In a special edition of "10 Questions," we profile Idalia Salsamendi—business strategist to top influencers and fashion houses—to tell us more about the brand side of the business.
Name: Idalia Salsamendi
Years working in the industry:
— Overall entertainment industry: 15 years
— Fashion/Influencer Industry: just shy of 9 years
1. How did you transition from working with models to influencers? How did you get started working with influencers?
The formal transition literally happened overnight as weird as that sounds. I had been working for NEXT for a couple of years as a model booker (first Los Angeles, then New York) and when the opening came in New York for someone to take charge of the Talent Board, they trusted in me to lead the ship. I already had personal relationships with a couple of influencers on the board, plus working out of the LA office I experienced first-hand the birth of the capitalism of the blogging world. I've always been passionate about the space and had the relationships both with the brands and influencers, so the transition was in the cards.
2. When did you know that you could make a living doing this work?
Since 2011. I distinctly remember working at FORD in Los Angeles, and sitting down with the President at the time begging her to let me start an Influencer Division there. I came in with a formal presentation and points of reference, but it was like if I was speaking some alien language. She (and later the board) didn't understand the need for it at that point, but I knew that there was money to be made and the shifting of the industry was inevitable.
3. How do you choose what influencers to work with? What qualities draws you do them
REALNESS. With the market being so overly-saturated with influencers, my mission statement is to work with good-hearted and hard-working people. My reputation and business depend on that seal-of-approval. That's why when clients book through me, they know I'll get the job done correctly and leave them happier than they expected. In order for me to do that, I have to trust and admire the influencer I'm working with. The influencer also has to be in it for something bigger than themselves and giving back to society. I always ask when I meet with an influencer, "So what do you do to give back to the world?" If I get a puzzled look on their face, it's an automatic red flag. I'm not here to work with someone who only wants a free face mask or a front row seat at Dior (that will come in due time). I'm here to help build empires that can benefit the world at-large in some capacity.
4. What's been your favorite brand collaboration to have worked on?
Eek! There are seriously too many to come to mind. I've had the incredible privilege of working with the best of the best in this world. If I say one brand, all the others will be emailing me in no time asking why they're not the favorite. And I wouldn't blame them! I only work with people I like!
5. Who do you look to for inspiration?
My mom. She's a political refugee from Cuba that came to the states at the age of 11 with barely anything. To see how she started in life and what she's been able to accomplish is mind-blowing. This is a woman that never complains, and is always always always thankful and appreciative of life. Her career path has been awe-inspring, working for Univision for the past 25 years. She's the one that got me into acting at the age of 8, and at 19 got me into Public Relations which was the start of my career. She's the one that when I feel overwhelmed tells me I can accomplish anything and everything. She's my compass that's always due north. That's why two years ago we started our jewelry line, LaHavane New York, so we can unite forces in something we both love. Now being co-owners and seeing the immense success of the line, it only proves my point that a strong woman is capable of anything!
6. What's the hardest thing about your job?
Controlling my Cuban spicy temper! This industry can get so freakin' shady and it's something I have zero tolerance for. I stand by my ethics and morality, not by a paycheck. I don't sell out. When I see clients trying to take advantage or pull fast-ones on my talent, I have had to learn to calmly call them out on the BS and offer a solution.
7. What’s something that brands don’t know about working with influencers? Vice versa?
Perhaps the question can be redefined as something they need to "remember" instead of "learn"? My personally experience (with macro-influencers) is that sometimes brands forget that influencers are human. These people have lives, families, real things they go through, most of which are hardly ever expressed on their platforms. We all need to be more empathic and compassionate to one another, especially since this industry is ran by so many women.
And then visa versa? Influencers have to always keep in the forefront that this is a business and brands expect results. When a brand trusts an influencer with their PR/Marketing/Advertising budget, not only is the person who booked the job on the line, but also the brand itself. The rule of thumb with both micro and macro influencers is to authentically build the relationship. It takes two to tango, y'all.
8. What projects are you working on right now?
SO many exciting things! First off, my podcast, Realization, has officially launched today! I created this podcast to be a space to have refreshingly honest and direct dialogues about not what's really going on in the fashion/influencer industry but about the world in general. It's been about six months in the making, so I hope everyone out there sees I'm pouring my heart, soul and mind in this and follows along on the journey.
I'm also continuing to expand my online Kits which people are absolutely loving! It's incredibly humbling to make these Kits for people who have a genuine interest in wanting to see their business grow in one respect or another. I'm always always always asking on social media, "What information do you want? What information are you not receiving anywhere else online that you think will make a difference in your life?," and from there I start to build these Kits to give people what they want and need. All of that can be found on my website.
9. Where is the influencer landscape headed—what would your job look like in 5 years?
The influencer world is here to stay, at least for the foreseeeeeable future. So long as people are spending their money online and on social media platforms, there will be a need for that respective advertising. Behold the influencer! Where I think the tide will shift is how brands integrate. My hunch tells me we are heading towards the world of metrics (Conversion, CTR, CPM) and no longer the world of followers which could be easily bought. And for me? I'd be humbled to see the continuation of the evolvement of my career. To lead powerful discussions around the world on the how and whys of the industry. To dedicated more of my time to charitable causes. To run for office. To continue to help inspirational, empowering brands/women/men achieve and surpass their goals. I want to do it all and with a grateful heart, the sky is the limit!
10. What advice would you give to emerging influencers or marketing professionals in the industry?
To any and all: do the hard work, put in the due time, don't try to cheat the system, and don't complain. This above all: don't be an asshole.