Anna interviews Instagram and YouTube influencer Laura Blair (@thelaurablair) to find out more about her path to PR management, with some insights into what it is like to run a digital PR agency post-pandemic from Isobel Berman, the founder of I SHO PR.

At some point during the lockdown(s), you have probably encountered a social media post in which stated something along the lines of “the pandemic is a challenge, but on the other side of the challenge lies opportunity”.

I, personally, read this as motivational gibberish while scrolling down Instagram’s infinite feed of finite creativity. I usually do not believe that creativity should be described as finite, but when we spent months enclosed in the same four walls, opportunities for creative output can be objectively limited.

Isobel Berman, the founder of I SHO PR agency, found a different perspective. She used the time in isolation to reflect on what was wrong with the PR management offers currently in the market and a few things came to mind. For instance, say you are an aspiring influencer, dreaming of landing a partnership with a luxury brand but the chances that you will be gifted anything above the mid-range are very slim or near non-existent unless you already sport a luxury brand wardrobe. Hence, blossoming talent is cut off from more lucrative deals.

So, Isobel thinks to herself, “…, why not expand the list of benefits that our signed talent can enjoy? Why not make use of my personal collection of luxury investments, by lending them to our influencers. It is not a big deal for me, but for them, it is a real opportunity to break out and attract more high-end brands.”

From that created I SHO’s brand philosophy: “ensuring the best products are seen on the best people and in the best places.”

Isobel notes, “Unlike many other agencies, whose value-adding ends at administrative support, we strive to offer a ‘full-stack influencer management’.” With multiple departments to cater to influencers’ every need, including photography, publicity, administration, and personal shopping, they definitely achieve that!

I got to sit down with Laura (@thelaurablair), a London-based beauty and fashion influencer a part of I SHO, who recently signed four new partnerships with sustainable luxury brands in the last six months.

How would you rate the following expectations, from most to least important for you personally?

3. Support with content creation – photographers, stylists, fashion rentals

1. Connecting you with the right brands and negotiating your deal

4. PR event bookings

2. Helping you develop a long-term strategy

L: 3, 1, 4, 2.

What’s your favourite thing about working on high fashion collaborations with I SHO?

L: I love getting to work with such beautiful designs. For me, creativity has always been the leading principle of

my work and high fashion always lends itself to this. As social media has evolved into video content, you really get to bring a product off the shelf to life. Also, the credibility that comes with high fashion collaborations is always rewarding. I always get a “pinch me” moment when I book a job with a brand I’ve seen in the pages of Vogue because it all started with a tripod in my bedroom.

Do you feel like working with management ever compromises your creativity?

L: It really depends on the brand and how they go about working with influencers. If a brand sets out too many guidelines, it can really look staged and the audience will see through it. I really enjoy full creative control. An influencer will usually know what works best for their audience and it will be unique to them. So, it’s important for any management company to make sure the brand’s expectations fit my feed.

Are you able to concentrate more on your creativity when you work with I SHO on collaborations?

L: Even when working through a PR agency, a brand can still set out a brief and guidelines, so it is not very different from working with brand representatives directly. One thing that I appreciate is when PR agencies set up events or press trips that really lend themselves to creativity. The ones that work best are when they really think about what environment an influencer likes to be in to capture great content.

After getting Laura’s insight into the company, Isobel elaborated on some of the inner workings and nuances of the agency. As well as offering some advice to aspiring talent managers.

Can you share, from your experience, some dos and don’ts when it comes to recruiting PR talent?

I: At first, I was obviously keen to sign anyone because I wanted to build our roster and reputability, but, to build reputability, you need to work with reputable influencers with content that actually aligns with your network and passions. Don’t just work with anyone who’s available!

Do: … your due diligence, check engagement rates, and, most importantly, follower quality. It’s easy to book one job, but we really value long-term relationships and you don’t get those without results. All the girls we work with now have really amazing communities with huge value.

Don’t: … lock people into huge contracts. Yes, contracts are definitely necessary, but loads of agencies lock people into 2 or 3-year contracts and they have talent who are unhappy with the service but locked in. I want people to work with me because we actually do what we say we will, not because they have to. And, if you force people to work with you, you’ll never maintain a great reputation.

Do: … maintain friendships with your talent. I’ve always been told not to mix business with pleasure, but I think what sets us apart is that we really do care about every single girl we represent. I think doing what you do, from the heart, is what drives results, and that requires building relationships you really cherish with people you’d do anything for.

Throughout the last two years, a lot of people struggled with social media overload. Do you address the issue of social media fatigue and mental health with your talent? If so, how?

I: Absolutely, though I do think influencers get too much stick for the effects social media has on so many people.

Influencers have always existed, dating back hundreds of years in all sorts of capacities. It’s just the platform that has changed and, of course, the fact we are exposed constantly is a very modern, real challenge.

All of the girls we work with present a very caring, transparent, and often inspirational outlook to their audiences, and I think young people nowadays having real people (rather than the editorial glossy pictures I grew up with) as idols is always a good, positive thing.

In regards to our talent, we do undertake most of the admin which we really hope takes the weight off and allows for proper work-life balance, which can be really tricky when influencers are often demanded by audiences to be ‘available’ and ‘presentable’ 24/7.

We also always champion taking time off whenever you need it, and by providing legal support and personal assistants for free with our services, we can ensure any work can be cancelled and postponed if needed to maintain or support the wellbeing of any of our creators.

What do you look for in an influencer when recruiting; is it creativity first, a stand-out personality or high levels of engagement?

I: Community! I’ve been saying this for a while, but in 2022, the community is key. I’ve noticed that content and engagement/followers aren’t as important as they have been and that having a strong community (of any size) is the most valuable commodity for making a career out of ‘influencing’.

Having a genuine relationship with your followers is so valued— being honest, organic, and selecting the right brands to work with. We all listen when our friends tell us they LOVE a product or service, and that’s why influencing marketing works because it’s like hearing advice from a virtual bestie! So, the stronger the relationships with the talent the better as far as I’m concerned.

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