The world of talent management can seem a little unsettling if you don’t understand its function. I know the first time I ever reached out to an influential person online and was passed off to an agent-type, it was kind of a turn off. But as I grew to understand the role of a talent manager — to handle the busy work of influence as a business and let the creator do what the creator does well — I realized talent manager serve a valuable function in the ecosystem.

Now, you might think that talent managers really only come with influencers who have hundreds of thousands of followers. And you might think the influencer in question is going to cost a lot more money since they have to pay the people who represent them. Neither of those perceptions are necessarily true. And one talent management firm that highlights the nuances of exceptions to the perceptions is Shine Talent. 

Influencer talent management

Jess Hunichen and Emily Ward founded Shine a few years ago when the two public relations pros grew tired of pitching clients as independent consultants collaborating. They started Shine as a public relations firm, then gradually shifted to fill the gap they saw in representing the online influencers many of their clients were hoping to connect with.

Shine’s roster of talent includes a number of lifestyle influencers, so parenting, fitness, food and the like. But they aren’t all half-a-million followers and up mega-influencers. In fact, Shine has several who have less than 50,000 followers. For them, follower count isn’t the only threshold to need representation. Sometimes the talent for creating great content and the desire to grow are a part of the equation, too.

Both Jess and Emily joined me recently to talk about the various ways they advise their talent on working with brands, how they handle the issues surrounding influencer fraud and what a good brand-influencer partnership really looks like. I found it quite refreshing that there are firms out there like Shine that aren’t just looking to make a good commission and are focused on connecting the dots between brands and the audiences of the great talent they represent.

This episode of Winfluence, the podcast, is sponsored by Winfluence, the book! Get a special discount by clicking the button below, buying on the Entrepreneur Press bookstore and using the discount code FALLS20. That earns you 20% off the retail price, just for being a Winfluence (the podcast) listener. Read and learn why we’ve been backed into a corner to think influencer marketing means Instagram and YouTube and how reframing it to be “influence” marketing makes us smarter marketers.


Winfluence - Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand

Order Winfluence now!

This episode of Winfluence, the podcast, is sponsored by Winfluence, the book! Get a special discount by clicking the button below, buying on the Entrepreneur Press bookstore and using the discount code FALLS20. That earns you 20% off the retail price, just for being a Winfluence (the podcast) listener. Read and learn why we’ve been backed into a corner to think influencer marketing means Instagram and YouTube and how reframing it to be “influence” marketing makes us smarter marketers.

Winfluence Transcript – Jess Hunichen and Emily Ward – Shine Talent

Jason Falls
Hello again, friends thanks for listening to Winfluence – The Influence Marketing Podcast. The world of talent management can seem a little unsettling if you don’t understand its function. I know the first time I ever reached out to an influential person online and was passed off to an agent type it was kind of a turnoff. But as I grew to understand the role of a talent manager – to handle the busy work of influence as a business and let the creator do what the creator does well – I realized talent managers serve a valuable function in the ecosystem. Now, you might think that talent managers really only come with influencers who have hundreds of thousands of followers. And you might think the influencer in question is going to cost a lot more money, since they have to pay the people who represent them. Neither of those perceptions are necessarily true. And one talent management firm that highlights the nuances of exceptions to the perceptions is Shine Talent.

Jason Falls
Jess Hunichen and Emily Ward founded Shine a few years ago when the two public relations pros grew tired of pitching clients as independent consultants collaborating. They started China as a public relations firm then gradually shifted to fill the gap they saw in representing the online influencers, many of their clients were hoping to connect with. Shine’s roster of talent includes a number of lifestyle influencers, so parenting, fitness food and the like. But they aren’t all half a million followers and up mega influencers. In fact, shine has several who have less than 50,000 followers. For them the follower count isn’t the only threshold to need representation. Sometimes the talent for creating great content and the desire to grow are part of the equation too.

Jason Falls
Both Jess and Emily join me recently to talk about various ways they advise their talent on working with brands, how they handle the issues surrounding influencer fraud and what good brand influencer partnerships really look like. I found it quite refreshing that there are firms out there like shine that aren’t always looking to make a good commission and are focused on connecting the dots between brands and the audiences of the great talent they represent. And I happen to have worked with one of Shine’s Influencers in the past I’ll be it on a small nonprofit activation. Can’t say that it wasn’t a perfectly delightful experience.

