Brand Ambassadors have been around for many years – and they are everywhere. Visit any industry convention, sporting event, concert, or street fair and you will see the Brand Ambassadors working the floor. They are the high-energy men and women handing out samples, answering questions, passing out bumper stickers, and taking pictures with passers-by, among other activities.
Brand Ambassadors are everywhere because they work. They take the multi-million dollar corporations and put a human face on them. They are the smile, handshake, helpful answer, and compliment consumers remember when they think of the brand. But the best part about Brand Ambassadors is that they are ordinary people. They are effective because People Do Business With People!
Every company has a cadre of Brand Ambassadors ready for deployment. This group of people is called employees! Traditional Brand Ambassadors are required to have knowledge of the company history, its products, its culture, and its values. These are exactly the same things that employees already know – and live – each day. Danielle Molle, Principal and Marketing Director at Brand M Consulting LLC agrees. According to Molle, “Brand Ambassadors are huge to a company’s success – and the smaller the company, the more important they are.”
Organizations seeking to scale the benefits of social media must create a framework that treats every employee as a Brand Ambassador. Organizations should invest the necessary time and money to train and unleash their armies of influencers. With institutional knowledge in one hand and social media skills in the other, employees can act as the greatest form of Brand Ambassador.
Employee = Brand Ambassador = Influencer = Brand Evangelist
Similar to the old school Brand Ambassadors working a convention floor, today’s social media-enabled Brand Ambassadors also represent the organization to the outside world. Today, social media has enabled Brand Ambassadors to use tools such as social networks, blogs, and other forms of social media to conduct their influencing activities.
Instead of relying solely on senior members of the organization to influence the marketplace through press releases, media interviews and other appearances, organizations can empower employees to go out and evangelize on behalf of the organization. Another important consideration is that the general public trusts its peers much more than it does a company CEO or other high-ranking company official. This makes employees much more influential than the highly paid CEO.
According to Tom Blackett in Brands and Branding (Bloomberg Press, 2009), “when employees are excited by the proposition they will help to sustain it and communicate it to customers, suppliers and others through their enthusiasm and commitment.” Therefore, to the extent that an organization can properly motivate its employees to act as Brand Ambassadors, employees can become an incredibly effective tool for influencing stakeholders. The maintenance of a strong cadre of Brand Ambassadors will result in a stronger brand, improved customer satisfaction, increased revenue, and strong financial results.
According to blogger Mike Bailey (“Beyond Engagement: Unleashing the Power of Employee Advocacy“), “on average, when employees share something with their social networks, each one reaches 20 times more people than a typical brand sharing with the same number of followers.” This makes employee Brand Ambassadors not only a good idea, but a profitable idea.
Chief Brand Ambassador
An effective social media-enabled Brand Ambassador Program requires a champion at the highest level of the organization. Effective Brand Ambassador programs that rely on the organization’s employees must have the owner, CEO, or some other top ranking individual act as the CBA, or Chief Brand Ambassador.
The Chief Brand Ambassador must ensure that the organization gives more than just lip service to the Brand Ambassador Program. The Chief Brand Ambassador must invest appropriate resources into the program, expect results from the program, hold people accountable for results, integrate the program into the organization’s overall sales and marketing strategy, and acknowledge the program as vital to the success of the organization. The Chief Brand Ambassador must believe that social media combined with employee ambassadors can create an intangible asset that can produce very tangible results.
In order for the social media-enabled Brand Ambassador Program to succeed the organization’s leaders must believe in the power of social media. An organization that treats social media as a fad or a waste of time will have a difficult time convincing employees of its power to influence and will not achieve success.
However, Parker Hannifin‘s Wendy Soucie, Global eBusiness Social Media Manager, warns about expecting too much too quickly. Soucie believes that expecting immediate accountability and results “is great for an advanced organization heading down the social business path, but for those early in their organizing, resourcing, and planning stages, jumping on Brand Ambassador programs before you have elevated the entire organization could be a nightmare. Especially if they do not have the resources of people to watch and listen to know when something heads south.”
The Chief Brand Ambassador, therefore, must expect results and assign accountability, but only after ensuring that the effort is in qualified hands and that an adequate road map and foundation has been established to ensure organizational success.
(This is an excerpt from a post published on LinkedIn Pulse on April 2014)