Before working in the influencer marketing space, Larissa’s career started in government where she worked for different sectors. She would gradually grow dissatisfied and started to evaluate what aspects of the job she liked the most. Larissa went back to school and secured a marketing job at the city of St. Augustine, Florida.
“I started as their marketing manager and then progressed to the dock master. I was still doing marketing and the dockmaster was the manager of the marina. I decided I still want to be in marketing. I didn’t want to be a dock master.”
She moved back to Washington State where she worked in tech marketing. Notably, she took up a role in corporate communications for F5 Networks mainly working for Fortune 500 companies.
“The biggest part of my job was testimonials. Working with Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon and Apple. We worked closely with those companies creating Testimonials, to do PR. And it was kind of a different B2B kind of influencer marketing. We would hold conferences and have them speak on our behalf. Which was really fun. And that kind of got me in the influencer space to begin with.”
Getting Into Influencer Marketing
She started her own company and initially worked with comedians (her brother was doing standup comedy). It started with preparing a resume for her brother’s best friend and eventually led to running booking gigs for multiple comedians.
“Some have gone on to be much bigger. One was a local radio host. His show is now syndicated. Another owns a comedy show but was also on MTV.”
Larissa would proceed to work with influencers in other industries including authors, athletes and fashion. She had her own fashion magazine for four years (see here and here). However, most of her background is with athletes. When she started doing marketing, social media was not really huge. She got drawn to influencer marketing after seeing people who used to be in the limelight, fade away.
“For example, a former athlete might be older and constantly getting press. It was a lot more difficult for them to do that because they didn’t know how to use a social space. Really great wonderful people that deserve to be influencers were not able to use social media the way younger people were. And so I would come in and teach them how to do that.”
Her initial experience in the influencer marketing space was not positive.
“The influencer space is interesting in that everyone thinks they can do it. Everybody thinks they can be an influencer and it should happen overnight. A lot of people were angry because they were not instantly becoming celebrities. That’s been the biggest challenge for me. Well, it takes work. It doesn’t happen overnight unless you’re lucky. It is not just about taking pictures and posting on social media. There is so much more that goes behind it.”
Working at the Arena
As her kids got older and didn’t need her as much, she opted for a regular nine-to-five job as a marketing director at the Arena. She has been at the Arena for about two years now.
“I was only here for six months before COVID-19 hit and everything shut down. And we had to scramble and figure things out because we had to shut down completely.”
It was a difficult time to navigate and Larissa tapped into her old network.
“All the people I have worked with in the past for our clients. Friends, relations I had built working on different projects. And we did a series of concerts, comedy shows, discussions. And it was a huge hit. Hundreds of thousands of viewers on our shows.”
Larissa no longer owns a marketing agency (she did for 11 years) but still does side gigs.
“I’ll do a side gig every once in a while. Like right now I’m working with an author and working also with a real estate company. I am also working with an international pageant winner. But those are kind of on the side. My full time job is being marketing director here at the Arena.”
Influencer Marketing Tips for Businesses
Businesses must realize the value of influencer marketing and that it will cost money.
“I’ve heard people say to me ‘I’m not going to pay somebody to post something on Instagram for me’. You need to understand that it is a job and it is really hard. And these people do invest a lot of time into influencer marketing. I think people just don’t just understand how it works. You need to pay people their value.”
No two marketing campaigns are the same. Every campaign’s goals are different and it’s important to understand this, she advises.
“Who is your audience? What age? Demographic? What part of the country? Culture here in Seattle is completely different than Florida. So I’m not going to market in Florida the same way I would market in Washington. So even how you’re doing your influencer marketing is going to vary.”
Larissa emphasizes the importance of having a story in a successful marketing campaign.
“I’ve seen many social media influencers not create a story. They don’t realize those pictures need to tell something in order to grab people’s attention. Most successful campaigns have always been ones that have good stories behind them.”
Media coverage is her favorite KPI for evaluating a marketing campaign’s success.
“If the press picked it up, you did something right and that is going to lead to more likes. As a PR person, sometimes I might give them a nudge to know it is happening. Is it something people are going to look at and care about and want to share?”
Influencer Marketing Tips for Influencers
Do not sell yourself short.
“The biggest thing I have learned being in this industry is don’t undervalue yourself. The more you undervalue yourself, the more people undervalue you. If you have a million followers or 200,000 followers, that’s worth money. Don’t let somebody take advantage of you.”
Understand the brand you are working with.
“I can’t tell you how often I have tried to work with an influencer that doesn’t know the brand they are working for. I will never work with that person again because now I know they weren’t willing to put in the effort to learn about my brand.”
“The worst client I ever had was somebody that turned down good opportunities because they weren’t big enough. Don’t think it happens overnight. Just know we all started out being at the bottom. Don’t be afraid to try something.”
“Don’t have your head in the clouds. Treat people with kindness. People remember that and brands remember that.”
Network. Network. Network.
“Networking is the key to life. The more people you know and the kinder you are to people and the more you give to people, the more you get back.”
Recognize the evolving impact of social platforms.
“Never assume a platform is THE platform. Every time I get comfortable with a platform, a new one comes out and it’s now more popular. Like right now it’s TikTok. If you get too comfortable on one platform, it could destroy your career. Trend is never stop learning about a platform or trend.”
Larissa wishes there would be less negativity on social media.
“If I could take away the negativity, I could do that.”
Larissa Long is director of marketing at Angel Of The Winds Arena, where she directs all marketing, public relations and group sales of the Arena, the Everett Community Ice Rink and the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center. Before then, she ran a marketing agency for 11 years. Larissa has an associate degree from Pierce College, a bachelor of business administration from Northwest University and a graduate certificate in marketing strategy from Cornell University.