The OG of Canadian Influencers: An interview with Jillian Harris

As most of you know (and something I’ve written about in the past), influencer marketing has taken over the marketing world. It has become a tactic in many of our marketing strategies and has proven to be effective time and time again.

At 88 Creative, we talk about the world of influencer marketing constantly – about our favourite bloggers, our most successful campaigns, and about how we can improve our strategies moving forward, but I wanted to find out what it’s like on the influencer side of it all.

Recently, we were lucky to work with Jillian Harris, the queen of Canadian influencers, on a campaign with our client Nutram. I took that opportunity to ask her a few questions about her experience as a lifestyle blogger and influencer and find out what she loves about her job and how marketers can do better.

88 CREATIVE: What led you to lifestyle blogging? Tell us about how you started your site and how you knew it would be a success.

JILLIAN HARRIS: I started doing this after working on The Bachelor/Bachelorette. I wanted a place to just share WHATEVER I was thinking with everyone and decided to create it myself! At first, I did the odd DIY and food post mixed in with lifestyle and decor and it all took off from there! Now I do all of that and more.

88C: What was the first brand you worked with? How did that relationship come about?

JH: The first brand I remember working with is The Cross Decor & Design. I’m sure there were others before that but this was definitely the one that stood out the most. When I started blogging, I used to shop at the store and that’s when they asked me to do a feature – that was 7 years ago and they’re still one of my favourite partners! I make sure that I only partner with companies and brands who I already love or who I feel would be natural and organic fit with my brand, so The Cross was perfect. It’s important to me to keep my messaging and brand true to the things I love.

88C: How do you assess the kinds of brands you want to work with?

JH: Now that I am doing my best to reduce my meat and animal consumption and live a more plant-based lifestyle, animal ethics and animal testing is a huge factor for me to consider. Other than that, I also make sure that any brand or product I promote is something that I support and love already. This makes it easy for me to speak and write about them, and keeps it super organic and natural. It’s always clear when an influencer backs something they don’t support and I don’t want to be one of those people. I make sure that every brand I work with works within the JH branding.

88C: What’s the worst pitch you ever got?

JH: I was so flattered that I recently got approached to do a liquor post but I was already 3 months pregnant and I couldn’t find a way to integrate it organically.

88C: What was the best?

JH: Last year I got to bring Shay [my Managing Editor] to Hawaii with me to blog about staying at a hotel. We had to pinch ourselves when we realized that we were getting paid to do this.

88C: Are there any trends in influencer marketing that concern you?

JH: I’ve realized brands have a lot of money; the more of an audience you have the more money these brands have. It makes it difficult to say no to partnerships that are lucrative. I’m trying to make a switch to a lifestyle with more ethical products but sometimes big brands have deep pockets and it makes it hard to say no, and I see other influencers struggling with that as well. I remind myself that it’s all fun and part of the business, but I also know that my brand has to be well-balanced and I have to make sure I’m not over-saturating my content with paid posts because organic content is still important and helps maintain authenticity. I know I definitely struggle with it too – I could make a lot of money if I said yes to all of the deals that come through and sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing!

88C: What’s exciting you about the future of lifestyle blogging and influencer marketing?

JH: For me, even though I love working on set of Love It or List It, I know I could eventually support my family by being an online influencer. I’ve worked really hard for what I have now! I have a great team that I love working with, and it makes me so happy and empowered to know that I am able to support not only them but also my family. It excites me that I can provide great content to readers so they can too be inspired, and create a business for myself and my family at the same time.

88C: Do you have any tips for people looking to grow their personal brand?

JH: I think the biggest tip that I can give is that you have to be a perfectionist – you can never be too picky. When it comes to your social media platforms, you have to think about what you’re posting and why. Your brand is an online magazine and every platform has to fit together seamlessly while also being as genuine as possible. The more genuine you are, the more feedback you will receive. Sometimes it will be negative feedback, but that can be good! My recent switch to a plant-based lifestyle was hard and stressful for me and I had to deal with a lot of backlash but I know ultimately it was good for me and my brand and I’m growing from it instead of just staying static.

Thank you, Jillian Harris, for your amazing insights. You’re a true OG in this business and it’s a pleasure working with you and your team!

Danielle is a Digital Account Manager at 88 Creative. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @DFabes.