Under the influence

Anna Whitehouse, aka Mother Pukka and Matt Farquarson, aka Papa Pukka, with daughter Mae.

I’m not sure what it is about the word ‘influencer’ that bothers me. It just feels a bit sinister; A bit like the time I realized Google was selling me stuff they knew I wanted on little pop-up ads.  Google, you bastards, you won, I bought ALL the stuff. (Including a vintage My Little Pony Apple Jack off eBay).

But having worked on both sides of the coin – purchaser of the influencer talent and now purveyor of the supposed influence, I’ve found a few things that can help small brands wade through those murky waters.

Get personal

When I was approaching the influential foghorns of the fashion world, I always whacked in a paragraph on something specific (like: ‘I frickin’ adore your rainbow pony hair as much as my prized vintage My Little Pony Apple Jack) I liked about them. The number of times the same old line, ‘Hi, I really like your blog [subtext: GIVE ME YOUR AUDIENCE]’ is wheeled out means your brilliance gets lost in the white noise. There are few people in the public eye who don’t love a bit of all-singing, all-dancing ‘all about me’ fluffing – wield that to your advantage. It’s no different to starting any other relationship – why would you go in with the clichéd ‘is that a ladder in your tights or a stairway to heaven?’. (The latter is a terrible example because it’s actually brilliant and worked on me once – but you get it; get personal).

No comment? No way

Following on from my one errant liaison with Dean from Abbey National (there was, indeed, a ladder in the hosiery), you’ve got to back up what you’re saying. Now I’m lurking in influencer waters, the people you want to work with are the ones who give a shit about you. The best way of showing the love? Simply like and comment on their stuff.  An influencer/pixel foghorn seeks appreciation of their content – that’s their currency. When Emma from the kidswear brand Little Hotdog Watson started liking my posts, I started checking her out – in the non-creepy, non-restraining order way – and then when she joined in on my Flex Appeal campaign to fight for ‘flexible working for people who happen to be parents’ she was well and truly in the nook. Sure, you’ve got to genuinely like the goods (often established with the email equivalent of a fumble in the pub carpark) but often that comes from holding hands through the pixels. If I get someone saying ‘I LOVE your blog’ and they’ve never popped up on your feed, you think, ‘babes, you need to chuck some emojis at the situ.’ Engage and then prepare to be engaged or summat.

Let’s get visual

Streams of blather is off putting, while photos are the digital equivalent of a rainbow-drenched hug. Embed the best photo you have of your product in the email so there’s no need to click on an attachment. It’s a bit forward, perhaps but flash a bit of digital leg and you might get a Weatherspoons beer and a burger date out of it. It’s the journalism equivalent of the ‘Who, what, where, when, why’; Get all that combined in a pretty high resolution photo (that they may want to regram) and you’re gold.

Human nature

I hounded Victoria from In The Frow when I was working in the creative solutions department at Stylist Magazine. Like, it was a torrent of intense questioning akin to a drug intervention at a full moon party in Koh Pan Ngang. “Did you get the products? When are you going to post about the products? Are the products your friends? Can I stroke your hair at night and whisper about the products in your ear?’ My desperation to get the product feature on her blog bypassed the simple fact that she’s only human and not working to my crazed deadlines (which aptly autocorrects to ‘dreadlines’). Make sure to give plenty of time – there’s no point scuppering a long-term relationship with heavy breathing and night vision goggles. Victoria is only human so step away from the pixels for a moment and edge back in with a chatty, breezy ‘hey, no rush at all, just checking you got everything? BTW, I like pizza, do you like pizza? I have eyebrows, do you have eyebrows?’ Playful distraction is everything and endears the foghorn to you and your cause.

Bang on brand

The scattergun approach is best to be avoided. Pick your influencer/foghorn team – the ones who fit what you’re trying to do. So, for example, there’s no point going to gamers Dan & Phil with a batch of pastel-hued cupcakes; the boys just want to play with their toys and there’s no way in for such glorious confections. List your 10 bang on the money influencers and follow the above steps. Nurture, like, comment with an occasional DM for good measure.  Then go in for the kill with a knock-out press release (with high res images attached) and a one liner on why your cupcakes bring all the boys to the yard.

Good things come in small packages

 All hail the micro influencer! It’s a word I’ve heard bandied about of late – the influencers with millions of followers aren’t always the ones to deliver the goods. A smaller influencer with a more targeted audience is going to offer up a more fruitful jazz hands exercise than someone who is followed mainly for their perfectly-formed norks. That laminated list should be split between the two: turbo influencers and the small but perfectly formed. Think Mariah Carey and Stacey Solomon. The latter are also easier to get in touch with – also good to get in with them early in case they go off the charts big and remember those who supported them when they were doing bog roll ads.

Great expectations

 The minute someone posts about your product might not be the windfall you’d hoped for. It still takes a lot to convince someone to press a few buttons and part with the mullah. If you don’t sell out in 24 hours, all is not lost – this is a brand building exercise. It’s about planting the seed in people’s minds and then keeping a close (but not night vision goggle close) relationship with that foghorn. Think outside the Instagram boxes – Adelle Smith from BKD sent a personalized biscuit with ‘Mother Pukka’ on it shaped into a pair of red lips. It was such a personal, immaculately thought-out gesture I have no choice but to go large on that. You don’t need to whip up some sultry cookies but gentle, personal reminders that aren’t in word form often have a bigger impact because they’re outside of the inbox of doom. That inbox takes a beating – everything from slug pellet press releases to very reasonable Viagra offers.




Anna Whitehouse

Founder of Mother Pukka, Anna Whitehouse likes super hero cape-making classes and dislikes the naming of celebrity couples (TomKat, Brange etc.) She tries (and often fails) to parent the shit out of life.



Turns out I’m not an afternoon person either.


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