors that have otherwise been closed to us, and the benefit is in seeing the physical change of marketing year after year. It’s a noticeable improvement – marketing campaigns are telling fuller stories and representing the people of all of our communities. It’s been a heartwarming experience to have spearheaded so much of that work in the creator economy.”
So, how can brands and marketers create better representation in influencer campaigns? Shannae had this advice to share, “It starts with diverse representation with their team and their employees. If your team does not reflect what the world really looks like outside, it’s going to be difficult to hire the right people for your campaign. Having a diverse team in all aspects, from race, to sexual orientation, religion, age, and even socioeconomic status helps eliminate bias and ensures that your agency is seeing the bigger picture for each and every campaign.”
In recent years, the industry has seen a rise in opportunities for BIPOC creators, largely thanks to agencies such as Kensington Grey. According to IZEA’s State of Influencer Equity annual report, in 2015, 73% of influencer sponsorship payments were given to white influencers, with only 27% to non-white. This significant imbalance has seen some improvement each year, with 57% given to white influencers and 43% to non-white in 2021. Of course, the industry still has a long way to go, but the future of influencer marketing is being shaped by agencies with racial equity as part of their ethos.
It is a privilege for The Influence Agency to partner with Kensington Grey and their talent on a wide range of campaigns. To support BIPOC creators and the important work Kensington Grey is doing to create a more equitable creator economy, reach out to their team today.10