When Michelle Ronay’s daughter was six months old, Ronay began posting about their journey as a family on social media, which led to her blog, MamaRebelde. Four years later, the creator, who is based in Cancun, Mexico, has paused MamaRebelde to focus on her digital strategy agency, Rebel Media. Made up of six brand managers, a design team, and an administrative team, Rebel Media works with over 20 wellness, lifestyle, and motherhood brands in Mexico.

“Through the years I’ve changed course a bit, but the main purpose has always been the same,” she told me in conversations we had over email and the phone. 

Ronay does this work on top of her own personal career as a creator. She’s amassed over 57,000 followers on her main Instagram, and also boasts 11,000 followers on her food and cooking instagram, @eatfoodmx. As a digital strategist for brands, she’s worked both sides of the influencer coin.  Ahead she tells us how to juggle your income streams, advocate for yourself with brands, and what true engagement looks like. 

Combine your passions

My influencer work [is] PR for Rebel Media, and it also helps me to really understand the industry. I feel like a lot of our competitors are not involved, do not understand how the creation process actually works. It's the other perspective from the inside. 

Don’t be afraid to push back on brands 

My most recent campaign was with a very famous brand I deeply love and use everyday, but the collab itself was a bit hard as they tended to micromanage every aspect of the collaboration, leaving very little room to actually create and connect with my audience. I had to do A LOT of pushback so the campaign worked for all of us. I think brands need to trust the creatives a bit more and look for authentic connection instead of “results” that will look good in their report.

It's important to not push back just to push back [but] also know which boundaries you're not willing to cross. Try to demonstrate to the brand the underlying reason you're pushing back. For instance, one brand wanted me to use white bread from a brand that would never use with my children. So for me it was important to let them know the reasons why I wouldn't use that bread. Once they understood my reasons, we ended up using a different approach. 

Collaborations are more than just numbers

I collaborate with people that actually give value to my audience. I do a lot of call-outs for people who are not famous, maybe 300 or 1,000 followers, but they're actually experts in their field and I found it much more valuable for them to speak to my audience. 

Involve your audience in your decisions

Everyone is so focused on likes, but engagement is so much more important. Find the way you can connect with your audience: being vulnerable, sharing your thoughts, making them part of your decisions. Sometimes I kind of know what I want to do and then I asked my audience. Obviously you're the one that's going to make the decision but it's a nice way of also connecting.