I wanted write this post for businesses, companies, business owners big or small, and PR pros who are interested in creating an ambassadorship program for a client. Whether you own a photography business or a product you’re trying to get out there, we all need marketing. As a blogger and marketer, I want to tell you how valuable an ambassador program can be for your business, having served as an ambassador myself.
I want to share different types, and there’s no wrong or right way to run or create one. This post is not just a single paid post, but an on going relationship – and I’ll share the experiences I’ve had being in ambassadorship programs with Sony, Wayfair, Kona Deep, and TGIFridays.
If you’re a blogger, you may still find this beneficial to see what your options are when working with brands when you are approached or pitch, and what route you prefer.
There are two kinds of brand ambassadorships:
- Paid in product
Pay blogger an amount for a review, possibly add extras like ongoing retweet/reshare on social media support for a specific amount of time. Will also provide product.
Pros: You are guaranteed to have a branded post and dedicated ambassador. Payment makes bloggers happy and offering it shows you take their blog seriously and are treating it like a business, which for most, it is. More heart and soul goes into the posts, photos and social shares because of the time dedicated and ability to hire a photographer if necessary.
Cons: Chances of non authentic posts may occur, though slim, since the blogger has the option to decline. If you have a small budget, it’s a risk, and you won’t know the return or see it immediately.
My opinion is always to pay bloggers for their time, but if that’s not in the interest of your budget, there’s another way…
Paid in Product Ambassadorship
A set amount per month is given to spend, or a certain item is provided upon release or every month. Your company should offer in exchange social media shares, and/or Instagram take overs, in exchange for the free publicity – think of it as a joint marketing effort. Your offered product should be equivalent to what a post with your ambassador might cost. This should be a regular on scheduled gifting opportunity to be a real ambassadorship otherwise you’re just gifting a product for a single post (which is OK too – this is just not an ambassadorship).
Pros: You get authentic partners since bloggers don’t want to work for free, they must genuinely want your product and that’s great! You also have them on board for a set time and they can give you honest feedback on products.
Cons: Cannot expect/ask for social shares since you aren’t paying. You also can’t expect too much staging since there is no budget given for a new outfit, entertaining plates, etc. You as a brand may have less control – just trust your ambassadors and you’ll be OK.
Why businesses should have a brand/blogging ambassadorship program
- Creates brand awareness and directly reaches potential customers. It is also repeatedly in front of your ambassador’s following. With a voice narrating the experience with your product, people who trust the influencer, having a team of ambassadors in different areas helps expand your customer base.
- You may have a lifetime advocate. Even after your ambassadorship program ends, you may have an ambassador for life – if your products are quality and you ran the program well. I am still asked about Sony products to this day and the ambassadorship ended three years ago! A friend of mine just bought a Sony camera, an older model I had because I let her take mine for the day and she had to have it. Read about my Sony Club experience here. I also was shipped boxes of Kona Deep water and served them to friends and one of the girls loved it so much I see her with a bottle every time and she tells her friends!
- It’s easier than one time posts. Finding different bloggers every time for new posts can be exhausting. Finding the perfect small group is a better investment – these are your ideal customers who chit-chat and hang with your PC. It’s easier to manage a group that you can depend on and already have confidence in.
- You have an immediate feedback team. One time posts can go smoothly because your blogger works with you quickly then goes away. If you have a program if the product breaks, makes a funny noise or there’s a customer service question, this is great feedback for you to bring back to your team. You’re getting feedback from an actual customer who is using the product regularly.
Brands should keep in mind
- Diversify your ambassadors. Some are influencers with an incredibly presence on Instagram and active followers while their blog is essentially unranked gets little traffic. Active blogs with high rank or Pinterest following can mean a longer life for your products. Some bloggers have a greater SEO presence and can link to your brand. Not sure if I can argue which is best, but it’s best to be aware of the difference and your marketing strategy. Also consider the ages and life stages of your ambassadors – you want them to be in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, single, moms, etc.
- Feature your ambassadors. Consider a dedicated page see Sony Club here (it’s old, sorry for broken images) and Kona Deep Ambassador page here (under community).
- Sponsor a large getaway. For Sony Club, we were flown out to San Diego and were given products and had several events to attend to use our new gear. What an experience! TGIFridays flew us to Dallas headquarters and we ate all the new food off the menu. We also attended a concert at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. This must be incredibly organized and usually by your PR agency.
- Provide an exciting start up gift basket. All the gear your ambassadors may need, or a swag bag!
- Offer discounts. Whether it’s a percentage or at cost depending on your product, if your ambassadors want to buy more, or gift, consider extending a discount rate – it can expire.
- Put a timeline on the length of ambassadorship. Calendar year is preferred – and let your ambassadors know upcoming promotions to focus on. This also allows your company to reevaluate where you want to take your program and extend it, lengthen it, or make changes.
- Never disappear or end the ambassadorship abruptly. I’ve had two ambassador programs just end in the middle of the agreement, or receive no response from my contact. Or it was chaos and unorganized and their ambassadorship wasn’t developed and was more of a free product in exchange for a single post. Keep your commitment, it’s your brand and reputation. If you absolutely need to change the program or end it, communicate why and honestly and offer a gift of peace or something so no one feels like the partnership was unbalanced.
- Make sure you ask your bloggers to be FTC Compliant. This means disclosures on posts and shares – whether it’s (c/o) or saying it’s a sponsored post.
- Have a guide so all ambassadors can keep in touch. See this sheet we were given at the TGIFriday’s ambassador meeting:
If you have any questions about starting an ambassadorship program feel free to email me.
If you’re a blogger who has been part of an ambassadorship program, what was your favorite program and why?