Having Sway – Danielle Wiley on Influencer Marketing



In 2020,  Danielle Wiley was included in the revered “Top 50” list by Talking Influence. And the agency she founded, Sway Group was selected by Chief Marketer as one of just three influencer agencies of the “2020 Chief Marketer 200”. So it’s a safe bet that she has something to say about #influencermarketing. And that’s what she did, in Epi 32 of Insider Interviews.

I’d had the chance to experience Wiley’s thoughts last year when she contributed to The Continuum, a publication about brand + demand marketing, which I’m privileged to edit. In that article she explained how to look at the KPIs of influencer marketing a little bit differently, and the varied ways to determine impact and engagement. We touched on that in this conversation, but a 30-minute conversation gives you a chance to understand much more — not just about this food writer turned marketer, but things like how cause-marketing is another essential ingredient in influencing consumers. And these days, Sway has evolved to embrace that (and she shared case study examples) as well as digital advertising, both programmatic and paid social, and built what was a natural extension: a content studio.

One of my favorite discoveries about Wiley (aside from learning about our common roots working at Food Network in the early days!) was that she was a baker and a cheesemonger at one point. I believe that takes the cake for eclectic pasts among my podcast guests. Her culinary chops have served her well, though, as she can name several brands in or around the category as clients, including Igloo, Coleman, and Domino’s.

If that didn’t get you hungry to hear more, here’s what else we discussed:

  • Wiley’s evolution from a baker and blogger to early stage expert in social media to our common ground in marketing chefs like Emeril as “c-hunks”!
  • Her observation of the power of engagement with popular bloggers — and the infusion of trust vs. the singular appeal of celebrity

In its infancy influencers were treated more like journalists. Brands were just sending them product and expecting that they would get reviews out of it. That worked …for a short period of time. …Then they realized ‘if we’re just sending them a box of Mac & Cheese, we can’t have control over messaging…’. And we started paying them.

  • How the transition from providing product to bloggers to hiring them necessitated greater trust and authenticity in the influencer, and the path to creative content was laid
  • How Sway itself evolved away from the “Hollywood agent” business model to be able to scale and replicate requests — whether for moms of bedwetters or people who picnic with pizza
  • How brands solve for the demand for content tonnage across multiple channels — which sparked the birth of a content studio
  • Why the most important step in the strategic brief is a deep dive into the brand’s KPIs — impressions? engagement?

The big thing to remember is that as you increase in following the engagement rate goes down dramatically.

  • What’s a micro or a nano influencer and why does it matter — and the various forms of sponsorship. (Hint: Feel free to sponsor THIS podcast just by buying me a coffee!)
  • The shift from wanting to steer clear of influencers with a point of view, to actively seeking that out — and how the GenZ demand for brand purpose has influenced how brands use influencers!
  • Wiley explained the two initiatives Sway worked on for Stonyfield Farms, for example – tapping eco-conscious influencers and creating a cause-related corporate initiative

We took a deeper dive into pro-social initiatives and examples, and the confluence of content channels. (Of course I mentioned the conference I’m producing about the intersection of television and podcasting for example!) And that led to a chat about why Wiley’s family gets a little annoyed about her heavy podcast consumption habit!

Find Danielle Wiley at:

Sway’s social channels are:
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