Gini Dietrich

How to Ignite Your Brand Ambassadors

By: Gini Dietrich | April 20, 2015 | 

How to Ingite Your Brand AmbassadorsBy Gini Dietrich

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at the Kent State University YouToo Conference.

After my presentation on Spin Sucks, several people asked me how to create a brand ambassador program.

It seems to be the one thing everyone wants to do, but hardly anyone knows how to build and execute.

After all, wouldn’t it be nice to have an army of people out there who zealously promote your products and company to anyone who’ll listen?

That’s what you’ll get if you set up a brand ambassador program. These outspoken proponents of your business become an external salesforce of sorts, who sometimes aren’t incentivized with anything more than an “Atta boy!”

So I dug into the archives at OPENForum and found this article I wrote on the topic after the book was published and we completely our brand ambassador program.

It can work for any sized business, in any industry, as long as you have loyal customers. It is the next step if you’ve already spent time carefully cultivating a community of peers, colleagues, employees, customers, and prospects.

It won’t work, however, if you simply decide one day to create a brand ambassador program but you haven’t taken the time to create a loyal community.

Assuming you have that loyal community in place, you can use a brand ambassador program to promote a new product, build excitement for a legacy service, or help you sell existing products and services.

What Your Brand Ambassador Program Needs

While the purpose of a brand ambassador program will vary from business-to-business, there are certain things you want to be sure to include:

  1. A goal. What are you trying to achieve? Is it a certain level of sales? Do you want to generate media coverage? Or increase event participation? Whatever it happens to be, define the goal and communicate it to your brand ambassadors over and over and over again.
  2. Open application process. When you’re ready to launch your program, open it up to everyone. Promote the application process on your website, blog, and social networks. Use traditional media—a news release, direct mail, and emails—to let your customers know about the opportunity. Allow people to apply for up to two weeks (though a week is usually enough time).
  3. Drip emails. As people apply, they’re going to have questions. Anticipate them ahead of time, and create a drip email campaign through MailChimp or your preferred email software. The first email should go out as soon as someone applies so they know you received their application. The second email should address expectations: When they can expect to hear if their application was accepted and when you’ll announce the brand ambassadors. You can also send out a third email that talks about how many days remain in the application process, but that’s not necessary.
  4. Defined expectations. There are going to be people who apply—and are accepted—who go above and beyond your expectations. Likewise, there will be some who don’t participate at all. Define your expectations early on, and communicate them clearly. If people don’t participate, politely excuse them from the program, and give their spot to an alternate.
  5. Consistent communication. Once the brand ambassadors have been chosen, make sure you have a plan to consistently communicate with them. You can create a private Facebook group, Google+ community, or LinkedIn group. You can email at the same time every day. You can host an online chat. Or you can do a combination of the three. Your communication should remind them of your expectations, keep them motivated, and update them on where you are toward achieving your goal.

Once you’ve thought through the five program essentials above and are ready to roll, execution can begin.

Putting the Plan in Place

The plan should include your brand ambassadors, and the following items:

  • page with pre-written social media updates that are easy to either tweet or copy and paste into other social networks;
  • A short video that brand ambassadors can use in their promotion that talks about what you’re trying to achieve;
  • A blogger relations program that entices others to write about what you’re doing on their own blogs;
  • Guest blogging for the sites that will accept your submission;
  • Traditional media relations with targeted journalists within your industry;
  • Social media advertising;
  • Social media efforts, both on your channels and on those of your brand ambassadors;
  • A social media contest; and
  • Targeted email marketing.

Now you’re ready to execute, and this is the easy part, because all the planning you’ve done to this point will make it so.

Go through all the brand ambassador applications you received. Narrow them down to a manageable group, and announce the winners. Develop a private site for them to engage with you, and create your daily communication. Manage your plan.

Before you know it, your brand ambassadors will have helped you achieve your latest goal and you’ll be ready to plan your next marketing move.

photo credit: Shutterstock

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Great points, Gini. I have always been on the ambassador end (rather than the recruitment end), so I can only address this from that perspective. As you inferred here, an ambassador program works 500% better if the ambassadors love the product and have an established relationship with it and other uses going into the process. A couple of other considerations that may need to be taken into account are: 1) the social media reach of the applicants (conversely, don’t select ambassadors ONLY on the basis of their reach but it’s something to take into consideration) and 2) any disclosures the ambassadors will need to do (i.e., if they received a free book in exchange for their review, if it’s a product any FTC terminology they need to add to their activity. Lastly, the most effective parts of your Spin Sucks ambassador program were 1) the crystal clear instructions (and as you said, anything prefabricated that makes it easier for an ambassador to do their job is a plus) and 2) the closed ambassador community. You built a team and therefore we all wanted the team to succeed.

