Member Spotlight: Rebecca Braglio talks ambassador programs


(Sarah Hawk) #1

There have been numerous questions about ambassadors or community champions over the last year, so I chased down the amazing @rebeccabraglio who has designed and implemented several successful programs. She has shared some great lessons learned, tips and best of all – templates!

The Interview

Hawk: Can you give us a brief bio and history of your community career?

RB: I majored in psychology and practiced as a criminal defense attorney specializing in people with mental illness who were accused of major felony offenses. I did that for about 12 years, but I burned out early…but I resigned myself to the fact that this was the path I’d chosen and I’d probably never be able to switch careers.

Then I got a dog named Dash - who changed everything. He had some behavioral issues, and it inspired me to build a community for dog owners in my city. For the first time in years, I felt energized and my gut told me this could be my way out of the legal field. I read everything I could get my hands on about social media, community, grass-roots marketing, html, etc. About three years later, I stopped practicing law and began building a branded online community for Pet360, Inc.

After I got my feet wet at Pet360, I moved on to the Project Management Institute and was charged with integrating a global member community with a smaller American-based community. This was an incredible challenge as 1) the online communities had incredibly different cultures and 2) I only had a month to create a communication plan for over 500,000 members. It was also daunting to help manage a community where I was not a subject matter expert. During my time at PMI I created a community functionality recommendation list, a content calendar, recommended CHI metrics, and a skeleton outline for an ambassador program.

I’m now with and will be launching two new health communities. I am currently reviewing our community communications/email marketing system, creating a new community/content engagement calendar, and reviewing the way we currently track engagement.

Hawk: What prompted you to first implement an ambassador program?

RB: I was first prompted to implement an ambassador program because I was facing technical barriers that made it difficult to participate in the community. In a start up, you can’t wait for IT to fix your problems - they already have too much on their plate. You have to figure out what you can do with what you have. In this case, I had some technically savvy members who weren’t dissuaded by the technical issues. So, I decided to get these members to help other members use the site. Not only were they able to give me a fresh perspective on the user experience, they were better able to communicate to new members how to work around the glitches.

I had also participated as a blogger ambassador for The Honest Kitchen, a pet food company, so I knew an ambassador program had a lot of potential. However, I had never created one from scratch. I did a ton of research and reviewed several different programs to see how they were set up (Evernote, Spotify, ).

Hawk: How do you determine the ROI of an ambassador program (both for the company and the community)?

RB: It depends on so many things – company goals, community goals….The ROI for the Pet360 program was entirely focused on the company – it came down to profits and community activity. At the time of program launch, I already had about a year’s worth of data for engagement (the standard vanity metrics, # posts, shares, etc.) We were on a Lithium community and had integrated Omniture (now Adobe), so I could get any kind of data I wanted because I tracked/tagged everything - from first community visit, to posting, to buying, to cart abandonment. We followed the entire user journey and always noted when marketing campaigns launched and/or site functionality changed.

Since I already had a dashboard, I just set higher goals for MOM increases in activity for once the program launched. I added in the metrics of time to first response and rate of resolution– if questions weren’t getting answered before the 24 hour mark then I knew that my ambassadors weren’t participating enough.

I also wanted to know if active (posting at least 1x a month) community members were more likely to buy from us. We were able to track this through Adobe.

Overall, the program was definitely a success. While I lost almost half of my ambassadors due to fatigue, the ones who soldiered on helped to increase activity by 35% across all metrics. The discussions were livelier, more authentic, and more UGC was created. It got to the point where we were using community member photos in our marketing campaigns.

Most surprising was that our lurkers were the most loyal community members AND most loyal customers. The lurkers who joined the community at the beginning were still regularly visiting 2 years later. The lurkers bought more than any other customer and/or community member. In fact, our most active users were the least likely to buy from us – not one of my ambassadors ever shopped with us. I theorized that our most active users were the type of pet owners who bought from pet boutiques and supported local business.

On a deeper note, the final ambassadors continue to stay in contact with one another (we are all friends on Facebook, too). To me, that’s the ultimate sign of success.

Hawk: How do you go about identifying and recruiting Ambassadors/Advocates/Champions?