Jason Falls
This episode of Winfluence the podcast is sponsored by Winfluence the book. Get a special discount by going to jason.online/buywinfluence. That’s the Entrepreneur Press bookstore. Use the discount code FALLS20 on checkout that gets you 20% off the retail price just for being a Winfluence the podcast listener. Read and learn why we’ve been backed into a corner to think influencer marketing means Instagram and YouTube and how reframing it to be influence marketing makes us smarter marketers. We’re gonna take a walk through the jungle of talent management on the show today. Shine Talent Groups, Jess Hunichen and Emily Ward are next on Winfluence.

Jason Falls
Emily, let me start with you. Why don’t you give us the quick background on how Shine Talent got started and how you you fell into being talent management for online influencers?

Emily Ward
Sure. Um, so Jess and I met way back in 2014. And we were both freelancing in the PR space. And we started to book some big meetings together in terms of brand meetings, and decided really on a bit of like a whim. But we didn’t want to go into these meetings, as freelancers, we want to go into them as an agency. So we decided to start Shine PR originally. And then we started doing, you know, regular PR services in terms of like media relations and social media. But later on in that first year, in 2015, we started to see an opportunity in the Canadian market, especially that there is a lot of brands for wanting to work brands and PR agencies who want to work with social influencers that really didn’t know how to do it. And so we thought we’d come in and fill that space and we would be starting up one of the first talent management agencies for social influencers.

Jason Falls
Very good. And so Jess, both of you were PR folks, Was there another path for you to get where you are now.

Jess Hunichen
I know we both came I went I went to school for for marketing and events, but then fell very quickly into PR in Melbourne. So I grew up in Melbourne, Australia and then when I moved to Canada, gosh, around seven years ago, I met Emily a few months after that, and as she said we we both we were both working freelance and it worked out really well that we could join forces … but yeah, I know Em’s background probably is more an agent is is more in agency side and mine’s more brand side but in entertainment. So it’s certainly I would say it’s the closest to being in an agency with not being an agency because you, you look after a number of different programs, so they essentially feel like your clients, right?

Jason Falls
So there’s dozens of ways for brands to connect with influencers and content creators these days, they can reach out to them directly, they can work through an agency to do that they can use one of the influencer marketing platforms, then there’s reaching out to talent managers like this the service that you guys provide. Emily, how much of your activity with brands comes directly to shine versus the influencer in question or some third party, like a managed service reaches out? And then they have to kind of forward them on to you?

Emily Ward
Yeah, that’s the side of the business that we’ve been actively growing over the past couple years, I would say, like when we first started, very much, so it was more dominant that brands would be reaching out to talent, and then we would be like fulfilling the deal from there. But over the past few years, like we’ve worked really, really hard on developing our net network of brands read through agency direct relationships. And I would say, roughly, now, it’s like 40% of the business is agency and brands right to shine? You ….

Jess Hunichen
Yeah, yeah, maybe even a little more, maybe it’s probably closer to 50%. So and it’s something that we track very intentionally to make sure that we’re providing a really, really high value to our influencer and our like talent clients, right. So. So yeah, roughly 50% of the deals we would bring to our talent and roughly 50% they would fold over as part of like, their exclusive arrangement with us.

Jason Falls
Very good. Okay, so Jess let me stay with you for a second here. Give me a rundown of the types of content creators, that shine represents I looked at your roster, but the the audience probably hasn’t hasn’t done that yet. So yeah, what what kind of content creators are in your talent pool?

Jess Hunichen
Yeah, so I’d say they fall all loosely under the lifestyle, talent umbrella. But within that each of them kind of have their own silos that they gravitate more towards. So you know, there might be like parenting influences, there might be people who really focus in on fashion, or beauty or travel, and a space that we’ve really, you know, loved working with. And it’s really grown within our agency is like the body confidence, self love space, which we think is really cool. And I think, you know, we watch these these talent and how they grow and how they connect with their audience. And, you know, you see so many comments around, like, You changed my life, or you change the way that I think and feel about my body. So I think with that, like it’s watching them have not just an influence, but a real impact on people and like, how they, you know, how they, like think about themselves, which which we love to see, I noticed you have a category for podcasts.

