The Register of Health and Wellness Influencers is the first and only independent register for the Health & Wellness Influencers worldwide, recognising the qualifications and expertise of influencers and bloggers within the wellness industry.
Tell us a little about your background and how the register came to be?
I started off my career in medical and healthcare communications and worked with national, Pan-European and global public health, regulatory and compliance teams in organisations like the NHS, NGOs and pharmaceutical companies, to ensure that internal procedures and external communications met regulatory expectations. Throughout my career what has always captured my interest has been the need to increase public health literacy levels and the direct effect this has on an individual’s ability to achieve health and wellbeing.
Coming from such a regulated healthcare space, where evidence-based information is king, I was concerned about the quality of consumer content in wellness, and that brand partnerships were largely based on popularity and not necessarily expertise.
After raising this issue to a few people working in the industry, I was met with the response that the industry was ‘different’ and ‘doesn’t need to be as strict.’ It was here that the mission to tackle this mindset was conceived and a year later The WellSpoken Mark was born and two years later along with the Health Bloggers Community the Register of Health and Wellness Influencers was created – both organisations hold the mission to restore credibility to the core of the wellness industry.
The onus in wellness has always been for the public to decipher good from bad information; however, I believe that brands and influencers have a responsibility to make sure that the information they publish is of the very best standard.
What has been the hardest thing(s) about starting this latest venture? How you’ve worked around the challenges
The hardest challenge was trying to convince brands and influencers that they needed to work to an industry-wide standard. Any industry that has such a consumer focus needs to be accountable for the content it produces. Instead of leading with the stick and taking a call-out approach we decided to champion those who are passionate about making sure content is credible.
What are the requirements for getting registered?
An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect the purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience. These include, but are not limited to social media influencers, health bloggers and health writers.
Choosing to register with RoHWI brings a wide range of benefits – but most importantly shows to the public that you uphold high standards of practice in your work. Being registered builds trust with your audience by demonstrating that you are working to a robust framework. Applicants apply through our registration page and complete our online Influencer Training Scheme and Screening certification (including a full curriculum and 4 assessments all completed online).
There are some that say that the pharmaceutical-driven western approach to health and research has a lot to answer for, how do you still make room for the more alternative and newly emerging approaches to health and healing that some individuals find useful?
There is definitely a place for alternative practices and although we may not have clinical evidence to prove their benefit – there is still so much anecdotal evidence that indicates that lots of people have positive experiences with alternative approaches. The challenge for us comes when we communicate risk and benefit. What the ‘clinical’ approach to evidence does give us is a framework to understand safety concerns, side effects, contraindications and risk groups.
For many alternative practices, we do not yet have that information and people can take up practices feeling thinking that there are not risks for things dubbed as ‘natural’. We also need to be careful to not have disparaging messages about conventional and traditional medicine – while we can have opinions it is super important that we do not make generalised statements that can affect someone’s wellbeing.
What do you predict for wellness in 2019?
I think wellness will look quite different in the next year and we will move away from seeing it through the lens of either fitness, nutrition or self-care but as a holistic approach to living. I also think regulation in the space is going to get a lot tighter – the register is the start of influencers, but as a whole, a true clean-up will definitely start.
What has been the biggest lesson in starting this venture?
Dealing with imposter syndrome was a big challenge at the start – as somewhat of an outsider to the wellness community it was difficult to have challenging conversations when you didn’t have a seat at the table. However, when your idea is solid and has legs, you have to believe in the process of getting it off the ground. Seeking counsel to buffer up your emotional wellbeing is just as important as getting advice on your business plan – especially if you are trying to disrupt a whole industry!
Did you have a mentor or people you asked for advice?
Absolutely, coming from the healthcare sector understanding how to manoeuvre the wellness sector was a whole new world – I was used to Pharma companies and doctors, rather than boutique gyms and influencers. I had a business coach. Lauren Armes who runs WellToDo – she was instrumental in guiding me through developing the business and navigating the industry.
How has what you do, changed you as a person?
Resilience! trying to convince people to shift their mentality around content is not an easy conversation – many people we have approached would not even grant us the time of day to hear our proposition – this is where you really need to dig deep and really work to make your dream a reality.
What are the top 5 books and blogs on your reading list?
I’m definitely a book girl – I love reading about human behaviour and how we learn, adapt and change the way we interact with the world – my top books are:
- Blink – an exploration of how we can hone our instinctive ability to make better decisions in all areas of life
- The Spirit Level, an amazing overview of how inequality affects so many areas of society including our health
- Nudge is a review into choices – how we make them and how we can make better ones
- Natives, the Sunday Times bestseller on race and class in the UK
- Originals, a series of anecdotes focused on how bucking the status quo can drive meaningful change
What’s yet to come?
Hopefully, we will soon launch a content channel – we are so vitally aware that the wellness space lacks both diversity and inclusion when it comes to those who are the lead content creators and influencers. We want to really increase health literacy rates across the board not to just to those who have the most privilege to access what we dub as ‘wellness’
Do you have any unconventional words of advice?
Don’t be afraid to disrupt! If someone tells you it will be too hard to pull off or the ceiling is too high, that is your cue to really go for it.
If money and time were no object, what would be on your to-do and to-see list?
I’m a bit of a history buff and would love to learn how to restore antique furniture – my grandmother was an interior designer and had a passion for working in listed buildings – if money was no object would retrain and travel the world looking working to restore historical pieces.