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Finding Unicorns with Kristen Tully of Marina Maher Communications

Kristen Tully is the vice president of influencer marketing and partnerships at Marina Maher Communications. She describes her own job as “finding unicorns.” In this case, unicorns are influencers–people with large followings who have the ability to influence purchase decisions. Often, these influencers  are so perfectly specific to what a brand desires that they are nearly impossible to find.

On Tuesday, February 14th, we got to meet Kristen, along with a collection of Newhouse alumni, when we visited Marina Maher Communications (MMC), an agency that focuses on everything related to earned media–any coverage or promotion a brand receives that is not paid for or is not owned by the brand. Kristen told us all about her work in influencer marketing and how it has changed over the six years she’s worked at MMC.

When Kristen graduated, magazine and TV advertising ruled the ad world, and it took a lot to convince brands that reaching out to bloggers was just as, if not more, important, than placing ads in traditional media. In 2017, this hasn’t changed much: brands still often have a traditional mindset when it comes to advertising. Therefore, a major part of Kristen’s job is explaining why YouTubers and bloggers are critical components of marketing campaigns.

We, however, didn’t need to be convinced. As young students, we consume content on YouTube and blogs and look up to the people who create this content. Social media has expanded this even more because there are now influencers on every social platform. Each content creator has his or her own personality and point of view, and Kristen works with brands to identify the best influencers for their needs. The benefits are huge. Support from consumers’ favorite content creators can be a really important part of their choice to purchase a product or not. Therefore, Kristen is always looking for new influencers to match with brands.

One of the coolest parts of Kristen’s job is that a lot of the work is consuming content on social platforms. She is often checking the platforms when she isn’t in the office, but because she enjoys it so much, it doesn’t even feel like work.

Of course, the job isn’t just scrolling through social media. Talent management is vital to the role. For example, there are times when influencers don’t comply or get negative press coverage and backlash online because of things they do that might not even have to do with the brand. Since we made this visit, James Charles, a teenage spokesperson for CoverGirl, one of MMC’s clients, received internet backlash because of an insensitive tweet he made about Africa. Of course his comment has nothing to do with CoverGirl, but the brand is dragged into the conversation anyways. Kristen has to handle these crisis situations and make sure brand-influencer relations runs smoothly.

However, Kristen says the best feeling is when she finds the perfect influencer to match with a brand. It really feels like she just found a unicorn.

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