Ambassador programs: Step away from the status quo

This is a guest post from Spike Jones — SVP, Managing Director SW Region at Edelman Digital and co-author of the book Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable Word of Mouth Movements. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

directional signs

I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that the term “ambassador” has greatly lost its way in the agency world.

Paid bloggers. Spokespeople. Models that stand next to cars at an auto show. I’ve heard them all called ambassadors. And I wholeheartedly disagree. So from my perspective, when it comes to ambassador programs, there’s the tired way of doing it and then there’s the inspired way of doing it:

The tired way: Agency goes off into a corner and builds the shell of a community hoping people will like it and join.
The inspired way: Building community with the actual people who want to participate.

The tired way: Using ambassadors to sell stuff.
The inspired way: Letting ambassadors be, well, ambassadors. Which, by its very definition, is a messenger of goodwill.

The tired way: Giving ambassadors content created by the company about the company telling them to spread it.
The inspired way: Creating content with and about ambassadors and their lives, then giving them that content and letting them do with it as they wish.

The tired way: Having a cattle call to join — no matter someone’s interest level.
The inspired way: Creating a small barrier of entry — so members put some skin in the game, too.

The tired way: Having an ambassador program revolve around coupons, contests, and giving the product away.
The inspired way: Creating a program that focuses on members and their lives, providing a strong conduit to connect people and their passions.

Building ambassador programs isn’t rocket science, but it is roll-up your sleeves hard work.

But if you build it the right way and keep these tenants in mind, the results and added benefits you’ll see are simply amazing. Plus, you’ll see how it has positive, far reaching effects that reach every corner of your business.


About Spike Jones

Spike Jones is a results-proven communications professional, specializing in digital and offline word of mouth marketing. With more than 15 years of experience, the career path goes something like this: Baylor University; a decade at Brains on Fire; SVP of the Customer Experience team at Fleishman-Hillard; Group Director, Engagement at WCG; and now SVP, Managing Director SW Region at Edelman Digital. Spike is also a co-author of the book Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements.

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  1. Sheryl Biesman

    Great article and so true! We’re very proud of the ambassador program we’ve built using all of the inspired steps mentioned here. Our ambassadors simply love our products and we have more people asking to be ambassadors than we will accept into the program. Check it out here:

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