RB: It depends on the culture of the community. One way is to gather as much data on activity as you can and create an application to the program. An application gives you the opportunity to ask pointed questions to determine interest level. Also, I think if a person takes the time to fill out an application it demonstrates potential commitment

However, I prefer to organically grow an ambassador program and see how it develops naturally. I look to the history and patterns of activity by the members, the quality of their profiles and posts or comments. Who are the members who are providing the most valuable content/activity on a consistent basis? Or on a consistent basis (such as every Winter and Fall, but not during Spring or Summer)?

Once I select a first list of members, I then see if there are any naturally occurring segments of these potential ambassadors based on the type of activity the member seems to prefer (how-to questions, debating topics, subject matter experts, sharing/cheerleader). I prefer to focus more on what the community needs rather than the organizational goals (such as profit). If I can get the community needs met, then I’ll look to see how I can tie what is currently being achieved to meeting company goals.

Hawk: Do you look at data or go with your gut?

RB: I think these days I’d be more likely to go with my gut. When I started I was almost entirely data focused. While I do want to see that they have a consistent rate of participation/visits, I wouldn’t draw any hard lines. In fact, the most active members in my first program were the ones who ended up falling off of the radar. One of the applicants was a member who had joined a month prior and only posted once – I took a chance on her and she ended up being one of the best participants.

I place a heavy emphasis on disposition and an overall willingness to help. I’m more likely to select someone who has a positive nature over the subject matter expert who gets testy. Discussions can get heated quite quickly, and I need to know that I have members who can moderate appropriate and champion for the company.

Hawk: Once you’ve identified potential candidates, what does the vetting/communication process look like?

RB: It depends on what type of selection process used and the goal is of your program. If it’s hand-picked, I usually send an email telling them that we are looking to create an ambassador program and was wondering if they might be interested/or would like to learn more. If so, I then set an informal telephone call. I’ll give them a general overview of why we are creating the program, how it will work, what we are hoping it will do, and then how it will benefit them as a member (WIIFM). I always end the conversation asking them to take a few days to think about it before letting me know. I don’t want them agreeing in the phone call – especially since it’s harder to say no than it is in email and I don’t want anyone agreeing because they are too afraid to say no.

If it’s an application process, communication would depend on how long it takes to vet applicants. I usually give a recommended member list to the team in an excel doc, with links to their profile, date of join, total # posts/comments, and then a note on the quality of their participation. I’ll also comment on whether I think a member has potential to turn on the company or go rogue, and whether they could be high-maintenance. I think it’s important to know this going in to be able to allocate the amount of time you’ll spend managing the members.

Finally, it’s helpful to have a cut-off to be able to answer questions regarding why/how someone gets picked. For example, requiring all applicants to have achieved a minimum ranking in the community to be considered for the program.

Hawk: What kinds of reward or incentive systems have you tried? What worked best?

RB: The best incentive, by far, was creating a personal relationship with and between the ambassadors. Giving them special access to team members (a direct line for questions). While they all appreciated the company gear, what really motivated them to continue was they became friends and began depending on one another. Every card was handwritten. Besides, I sent them plenty of stuff from the company – product samples, toys, t-shirt etc. There’s only so much swag you can send.

To create this type of relationship I did google hangouts with them and created a separate forum board for them. I gathered questions from other company departments and asked for their feedback (such as – which products should we sell this fall?). I asked for their help a lot – and really showed them how they were helping the community. I shared selected monthly metrics with them so they could actually see that the numbers were increasing – mostly due to their efforts. I also made sure to talk about non-community topics with them as a group and individually on the phone.

Hawk: How do you deal with people that don’t fulfil their prescribed duties or drop off the radar?

RB: First, expect it to happen. In the first program I created, I required way, way too much of my ambassadors the first time around. Some of them went above and beyond – but about half of them ended up dropping out or falling short.

This got awkward – especially because the other ambassadors didn’t know/understand why their colleague wasn’t holding up to their end of the bargain.

When I saw that I was losing an ambassador, I reached out via email – just regular conversation. I said nothing about their lack of activity. I usually waited to bring that up after they replied (although, more often than not, they would apologize in their reply for their absence and give me a reason why).

Every single one felt that they just couldn’t keep up with the requirements. Real life got in the way and they felt a bit pressured. Then they felt bad because they weren’t as active as they had agreed to be. I always offered them to take a break and see how they felt once things settled down. Only one took me up on this offer. The others just felt that they couldn’t follow through. Fortunately, I didn’t lose them as members but they did post much less frequently than before they had become ambassadors.

