Qianna Smith Bruneteau is the founder of the American Influencer Council (AIC) and serves on its Board of Directors as a representative of the Leadership Team. With nearly two decades of experience, she is well versed in building brand awareness, advocacy and crafting end-to-end content marketing solutions that convert. Qianna has won multiple industry awards and provided expert commentary for the New York Times, Business Insider, Forbes, Vogue Business and Business of Fashion. The AIC has an Instagram page.
Qianna has a BA in pre-law political science, a master’s in fashion journalism and has worked in the digital marketing and custom content space for nearly two decades. She started off as a blogger before moving into corporate.
“I was fortunate enough to write for everyone from Teen Vogue to Huffington Post. And Then I did some cool projects like the social media for the first season of Asia’s Next Top Model, a Tyra Banks spinoff. I’ve touched just about everything from publishing to TV. And then of course corporate social media marketing.”
She got involved in many different types of influencer marketing campaigns, writing contracts, contracting influencers directly and working with agencies. This, she says, allowed her to touch on every type of way to work with creators.
“I always felt creators didn’t have the kind of professional networking that, say, brand marketers had. I felt that was a missed opportunity. Like where do you turn to if you don’t have corporate support?”
The AIC is a 501(c)6 trade association that was founded on June 30, 2020 (which happens to be Social Media Day).
“The council is somewhere creators can come and find community and representation and advocacy for issues important to them. We do everything from learning and development, to lobbying, to events. You name it.”
To join the AIC, one must be a fulltime creator, be publicly known for as a career creator and has a reputation for providing an influencer service. They must also have follower integrity, worked with B2C and B2B brands, and have been in the influencer space for at least 3 years.
Qianna sits on the organization’s leadership. A board provides strategic steering for the council. Patrick Janelle is the organization’s chairman.
Qianna says the AIC is a ‘learning and development first’ trade association.
“We champion lifelong learning. You fortify knowledge by sharing it. We are trying to encourage career Creators to think of other creators as their colleagues. Partnering with your colleagues, collaborating with other colleagues, to create community. Because the stronger the creator community is by coming together and fortifying knowledge, the better we can push this industry forward to drive innovation.”
Over its one year of existence, the AIC has established several programs
“Like ‘AIC in the Classroom’ where we take creators into different universities and pair them with professors to present. University professors don’t do the work we do and they are eager to knowledge share. We have partnered with UCLA, Woodbury University, North Carolina University and Marist College to (virtually due to COVID) take creators to work on different case studies.”
The AIC has also recently launched the Career Creator Club which pairs nano, micro and mid-tier creators with Fortune 500 executives for a six-month cohort.
“Our first cohort are all Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) creators and AAPI executives. And we did that in light of ‘Stop Asian Hate.’”
For members, the AIC offers networking, events, conferences and trade news.
“As a Council member, you can attend events and participate in task forces and committees. That’s how we get Council work done. Then, our monthly programs like our Creator Lunch-and-Learn webinar allows creators to tackle industry hot topics and share their expertise. Our last one was on performance marketing to better understand metrics that drive business impact for brands. We also do a Creators In Conversation series where you can hear from platform leaders and Silicon Valley insiders.”
What Makes the AIC Different
The AIC is the only trade organization in America that’s led by creators for creators, Qianna says.
“The AIC is a first-to-market concept already. The formation of the Coucil was disruptive and unprecedented. We are going to continue to be change agents and call things out. Awareness is a powerful agent for change, and we are all already seeing people take notice of what we are advocating. We have seen a lot of the platforms creating funds, adding more business development resources and changing the way they are offering monetization programs.”
The AIC stands for creators as business professionals and as small business owners, she says. The AIC wants Millennial and Generation Z influencers taken seriously and not be mistreated or misrepresented by brands.
“We want creators to feel empowered, to know their bargaining rights and to own their narrative. A lot of people have trialed and erred their way through this profession. We want young people to know they have the support of the community when they want answers. The work they are doing, maybe their parents may not understand but the AIC does.”
The AIC is building its think tank as part of its long-term strategy, she says.
“We are really looking for people who are change agents and who want to usher in a new era of professionalism. And so we are slowly growing our membership and building out our leaning and development programs.”
Qianna believes the best investment one can make is in themselves.
“Be sure to know the space you are working in. What are the laws and the regulations? You are only as good as a business person if you are informed. Stay hungry to know how the platforms policies are impacting your growth and your ability to monetize. Protect your intellectual property because you have power in your content and ownership of that.”