I can’t get enough of “Black Panther,” and I know I’m not alone. From the all-black cast, to the action, to its social messages (oh, and did I mention its fierce all-female military group!?), it’s easy to see why this Marvel flick is striking a chord across America. But beyond the superhero movie’s on-the-edge-of-your-seat fight scenes and cultural messages, “Black Panther” offers another important lesson – this one for brand communicators and influencer marketing strategy.

In recent years, influencer marketing has seemingly become a bandwagon tactic versus a strategic initiative. Specifically, an influx of attention is being paid to influencers on social media. The keyword here is paid. Especially with Facebook’s changing algorithm, which prioritizes posts from family and friends over those from businesses, brands are paying celebrities and other influencers to promote their products in the hopes of tapping into audiences. It’s not a bad approach, but it is somewhat blind, and it can cost money – and sometimes, a lot of it.

Influencer marketing should be about credibility. But paying people to “like” our products, services or ideas, and “encourage” others to do the same, can lack authenticity. When did influencing people become a simple transaction!?

Leveraging Relationships for Your Influencer Marketing Strategy

Let’s go back to “Black Panther.” T’Challa, king of the country Wakanda, knows better than to use transactions as a way to influence. He didn’t become a revered leader by paying people to believe in him. It’s clear T’Challa’s connections and lasting relationships helped him become so adored. He leverages his existing relationships and regains power through collaborative efforts – and a bit of give and take – not transactions.

For example, when American agent Everett Ross starts to learn things about Wakanda that the rest of the world doesn’t know, he could have reported this intel to the U.S. However, when Agent Ross gets shot, T’Challa brings him back to Wakanda to heal him. Agent Ross returns the favor with loyalty; the duo works together to help T’Challa regain his position as King.

We see how T’Challa’s connections come into play again when another character, M’Baku, protects T’Challa as he recovers from his fight with the antagonist, Killmonger. It’s clear T’Challa and M’Baku have history. T’Challa lets M’Baku live, even after M’Baku tries to dethrone him. In the end, they too work together, using their shared connection to defeat Killmonger.

While “Black Panther” takes us to a new high-tech world, it surprisingly teaches us about the importance of human connection and leveraging existing relationships. We’ve become so focused on data and analytics in marketing (and in all walks of business), but this movie serves as a reminder that sometimes, influence doesn’t work in such logical and transactional ways. Analytics are important today. We can show how many followers an influencer has, and how many people clicked on a link, then checked out. But shouldn’t we be looking to connect more meaningfully – where we’re advancing and building real relationships?

Black Panther teaches us to look closer to home for an influencer marketing strategy.Click To Tweet“Black Panther” teaches us to look closer to home for an influencer marketing strategy. Your organization’s leaders are already well connected. Leverage existing relationships first and then tap into like-minded networks. Read more about how to shift your PR strategy here.

Wakanda Forever.


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With a background in journalism, Rachel combines her passion for news with her expertise in media relations to deliver effective results. She also handles day-to-day communication with clients, media outreach, social media activities, writing and messaging. Rachel provides strategic counsel to clients across the healthcare and business industries and is a critical team member for Stern Strategy Group's architecture and design accounts. If you can’t find Rachel at her desk, she is probably behind the camera filming one of Stern’s in-house videos. And when not at work, you can find her at one of three places: on a run, on a soccer field or on the beach.