For the ones who fell completely off of the radar, if I couldn’t get any response from them I mentioned it to the core group and let it be. I did not remove them, but I stopped sending swag, etc. The program was only 6 months anyway, so it was easy to remove them.

Hawk: Are there any mistakes you can share, or things that you’d do differently?

RB: So, so many mistakes. So much I would have done differently:

  1. Start small. As small as possible – until you get things rolling and have a process of how you are managing them. Gradually add more ambassadors and the more experienced ones can help with onboarding.

  2. Whether you hand pick or use an application process, make sure you have an end date. In addition to setting rules for what are grounds for removal, I recommend having a hard end date (6 months, 1 year, etc.). That way if an ambassador starts turning rogue or falls off the radar, there is a natural end of their ambassadorship.

  3. Lower your expectations. And then lower them a little more. If you can, have no expectations. See how it grows organically. When you see a trend in how members are naturally participating in an informal program, you can tailor a formal program around what you already see is working. I expected way too much my first time around – I wanted them logging in 3x a week and posting at least 2x. And, some of them did that – and did an amazing job. But almost half of them ended up dropping out because it was too much of a commitment.

  4. Select twice as many as you think you need. This will help with attrition. People will drop out or vanish. Expect it and be prepared for it.

  5. Remember – this is supposed to be fun for the ambassadors. While incentives like exclusive access, featured members, etc. are a given, I wanted them to really feel like a special part of the community. Each month I created an activity just for them to participate in with one another. For example, we did a Secret Santa exchange (company provided the gifts, but the ambassadors chose which gift their person would get). We did a “Traveling Scrapbook” similar to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – except each ambassador would put in a picture of their pet and share a story. I reached out to a brand and asked if they would send samples of their dog treat baking mixes. The ambassadors were given the task to bake a treat, share the pics, and give feedback. The best pic won a free box of treats.

  6. Use less email, use more telephones. I absolutely hate talking on the telephone. But I forced myself to and I truly believe it helped me get to know them better

  7. Don’t go overboard. True story: one of our ambassadors was local and I asked her if she would be interested in grabbing lunch and visiting headquarters. She was thrilled – we had a really nice lunch…until the check came (which I picked up – of course). She became profoundly uncomfortable. I’m not sure what she had expected.
    We then headed over to the office. I was so excited to introduce her to my CMO. When we walked into her office, I could see my ambassador actually physically stiffen I didn’t realize that while I perceived her as a peer, she perceived me/us as a corporation.
    I then made matters worse when I presented her with a gift basket of toys/treats/etc. I had such a fun time creating it and was so excited to give it to her. But it just embarrassed her even more – she literally wanted to bolt. She commented that I had spent too much money (not knowing that we had a plethora of products at our disposal). Fortunately, it didn’t affect her participation, but I realized that I had gone too far.

Hawk: And finally, who do you think would win in a fight to the death between a mouse and a sparrow?

RB: Sparrow. 100%. Those little beaks pack a punch.

Templates and Resources

AmbassadorTimeline.docx (8.8 KB)
AmbassadorAgreeement.Sample.docx (148.8 KB)
AmbassadorWorkbook.xlsx (29.8 KB)
Ambassador Guide
Separation Anxiety eBook
(The last file is an ebook that Rebecca put together to show member appreciation. She gathered stories from super users to create it. It’s a good example of how to show some member love.)

Sample onboarding scripts and roles for Ambassadors?
Member Spotlight: Jake McKee talks SuperUser Programs
Questions about exclusivity and paid community models
[8 May] What are you working on this week?
Introduction - New Member & Support Questions
Sample onboarding scripts and roles for Ambassadors?
(Sarah Hawk) pinned #2

(Alex Bowen) #3

This is so great and will save me a bunch of time.

I especially appreciate the docs.

What was your budget per program or person? Did you have online or offline events with your ambassadors?

Did your ambassadors invite other ambassadors? How did you grow the network?

I’d also like to know how you handled posting about your program: through email newsletters? Social media? How often, and how often you would “market” and brag about it? Did you develop content around your ambassadors?

