Influencer marketing is no longer a niche part of a brand’s marketing strategies—it truly has gone mainstream. How do we know? When legacy publishing companies such as the New York Times, Condé Nast, and Time magazine employ agencies to help “up” their influencer marketing offerings for brands, it’s probably a safe bet to say that even your grandma has by now heard of this innovative and highly effective new way of marketing.

For Smart Publishers, Influencers Feel Like Staff Members

Publishers have a unique relationship with online influencers. When they are sourcing and building relationships with influencers, they have to straddle a fine line between choosing people who represent their brand (the New York Times, for example), as well as the advertisers’ brands (say, Rémy Martin cognac).

The publishers who really treat influencer marketing as an organic part of their brand offering to other brands (as is the relationship between publishers and the advertisers they hope to snag), are the ones who have the most success. Those who simply use influencer marketing as a “tacked on add-on” to their advertising deal offerings? Not so much.

Quoted in a recent digiday.com article, Howard Mittman, publisher and chief revenue officer at GQ, had this to say about the publisher/influencer partnership: “You must curate your network by looking at more than just the total audience they can deliver…You must work to find contributors whose ideals reflect the broad values of your organization and you need to manage and maintain relationships with them as you would your staff.”

How GQ Does It

Speaking of GQ, the popular men’s magazine is a great example of how publishers are using influencer marketing. Working with a pool of some 6,500 influencers, GQ mines their influence and insights for market research, as well as full-on influencer marketing campaigns. One such campaign, GQ Stories, shares various influencers’ “stories” in series of three video chapters each.

For example, one video story focuses on men’s fashion designer Angel Ramos, who has a very healthy 40,000+ Instagram following. While he’s sharing what it took for him to get his fashion company off the ground, he’s seated comfortably on a stylish sofa…with a bottle of Rémy Martin cognac casually placed on the table in front of him. The advertiser? Rémy Martin, of course. One of the biggest ways these types of publisher/advertiser influencer campaigns benefits the advertisers’ side of things is by taking the onus off them of making sure the influencer matches the brand.

“One of the challenges of doing influencers marketing is making sure you partner with someone who connects with the same values you have,” Rémy Martin’s VP of Marketing said in another digiday.com piece, “(It’s) a very organic way to approach consumers with a lifestyle that isn’t always coming from a brand’s voice but is coming from people who are like them; that are real and not created by marketing, if you will…(The Rémy integration) feels like you’re going to a friend’s house.”

And that’s the ultimate goal of any influencer marketing campaign, isn’t it? That it’s real. That it doesn’t feel as if it’s been created by a marketing team. And that it feels as comfortable and trustworthy as hanging out with your friends, at their house, or over dinner.

Don’t be afraid to take a page from the publishing world’s “book” of influencer marketing. Sometimes, the most creative ideas come from those who have to think a step or two outside the usual box.