Jason Falls
So can one or both of you confirm you consider podcasters influencers?

Emily Ward
Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think a number of speaking to one right now. And I and number of our talent over the years have have definitely jumped on like the podcast train. And I think it’s another like wonderful avenue for them to explore different kinds of conversations. And it also allows like advertisers and brands to get involved in a very different way as well. This is not where the brand would have to be still like aligned to the podcasters. Audience and theme, it doesn’t have to necessarily be the same type of collaboration. So it allows for a different type of ways for brands to have that kind of engagement.

Jason Falls
Well, some people forget about us. So thank you.

Jess Hunichen
We love the podcast space. We’re big fans of the podcast world.

Jason Falls
That’s good. So just when I think of working through a talent manager, I assume everything is going to lead to more of a transactional engagement and we’re we’re going to agree upon a price for X number of posts. And that’s that, but I’m more of a relationship guy. I want to explore longer term partnerships that are less about $1 amount more about really immersing an influencer in the brand. So the engagements deeper and more meaningful. Am I wrong in my assumption there and if influencer engagements were spread out on a continuum between transactional on one end and relational on the other? Where’s the sweet spot for your your group of influencers?

Jess Hunichen
Yeah, I think we absolutely fall like much, much further on the relationship side. And certainly, like there are conversations around contracts, deliverables, right like that. That’s a part of it. There’s no question. But certainly, like, their relationships are extraordinarily valuable to us. Like we want to foster them and, and, you know, nourish them as much as we can. And that’s very important to the talent who we represent. Particularly if we’re bringing on someone new. I was having a conversation with someone the other day and she was like, the brands that I work with are really, really important to me and I don’t want to like lose that connection with them. And I think it’s, you know, reassuring them that like we’re not going to come in and this maybe just the way Shine operates. I can’t speak for every agency, of course. But we’re not going to come in as like the big bad agents say, well, Oh, you were paying $1,000. For this, now you owe 10,000, take it or leave it. Like, they’re not like lions like that, like, at the end of the day, everything can be negotiated. And it’s something that I said, it’s really important to us. And we have fantastic relationships with a ton of the brands and agencies that we’ve worked with for three years now. And, and I think they come to us, not just because they’re like, Hey, I have a budget of X amount, who can I work with, they’re like, Hey, I have this brand, who I’m working with, or I’m from a brand, these are the kinds of talent I need to work with. These are the goals that I want to achieve. What do you think is the best strategy here, and they know that we’re going to present them talent who are really, really well aligned, and I think that’s for us, where it kind of comes out of that transactional place. Because for us, like, if we’re thinking strategic as a business, if we’re doing it just being that way, only, they’re not going to brands and agencies aren’t going to come back to us because it’s not going to perform. And then, you know, like, we rely on repeat business, of course, ever, who doesn’t, right. So I think for us, like, you know, that that’s the right strategy to take. But it’s also like, you know, those campaigns have the most traction if they’re, like, genuinely a good fit.

Emily Ward
Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say, like, I think the brands and agencies like over like the years, because when we started in Canada, which was like six years ago, this was all like a very, very fresh space, it was very new. And people were even just getting used to like actually paying for the collaborations in itself. And I think at that point in time, agencies and brands were just like dipping their toe in. So they were really afraid to be making these like long term or like ambassadorship programs. And the swing that we’ve seen, most recently, actually, I would say even last year, specifically due to a lot of the things that happened, just like within within the news, and we can get into that. But I think brands are kind of more swinging back towards looking at influencer relations and the alignment, they’re more like PR ambassadorships and choosing a select number of talent, who they thoroughly that in terms of brand alignment, and investing heavily in them, versus when they first started out and just kind of dipping their toe in and trying, you know, single cooperations with multiple influencers without feeling that they’re, you know, investing too far.

Jason Falls
Emily, let’s talk a little bit about the types of engagements that work really well for your clients, but are also big wins for the brand as well, do you have an example or two, maybe where both sides are really getting a lot out of the relationship and what the factors are in those that make them work?

