The Who, What, Where, When and Why of developing an online brand ambassador program
I come from a background of working with non-profits and charities, helping them to raise brand awareness about their cause. One of the things I loved the most about working with NGOs, is the virtually non-existent ad budgets!
Yes, you read that correctly.
There is a thrill in developing promotional campaigns with next to no funding; it not only breeds creativity but makes buy-in throughout the organisation a breeze. By having a gang of stakeholders rallied to promote the campaign, the resulting word-of-mouth advertising is not just inexpensive – it’s priceless.
I had a wonderful time managing a couple of Brand ambassador programs and here are my top tips to get you started.
1- Why implement a brand ambassador program?
During the Holidays, potential consumers are bombarded with marketing from all sides. Content that comes from brand ambassadors, however, doesn’t look or feel like traditional ad campaigns. The major advantage is that you are connecting a network of people who are already favourably predisposed to your brand with authentic and sincere content – backed by an ambassador to engage their networks with their content and hold a conversation around it.
2- Who are the right people to represent my brand?
The stakeholders who are best positioned to mobilize their networks are your employees, volunteers, brand fans and your customers (or beneficiaries). Select your ambassadors for their natural ability to communicate their genuine enthusiasm for your product, service or cause. A good candidate would be someone who is ideally passionate about your brand, active on their personal social media platforms, and is keen to answer questions and be the public face of your brand to their networks.
Today we have popular bloggers who can also be in your brand ambassador program with services ranging from wiring a blog post to attending an event.
3- What should I expect them to do?
You have chosen your ambassadors for their spunk and eagerness, but they are not necessarily trained public relations professionals! Help them help you by developing clear expectations – the place to start is by getting on the same page with the program’s objectives and messaging. Give them opportunities to practice articulating their passion with sincerity and authenticity – you don’t want them sounding scripted. The next step is to ask them to develop content in the form of blog posts, video testimonials, photos, that are in line with those objectives. This content is the collateral that will make your brand go viral!
You can also ask them to attend your events, speak with the media as well as participate in product development.
4- Where does content get posted?
Now that your ambassadors have pumped out quality content, it’s time for them to share it with their personal networks! Make sure that they are linking back to you, tagging you and mentioning you so that you can share their material in turn. This creates a far vaster web of exposure than any pure ad campaign could reach.
5- When is the best timing for a program?
The Holiday season is a natural time for your brand ambassadors to begin connecting your content to their network. It is a time in which people are getting in touch, and are feeling receptive to cheerful messages. While your campaign would necessarily need to be time-limited (the T in SMART objectives!), and could easily wrap up early in the New Year, the beauty of online campaigns is that the content remains even when the program has ended. Furthermore, you can constantly create new content and tap new networks by recruiting new ambassadors if you are targeting a longer-term program and have a sufficient candidate pool from which to draw from.
Case Study – Girl Guides of Canada
As the head of public relations for Quebec at Girl Guides of Canada, in 2012, I launched a year-long brand ambassador program, Quebec Girls Leading Tomorrow. The campaign objective was to promote girl leadership development by introducing adult members that had grown up as Girl Guides and are considered today’s leaders in various capacities.
The four dynamic women that participated in the Brand Ambassador program provided testimonials, blog posts, interviews, videos, and photos, and also attended events to help promote important brand messages of their wonderful experience, including gaining leadership skills as a Girl Guide! They also shared this same message on their social media platforms and made themselves available to the media for interviews during these events.
The campaign was a rousing success, garnering not only media coverage throughout the year-long program but through tapping the ambassadors’ personal networks – reaching audiences that Girl Guides of Canada had not been able to connect with otherwise.