When to Cut Ties With an Influencer

When to Cut Ties With an Influencer

You’ve put lots of time, effort and resources into finding influencers to work with on your campaign. You’ve educated them on your brand and goals, given them assets and answered all the questions they have. After the campaign is up and running, it’s smooth sailing. Everything is going well. They’re bringing people to your website or improving clicks or whatever your objectives are. But then it happens – they do something

Frustration with your marketing influencers

Maybe that something just makes you a little uncomfortable, but maybe it goes further and makes you cringe. It may not even be something they did that directly relates to your brand. It could be something they did in their personal life.

Sometimes, even after you thoroughly research into their past actions online and personal values to make sure they align with your brands, an influencer will do something that could have a negative impact on your brand. At that point, you have to make the decision – do you stick with the influencer or cut ties and end the relationship?

This was a decision previously facing Speedo, Ralph Lauren, Gentle Hair Removal and Airweave, following swimmer Ryan Lochte’s actions in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic Games. After Lochte and three fellow swimmers kicked in a gas station bathroom door and then filed a false report claiming they were robbed at gunpoint, the four brands had to decide if they would stick with him as an endorser. Ultimately all four made the decision to end their relationships with Lochte.

Now you might be thinking that the situation is different because he’s a celebrity endorser with a large following, not your ‘average’ social influencer. However, the same implications that came from his negative actions can still occur if a mid or micro-level influencer shines a negative light on your brand. So what led these four companies to drop the Olympic swimmer?

Financial assessment

First and foremost, you have to analyze if an influencer’s actions could impact your brand financially. Will your brand’s attachment to the person cause customers to forfeit your brand? If so, the decision is easy. If your brand is public, you also have to factor in stock price. You don’t want shareholders to be turned off by an influencer relationship.

Brand reputation assessment 

Even if your brand isn’t affected financially by the influencer, your brand’s value in the public’s eye could be impacted. If an influencer associated with your brand does something that’s really out of line with your brand’s values, it could lead to criticism of your brand, which can slowly build until it is financially affected.

Ethics assessment

Sometimes an influencer will do something that doesn’t necessarily impact your brand’s financial position or public reputation, but it simply makes you uncomfortable. These situations can be the hardest to assess because the damage isn’t as obvious. If it makes you uncomfortable though, odds are it makes others uncomfortable, too. The actions could eventually build to affect your brand’s reputation or its financial standing.

To make the decision easier, and to protect yourself legally, it’s a good idea to include a behavior clause in all of your influencer contracts. This clearly presents what you expect of the influencers you work with, as well as what would give you cause to end a relationship.

Of course, sometimes actions by an influencer that aren’t good for one brand, can be good for another.


In Lochte’s case, he was signed to an endorsement deal by Pine Bros. Softish Throat Drops after Speedo and his other pre-Olympic endorsers dropped him. With a tagline “Pine Brothers Softish Throat Drops: Forgiving On Your Throat,” it makes more sense for the cough drop brand to align itself with people asking for forgiveness and trying to rebuild their personal brand.