  • biggreenpen The closed community was actually an afterthought and I thought it was the most successful (and fun) part of it all.

  • I keep saying this because it´s true: I very much like how you give hands-on advice that anyone can put into practice Gini. I read many PR blogs and I haven´t seen this practice anywhere else.
    Being a Spin Sucks brand ambassador was for me the best experience ever. I got to be part of an awesome team of pros, I wouldn´t have met otherwise. We did fun things together, bound by a higher scope to succeed as a team. And above all, I could help spread the word about a brand I love and identify with. So, thank you for that.

  • Corina Manea And I thank YOU for being so involved and for saying all of this. It almost makes me want to write another book so we can do it again. Almost.

  • And why not writing another book? You have the team in place, you have the experience of two books and we all know the industry needs it!

  • Corina Manea I need a break! LOL!

  • This is how both Amway and Scarface had so much success. You are on to something Dietrich. I knew this guy who knew someone who knew this gal who did this. I think back in 69.

    I think the hard part for many brands that do not have direct live customer interactions is identifying the off line ambassadors who talk you up live with family friends co-workers and strangers. For brands that sell through retail/distribution 3rd parties you won’t know. They aren’t always active online for you. If you run the social media channels usually you know your biggest fans online are. And if you use alerts for your brand/product etc you can Identify who is blogging and publishing about you. That is actually the best getting an alert to see you received coverage you didn’t work on. 

    For the chosen ambassadors for them to really have buy in you need to be personal with them unless you plan on bribing them or they will lose interest.

  • Corina Manea actually ginidietrich ‘s 63.7 shades of Orange is coming out in the fall. And she is going to be in a TV mini soap opera series biopic on  this summer called As the Spin Sucks. It will be on Lifetime at 11:30am Thursdays this summer. She plays a Megalomaniac Record Producer looking for the next Boyband.

  • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich Thank you Howie! I knew she was hiding something! LOL!

  • Very important point about having the community first. AND not to mistake friends, acquaintances, business contacts for “community.” Launching a big project like a book is good way to find out who your real fans/friends really are. 
    I’ve been surprised by people who I never expected to go all out for me just as I’ve been disappointed by those I thought I was closer to. And I’ve learned that part of that responsibility is mine to really have a clear picture of who is whom.

  • Excellent tips and pointers on how to create and follow though with this type of program. The comments on this [other than Howie Goldfarb perhaps] are great points as well.

  • LaurenNie_ALI

    ginidietrich loved this read! Very interesting.

  • ginidietrich

    LaurenNie_ALI Thank you!

  • Digital_DRK Howie Goldfarb LOL!! Poor Howie. We all gang up on him.

  • RobBiesenbach It IS surprising, isn’t it? Kind of disappointing, too.

  • Howie Goldfarb Did I forget to include that you have to bribe them?

  • SpinSucks

    jennimacdonald What do you think one of the most important requirements should cover? ^lp

  • samemac

    We are using this approach with a client of ours and it’s working very well. It’s much easier for people to see the credibility and excitement around your product or service when it’s coming from someone OUTSIDE of the organization. It’s also nice to make those folks who are super invested, feel special.

    Who doesn’t like being a card-carrying fan of something they are super excited about? Another level of human to human interaction. 

    All the feelings!

  • samemac All the feelings! People love to feel validated. Love it!

  • Love how you outlined this step-by-step. I haven’t come across content that so clearly describes this type of program. I work in higher education and there is tremendous opportunity to deploy such a program among alumni. They are usually very passionate “customers” and would have a vested interest to take part in this type of program.

  • kevinanselmo Someone on Twitter asked me if there is a book they can read on the topic and I dig some digging. No one really talks about it. That shall change!

  • inkscrblr

    I work a bit differently when I build brand ambassador programs for my clients, but there are some basic similarities and truths here. There is also no one size fits all brand ambassador program.

  • ginidietrich kevinanselmo That should definitely change (i.e., there needs to be a book)

  • Last year my friend was launching her first non-fiction book, and I told her about the brand ambassador plan for the Spin Sucks book. Great how you have outlined it here. Next time, I’ll just hand her your NEW book.

  • SandraGarcia_PR

    This was great, thank you!

  • SandraGarcia_PR You bet!

  • Word Ninja Bite your tongue!

  • inkscrblr Definitely not! I’d be curious to know your process. Perhaps a guest post?

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