Emily Ward
Well, I think that it’s kind of the tried and tested statements in terms of when the brand is well matched, like with the social talent, like that’s, that’s where it has to, like start from and a win for the brand, then would also be a win for like the social talent in terms of engagement. And the types of programs that work well, when that basis is there like definitely on something that is as we talked about longer term. So their communities are understanding that this is not just like a one off like posts that it actually is a brand or a service that the top like sincerely uses and is engaged with, I think the programs where I feel like the most interesting is like when they kind of extend one step further than just the like social space. So maybe it starts in terms of, you know, stories, Instagram stories and posts, but then it kind of goes into pushing towards a virtual event right now. And having like the actual talent speaking on behalf of the brand, or you know, over a series of posts and brand trust being grown, then all of a sudden, there is a product collaboration with the talent and, and the brand. And those can be like incredibly successful campaigns. Pre COVID, I also really enjoyed seeing the brands who would take risks, and involving social talent, like in their, their traditional marketing campaigns as well. And using them like in their, like, in their billboards using them in their commercials. Those are like amazing campaigns. And those are the people who are really speaking to their consumers today. And I loved seeing that for brands. I love seeing the progressive brands who are willing to take a risk that way.

Jason Falls
Yeah, I think as brands start to see the the influencers as more content creators as opposed to influencers and realize that they get they can get assets in return as opposed to just access in return. Now they start to say, Oh, wait a minute, it’s like using a freelancer, they can create content for us as well. I think we’re starting to see that shift and in a big way, which is really nice. Jess, I know you have you have quite a few folks with well into the six and seven figures of followers but you also represent some that technically qualify I guess is micro influencers? My first reaction to that is, you know, talent managers commissions for a micro influencer aren’t going to be as high of course, is it a matter of investing in someone’s long term potential? Or do you have a fee structure that maybe I’m not seeing?

Jess Hunichen
No, no, you’re right about the fee structure. And so I think it’s a, it’s an interesting one, we really started firmly in the micro space. And I think, you know, a lot of that talent have grown, I don’t wanna say out of that, like, out of that gas service offering. But you know, we’ve all kind of grown together, which has been really, really wonderful to watch. But that said, some of our more micro talents. So when we said, and I know, every agency, every brand has a different barometer for what micro means. So when we look at micro at shine, we’re probably looking at, you know, anywhere from 10 to 50,000 followers, roughly. So when we started, that was, that was our sweet spot. But it’s wild to see, like some of our smaller talent as some of our busiest like it, there is no question in that. And they do very, very well for themselves. And I think brands see that some of those talent with a smaller number of following a full, but a smaller number of followers just have like, amazing engagement with their audience, their audience, they know them, they trust them, they’re there for them. And, and they sell, right, so so that’s really interesting to watch.

Emily Ward
I was gonna say like, I feel like it’s trying to stand like very firmly behind like both the relatable tactic and then also like aspirational, so the talent her in like that micro space, they, they have the same feeling as somebody who’s in your social circle, or just outside your social circle. So their ability to have traction in terms of sales is really, really strong. But that’s not to discount the the social talent who have grown, like closer to that, you know, 500,000 million follower mark, because they have just a different style of influence, which is more aspirational people look up to them in a way that maybe they don’t necessarily feel like it could be their world. But it’s something that they like, aspire to have,

Jess Hunichen
For sure. And I think it’s also really interesting to watch, like, as you kind of touched on Jason, you know, we are also always looking for emerging talent, like who is who is next who’s going to kind of like hit that and, and some people hit it whilst they’re assigned. And some people hit it like, right before they’re signed, and then we can have we jump on them at that point. But it’s always like, I think that for us, like I know, it really excites me, like takes us back to like, our roots like we grew shine from, from nothing with talent, who at the time had never done a social collaboration before ever, when we started in Canada, and obviously now I have the office in the US. And that’s much more established. But when we started, like I was talking to one of our talent, Philip Jackson, a while ago, I just mentioned this in them in another interview the other day, but when she reminded me of this like a couple of years ago, and she said just when you signed me, I’d never done a collaboration. And I was like, like, it seems so wild to think about that now, because it’s not really the space that we play in. But it’s just so interesting to look back. And like we saw some people who just had amazing potential, a lot of the time we’re right, and sometimes we were wrong. But I think it’s still like we say to our team now, like, have a couple of people like on the roster, always who we think we identify as emerging talent. And I think that’s really important for us to be like, that helps our team to like always have like the ear to the ground on like, what’s going on. And we can like start to see that and kind of get ahead of those trends.

