Condé Nast Social Academy presentation.

MILAN If you can’t beat them, join them.

Fighting the prejudice that bloggers and social influencers stand at the opposite end of the media world from established, glossy magazines, Condé Nast Italia on Monday launched the first Social Academy to train a new, certified generation of influencers.

“We’re here to dispel a false myth, that influencers are the enemies of media companies,” said Condé Nast Italia’s editorial director and corporate communication director Luca Dini, presenting the project at the city’s Teatro Litta venue.

“Consumers don’t see borders between journalists and influencers anymore,” echoed Condé Nast Italia chief executive officer Fedele Usai. “These are divisions we feel internally but the world outside is already marching at another pace.”

The main purpose of the initiative is to teach the correct way to use social media, which focuses on quality content and respect for ethical standards. These include being specific about advertised posts and managing the number of followers and likes with transparency.

As a result, once the courses are over, the newly formed professionals will receive certification and will be integrated in Condé Nast’s network of social influencers, which already counts 300 people.

“There are no good or bad platforms, just qualitative differences,” noted Usai, explaining how the company wanted to take an active role into the field to create professional opportunities and oversee this area.

“This is our social responsibility, we have to train people. And if one day a company will need trained and professional influencers, we will be the only ones to be able to provide them,” he claimed.

The certified postgraduate degree program is the result of significant Condé Nast investment, as the first academic program was offered to candidates through scholarships. Usai underscored how investing is the only way to keep the “reference player” status, but he declined to disclosed figures.

Developed in partnership with L’Oréal Italia’s luxe division and with the scientific and educational support of Milan’s SDA Bocconi School of Management, the first session centers on beauty and lifestyle areas.

Usai underscored that the choice was not casual. “Beauty is a pioneering industry from the point of view of products, communication and interaction with the audience,” he said.

“We met a year ago and talked about the need to change our approach as both the consumers and the readers are changing,” recalled L’Oréal Luxe Italia’s general director Roberto Serafini about meeting with Usai.

Serafini explained that the main need for the company was “to talk more about beauty and in a more qualitative way.”

“In the U.S. and U.K., influencers have a greater impact because their contents’ quality and storytelling are better,” he noted, adding that such an approach was needed in Italy too.

Running from November to March, the Condé Nast Social Academy’s education program will have 240 hours of lessons, which will range from an in-depth analysis of the beauty market to digital marketing and communication strategies; from audience management techniques to content development and video and photo editing.

Taking place at the media company’s headquarters in central Milan, the classes will be taught by 15 teachers, with the involvement of international guest lecturers who specialize in digital communication.

The course will end with two weeks of practical training in March, including visits to beauty factories and in-store events.

The first, free academic session has 20 female students who were selected from among 2,000 candidates. Applications came in the form of books and short video presentations and the selection process took executives of Condé Nast and SDA Bocconi almost a month.

Candidates needed to be at least 19 years old, have a high-school diploma and be enrolled at a university, in addition to having a good knowledge of the English language. Attitude towards the world of beauty was also essential, international experiences were considered a plus, while popularity on social media was not decisive for getting into the program.

Usai underscored how there will be two additional academic terms in 2018, which will charge tuition and be open to 40 students each. As a result, by the end of next year, Condé Nast will have 100 new social influencers to collaborate with.

Although Usai didn’t disclose the name of the future brand partners, he revealed they will belong not only to the beauty and lifestyle worlds but also to the food and tech sectors.

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