In this two-part series, we outline why you should spend your energy turning the individuals within your organization into all-star brand ambassadors and what it will take to get them there. To understand the rise of brand ambassadors and why you need an ambassador program at your organization, see Part I here.
Imagine if every member of your organization engaged their personal networks by speaking about your organization. Well, this already happens (eep!). Humans are social animals. We are constantly speaking with others about our lives, our desires, and our fears.
As such, it’s important to understand that members of your team will always talk about your organization, regardless of your level of involvement in these conversations. Unless you are open with your people and make them feel comfortable being transparent with you, you just won’t hear about it.
How to make an all-star brand ambassador
Of course, you want to know what the people at your organization are saying, and you want to improve the things that are being said. This means gaining trust, establishing mutual respect, listening carefully to what is said, and taking action where it is needed. These are the first steps to turning your employees into brand ambassadors that benefit your company.
Yet, it is important to remember that the people in your organization are a reflection of the society we live in: diverse, colorful, demanding, opinionated. Don’t expect everybody to start dancing for joy when you start launching programs to foster trust and communication or when your team hears about ambassador programs. Some individuals will likely see these actions as threatening, insincere, or as a loss of personal voice.
Establishing true transparency and trust will take time, and it will require a lot of work on your end to get all of your people onboard. The key is to showcase it (and genuinely endeavor to make it) something that truly benefits them.
Pick the right people
Once you have established trust and you have a solid relationship with your employees, it will be important to remember that not every employee has the courage, the means, and the level of corporate identity to join the game; not everyone will have the skill and competency you need in order to roll out an ambassador program; and it might take training and coaching to get promising individuals involved and make them feel comfortable and secure.
Let people be who they are, and don’t push them. They can be observers. They may become ambassadors if you respect their space and do things right.
Ultimately, the success of your ambassador program will depend on bringing on the right people at the beginning. Here are the 5 key traits to help you identify who is a good candidate:
Naturally engaged and driven: Look for people who are driven and have passion and enthusiasm. Look for doers and not followers at the beginning. And as was previously stated, never push people into (naturally voluntary) roles they do not feel 100 percent comfortable with. It may end in a massive backfire.
Authentic and genuine: An authentic person knows and acknowledges their strengths and weaknesses. The person speaks in their own words and language and not PR jargon or anything that the communication department prepared. These people are speaking for themselves – not because they need to, but because they want to.
Open-minded and communicative: At the beginning, you will want employees who have a natural talent for communication and who are keen to present themselves to a larger audience.
A competent expert: The respective employee should be an expert in their field and have a wealth of knowledge worth sharing. They also need to truly understand and align with your organization’s mission and values.
Adept digitally and socially: Ideal individuals will be well connected in the analogue as well as digital world, in communities and other partial publics. They will be familiar with social networks and already engaged in debates and conversations related to their personal topics of interest.
Interested individuals who lack some of these traits should not be excluded, but they might require more training or other resources before they can fully participate. That’s okay, and you should be sure to actively include them in some way during these early stages. However, starting with a strong fundamental group is a necessary part of successfully implementing a brand ambassador program. It will also help to create internal role models others can look up to.
Establish a clear strategy
Creating an all-star ambassador program must be treated like a fully viable strategic project that requires clear objectives; a content strategy; a project plan allocating remits, responsibilities, resources, and timing; and an approach for measuring and optimizing the activities following the initial roll-out. Don’t start half-hearted. You will not only lose the attention and interest of your employees, it may also negatively impact your reputation.
For examples of good ambassador programs, see this case study on GE, the ambassador program at Deloitte, and one strategy Xbox uses for it's ambassadors. As you begin to make your strategy for your ambassador program, you will need to do the following:
Involve members of your organization who will participate in the program as you develop the content strategy. You are doing yourself and your team no favors if you develop a content plan behind closed doors and come up with a ready strategy that is engraved in stone. The power of participation and involvement is game-changing, as it’s linked to purpose and appreciation.
Don’t overwork your team and be flexible. The level of expectation must be aligned with individual needs and competencies. Listen carefully, and if something isn’t working, be prepared to adapt and change.
Keep your people motivated. Find out what motivates your team the most, align your strategy and objectives with this, and then make it clear what’s in it for them if they participate. Material rewards or financial compensation should not be on the table. The key is authenticity and a genuine interest in the company’s mission. If you pay them, it’s just sponsored content.
Identify the ambassadors who truly shine and scale their strategy to other participants. Ambassador programs can develop into real grassroot-movements. The key is finding the driving forces that are having a real impact. This may be an individual or even a specific kind of action.
Be prepared to accept failure, and then try again. There is no such thing as a foolproof strategy. Good programs take a lot of energy and trials, and they need time to flourish. Give them leeway for failure and adaption.
A version of this article was originally written and published by Boma Germany.