Jason Falls
So is there a low hin… low end threshold of someone that probably isn’t a good fit for Shine or representation? Or are we evolving to a world where even someone with you know, five or 10,000 followers, if they create really good content is worth having as a client? What’s what what are your litmus test for? Who’s someone you want to talk to as as a potential target there?

Jess Hunichen
Yeah, I don’t think we’d ever really go below 10,000 unless they’re speaking about something that is very niche, and brands are paying attention. So, you know, as we said, everything is negotiable, right? So I think that, you know, $10,000 is usually like a pretty, you know, a pretty firm barometer for us, just because brands are going to look at, you know, a big, they’re going to look at those numbers. But as we say to everyone, like, you know, people like when is the right time to get a manager? When do I reach out and it’s certainly not like at x number, then you reach out and then this is what happens. But I think that, you know, everyone, we as we say to all of our talent, who were having those like, pre emptive conversations with the right time to reach out is when that volume is increasing, and you’re ready to really like level up with it.

Jason Falls
So Emily, out of curiosity, I wonder how closely you will your client saturation rate. I’m seeing a lot of influencers lately who are sponsored for every post. And I can tell you right now, from a brand or an agency perspective, that’s not a good thing. In general, is that something you watch for? And what do you how do you advise your clients to think about that in terms of the volume of paid engagements they might want to take on?

Emily Ward
Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely something that our talent managers are aware of, and that we’re guiding our talent on. And for every talent, it is slightly different. Like, I feel like there’s some talent whose audiences have a much higher tolerance for sponsored content. And that’s actually what they go to them for as well. They’re looking for them to filter down the different brands in their world to help them make selections. So there’s some there’s some social talent, but they can do a high volume. But there’s others who have to be like, even more like cautious at that. So I think it’s being like aware of their followership and making sure that they’re, that they’re being like responsive and responsible to it, I think it becomes a challenging time, like over, you know, like the holidays like over the, you know, the holiday season when there’s so many, and we have to be like, quite like protective of the space to actually like block time for just organic content to take place. And that also has a lot to do with how we shift rates, if there’s a talent who has a really high demand for for collaborations in a particular month. And we know that once they get over a threshold of x, it stops performing as well. Their rates will go up, maybe even if their followership hasn’t.

Jason Falls
Interesting. So, Jess the topic of influencer fraud is something that seems to come up in every conversation I have these days, there are those out there, obviously, that purchase followers and or engagement done by bots, and there’s others that collude with other influencers to drive up comment counts on each other’s posts. I imagine, this is a tricky issue for some talent managers, because the bigger the follower accounts and engagement rate, the more dollars you can demand, at least, you know, from brands that don’t do strong assessments of the influencers they choose. So do talent managers in general work with the clients to prevent this? Or is it a don’t ask, don’t tell kind of thing? And how do you guys handle it?

Jess Hunichen
Yeah, it’s an interesting one. And of course, we talk about it a lot. And I think it comes back to something that we touched on earlier in terms of like those longer term ambassadorships or collaboration, partnership, you know, setups, because, you know, the, yes, the brand will work with you, once there is no question like, they’ll, they’ll see the, the number of followers, they’ll see the engagement rate, like, excellent, this is, you know, these, this hits all the markers, let’s let’s move forward. And then what’s likely going to happen is when they get into it, they’re just not going to see and again, every, every campaign has different goals, but they’re likely not going to see the conversion that they that they want. So with that, it just, you know, it’s a nice, like, one hit wonder for sure. But you’re just, you know, you really exhaust the brands and the categories that you can work with, like very, very quickly. So we talked about Helen about it a lot. Unfortunately, you know, it’s, it’s hard, like someone can like, like, I could buy you 10,000 Instagram followers tomorrow, Jason, and you see this little spike and, and you didn’t do it? And who knows who did it? Right. Like, it’s really, it’s a wild world out there. Like simply like crazy things about talent. Yeah, kind of sabotage other talent. Oh, my gosh, it’s, it’s, it’s, um, you know, again, like we saw really, that anyone who were signing at shine like that, that’s, that’s a first step. And then, but we have such wonderful relationships with our talent, that, you know, they’re going to come to us and say, Oh, I’m dealing with this weird situation, I saw a really big spike, and I don’t know what the heck happened. And we’ll help them go through that process and look into it before them. But I’ve got to say, like, I haven’t had one of those conversations recently, because it, it just doesn’t, we just don’t seem to do with it that much it shine. And again, it was so different to, you know, we would look at them as more like database platforms where influencers can all you know, sign up to and jobs get pushed through and you apply for it or you don’t, and, you know, we we vet our talent thoroughly. And we also vet every campaign thoroughly to make sure it works. So it’s not something that that we have too much trouble with as an agency at all anymore. Like maybe a few years ago, we talked about it more.

