Panel Inside Look: Cashing in on Influence with General Assembly

When it comes to growing your brand, you want the best tips and tricks to help you thrive and become the overnight success you always wanted to be. But as Ruchi Dholakia of The Accidental Chic shared with us and our audience at General Assembly last week, “There is no shortcut to this. Something good takes time and learning.”

Once again, we joined forces with General Assembly alongside an impressive panel of brand experts, marketers, and influencers to chat about tapping into the power of influencers to grow a brand, by looking at the point of view of brands and the influencers they choose to work with. Our panel was moderated by Planoly’s very own Brand Partnerships Manager, Priscilla Castro, and included Evelyn Ngugi of Evelyn from the Internets, Ruchi Dholakia of The Accidental Chic, Jules Hunt of Om and the City, and Mairin Heard, Social Media Manager at HomeAway. We sipped on some Chameleon Cold Brew and Le Grand Courâge rosé while they shared their experience, advice, and wisdom to a packed audience, and answered a few of the audience’s questions with an in-depth Q & A.

If you missed the panel, don’t fret! We’ve got you covered with a breakdown of all the topics we covered, including some of our favorite quotes that were so good, we just needed to share. Read on to learn some helpful tidbits and discover what went down.

“The best partnerships
are the ones that fit
your every day.”


Tweet this.

Building Brand Relationships and Pitching Brands

Building a relationship with a brand is one thing, but to approach them with an idea is another. From Evelyn Ngugi’s experience, she has gone through a lot of trial and error to build up her rapport with brands. “It’s a lot of work upfront to see what brands work,” says Ngugi. Not only that, but a key element is working with the right brands that fit your own brand and its values. Evelyn also conveyed the importance of taking your time when creating these relationships, as well as the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to branded partnerships. “On the internet, you can feel you’re behind everyone,” says Evelyn. “But take your time to find the right partnerships”.

Ruchi Dholakia expressed that its key to “know what you’re going after and what niche you want to carve out. Don’t try to be something you’re not just to get a partnership”.

“The best partnerships are the ones that fit your every day,” said Jules Hunt. She recently moved to Austin from NYC and has maintained her brand collaborations even through her move. Along with tons of great advice, Jules suggested that influencers should “try to work with fewer brands but create partnerships for longer periods of time. It will be a more organic fit and it’s better than trying to make a quick buck with a bunch of brands”.

What Brands Are Looking for in an Influencer

It’s important for influencers and content creators to stay true to themselves while also being thoughtful about the way they’re representing brands. Mairin of HomeAway says, “for micro-influencers, it is very important to tell the brands story in your own way.” Cultivating that perfect balance is what makes content creators even more alluring to brands, and doesn’t deter their audience from creating sponsored content.

As a content creator, it’s also good to be forward-thinking when it comes to brand collaborations. “In my experience brands are more willing to partner if you come to them with the idea,” says Jules.

And Mairin from HomeAway agrees, and love being pitched an idea with a strategy and purpose. “Have a presentation deck that’s prepared for brands but make it specific to them,” says Mairin. “Build ideas around the brand that you think is fitting to your own brand.” A little bit of effort goes a long way when content creators put forth effort on a collaborative idea, and present it to a brand in a nicely wrapped package that only makes their job easier.

Making the Leap to a Full-Time Blogger

Transitioning from a part-time to full-time blogger can be a scary thing, but it’s a necessary step at some point if you’re serious about blogging as a career. High-quality content and a clear vision of your brand will help you go far when creating a career in the digital space. Not only that, but to be treated like a serious blogger, you have to first think and present yourself as one. “If you want to be approached by brands, make sure to have a media kit ready,” says Ruchi.

But to jump full-time, it’s not a matter of waking up one day and thinking, “I’m going to quit my job and be a full-time blogger.” You have to be realistic and set goals for yourself that will let you make blogging bring in a sustainable income. It is all about the goals.

“You are never fully ready to make the transition into full time blogger,” says Jules. “But I think it’s important to ask yourself if you have partnerships lined up for the year, and money saved up. Think realistically, but just jump in.”

Tapping into Your Power as an Influencer

“There is not shortcut to this. Something good takes time and learning,” says Ruchi on her advice for influencers looking to monetize their content with brand deals. Collaborating with brands is a big part of growing as an influencer, but your audience also wants to see the real you. Ruchi suggests that influencers “find the balance of collaborating and creating fresh organic content.”

“Collaborating with brands is a
big part of growing as
an influencer, but your audience
also wants to see the real you.”


Tweet this.

Keeping Your Audience in Mind When Forming Content Partnerships

Looping in your audience to find out what they’re interested in seeing is critical when it comes to curating engaging content. “I love using IG polls because your audience loves that you consider them in your decision making.” says Evelyn.

Eventually, you’ll grow to know your audience more and have a deeper understanding of what they want to see. Keep in mind that your audience will also grow with you, and it’s good to venture out and try new things to keep your content from becoming stale. “Your audience is watching,” says Ruchi. “And if they give you cues…listen.”

Working with brands is a huge part of getting to the next level as an influencer, but maintaining authenticity is key. Your audience wants to see the true you and not be sold something that is completely irrelevant to them. Ruchi suggests that influencers “find the balance of collaborating and creating fresh organic content.” It all comes down to being open with your followers, listening, building and protecting their trust, and keeping communication a two-way street.

Here are a few of our favorite takeaways from our panel:

Evelyn Ngugi, Evelyn from the Internets:
“I’m learning how to turn my side hustle into THE hustle.”

“It’s been vital to take my time. On the internet, you can feel you’re behind everyone, but take your time to find the right partnerships.”

“Share knowledge with your peers. We think we need to network up but really we need to network across!”

Mairin Heard, Social Media Manager at HomeAway:
“For micro-influencers, it is very important to tell the brands story in your own way.”

“If you have posts that are really performing well, look at those key posts and figure out how you can work with a brand using content like that. Lean into what’s performing well.”

Jules Hunt, Om and the City:
“For me, it took 2 years to get into blogging. I had to get over that hurdle of not wanting to tag photos or add hashtags, and realize my worth to just go for it.”

“The posts that get the most engagement are the ones that are really raw and vulnerable.”

Ruchi Dholakia, The Accidental Chic:
“Know what you’re going after and what niche you want to carve out. Don’t try to be something you’re not just to get a partnership.”

“It’s a slow process. I’m still a work in progress but the great quality content gets noticed.”

Again, if you joined us last week, we can’t thank you enough! A big thank you to our partners General Assembly for allowing us to put together this great panel! If you missed us last week, make sure to watch the recorded live stream of the panel here on General Assembly Austin’s Facebook page.

Also, a big thank you to Chameleon Cold Brew and Le Grand Courtâge for letting us stay caffeinated and hydrated with cold brew and rosé!

If you want to join any of our events this summer, make sure to stay tuned to our blog and follow us on Instagram to see where we’re headed to next!


Stay connected:

Website: General Assembly Austin
Instagram: @ga_austin

Website: Om and the City
Instagram: @omandthecity

Website: Evelyn from the Internets
Instagram: @evelynfromtheinternets

Website: HomeAway
Instagram: @homeaway

Website: The Accidental Chic
Instagram: @theaccidentalchic