Emily Ward
I think, just like our vetting skills are really like high. Like, there’s a million different like tools that are out there and lots of agencies and brands use them but I think by nature just by being like PR trained we we’ve got talent in a very similar fashion as if you were in terms of like either, like crisis communications and and it’s quite obvious when you just look with like the naked eye and you really like look at the cars. Look who’s posting like, is it qualified comments? Are they actually talking about what’s in the post? Are they just shooting off like an emoji like it’s you, if you want to see it, you can pretty easily it’s just a matter of time.

Jess Hunichen
Yeah, like I my favorite qualified to look at is when you kind of like looking on desktop and you kind of could do a quick scan over and see how many likes and comments each post got. And then you look when I have a milestone, like a birthday, or they got married or something. And you see like their wedding photo, and I got like almost the same amount of likes and comments. I was like, oh, I’ve usually you see someone’s wedding photo, and every follower is like, congratulations, you look amazing, la la la. So when people don’t have that I’m like, Oh, that’s that your followers are either really not engaged. Or if you’ve got a lot of bots in there.

Jason Falls
I had somebody question the the reality of an influencers followers one time and they said, You know, I ran it through the free hype auditor tool wherever they found that, and it said that, that at 80% of this person’s followers were real people. And so they had a lot of confidence in them. And then I did I googled, I did one thing, found another tool and looked at their the makeup of their audience, and like 60% of their audience was from like Pakistan. So I was like, I’m thinking your hypeauditor things not not right?

Emily Ward
Well, it’s just that the tools aren’t consistent. And that and we we sincerely looked at like a number of them. But it was really hard to justify the costs of them because they’re not consistent. So we feel like what is the most consistent is going to the source of the content, like asking for the backend analytics and then like, again, like using a human eye to look through objectively and question some things as well.

Jess Hunichen
Yeah, and like you could you could look at 10 different types of software and get 10 different answers. So for us like it’s you know, sometimes with all the technology that we have the naked eye just just works.

Jason Falls
Preaching to the choir. I think we could talk about this all day and I’m sure we’ll continue the conversation in the weeks and months to come as well. Emily, I’ll start with you where can people find you online if they’d like to connect?

Emily Ward
Oh, absolutely. Our website is shinetalentgroup.com and that’s a great place to start. Talent can submit through an online forum if they’re interested in that presentation. And there’s also an online forum for brands and agencies who are looking for support

Jason Falls
Awesome Jess, anything to add there?

Jess Hunichen
I was just going to say our Instagram is shine underscore influencers. So that’s a that’s often the best place to find us where much like our talent heavily. You can always find us on Instagram.

Jason Falls
Well, thank you both so much for the insights here we do appreciate the knowledge and perspective.

Emily Ward
Thank you.

Jess Hunichen
Thank you so much for having us on.

Transcribed by otter.ai

The Winfluence theme music is “One More Look” featuring Jacquire King and Stephan Sharp by The K Club found on Facebook Sound Collection.


Winfluence - Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand

Order Winfluence now!

This episode of Winfluence, the podcast, is sponsored by Winfluence, the book! Get a special discount by clicking the button below, buying on the Entrepreneur Press bookstore and using the discount code FALLS20. That earns you 20% off the retail price, just for being a Winfluence (the podcast) listener. Read and learn why we’ve been backed into a corner to think influencer marketing means Instagram and YouTube and how reframing it to be “influence” marketing makes us smarter marketers.

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