In one of your docs you mentioned a: “Community manual and moderator guide.” Do you have that to share as well?


(Rebecca Braglio) #4

Hi Alexandra!

For one program my budget was only about $500 for the year. Yep, you heard that right. This is why I think it’s more important to rely on human-interaction/real relationship building skills rather than swag (swag gets expensive). I used my budget for the initial welcome swag kit and for a holiday secret santa type exchange. We posted about the program in our community blog by giving each ambassador their own “meet the pet parent” post. We also recognized them with badges on their avatars. For the ambassadors who blogged, we would reshare their content on our own social media channels and encourage others to visit their blogs. We gave them recognition at least once a month. This program eventually was shut down because the community was closed. Re: guide - I’m not sure where I refer to that, if you can tell me which document that is in I’m happy to look into it, although I really covered all of the moderation in the Ambassador Guide. I might have just forgotten to edit that out when I shared it.

For the other program that I initiated, budget was considerably higher (in that I could invite them to offline events and pay for airfare, lodging, ticketing, etc.). There was also consideration for sponsoring ambassadors to go to conferences to represent on our behalf (while they were increasing their own career/professional skills). Since this was a professional online community, we needed ambassadors to represent out at events to help the community grow. Keep in mind the more money you have, the higher the expectations will be that the program perform.

(Alex Bowen) #5

In the ambassador agreement, under orientation you state: “Read the Community manual and moderator guide.”

This is great! Thank you :slight_smile: to start off, I will likely have your initial budget - and then hope to grow into something greater. We have a very small, and slow/inactive community :confused: I am hoping this will help.

(Rebecca Braglio) #6

Oh gotcha - okay that is the Ambassador Guide (I just renamed it)
And good luck!!!

(Sarah Hawk) #7

I’ve seen a LOT of discussion around ambassador programs around the internet lately, so I thought it might add value to list some examples of good ones here.

@Alexandra_Anna_Bowen drew my attention to the Docker Captains today.

(Rebecca Braglio) #8

oh that one looks very interesting!!!

Found this one the other day:

More mobile-app community focused.

(Kate McGaughey) #9

Hi @rebeccabraglio! As a first time community manager, I really enjoyed reading your interview and looking through the resources you provided. I’m currently working to put together an ambassador/superuser program for my company’s support community. In your interview you say that “incentives like exclusive access, featured members, etc. are a given.” The agreement sample you gave states that the program is completely voluntary, but there are also specific expectations. Elsewhere on this forum I’ve read some research @HAWK did on legal considerations that have to do with receiving perks for participating in a voluntary program. How do you recommend handling setting expectations for program participants regarding community engagement, while offering perks like access to product beta features, invitation to a customer event etc.? I want to make sure I’m covering all my bases and offering power users a great experience, but not breaking any laws. We are based in the U.S. Thank you!

(Rebecca Braglio) #10

Hi Kate and thanks for replying!

If I recall from that program, I did set “expectations” more as a way to give the members a guideline of how to participate. So, for example, if one of the members never followed through I didn’t kick them out of the program, per se. However, I gradually stopped sending things their way and after trying to nudge them back they either got back on board or told me there were no longer interested (so I could remove them from the group).

I vaguely recall the thread you’re referring to- but I’d have to see it to remember what it was about…

We also did have them sign a non-disclosure agreement - which (as an attorney) is critical in my mind. If they are getting exclusive behind-the-scenes access you want to make sure that doesn’t travel all over the internet. I can probably find sample one for you if you’re interested?

(Colleen Young) #11

Hi @rebeccabraglio Thanks for sharing so much valuable information about your ambassador program. I have a similar program on Mayo Clinic Connect. While our program parallels much of what you outlined, you’ve given me additional enhancements to consider as I plan to scale the ambassador program to a larger group, such as an application form and NDA.

The loyalty and dedication of our ambassadors never ceases to amaze me, which brings me to ask about your end date practice. I can’t imagine enforcing an end date with my most dedicated ambassadors. They’d be insulted, I think. Maybe not. Other ambassadors may appreciate that it is a time-limited commitment. I never thought to offer that. I can definitely see the advantage of a term if ambassadors go rogue or even start to get a sense of entitlement that taints their participation and modelling good community behavior. Can you talk a bit more about the pros and cons of a set term? Were dedicated ambassadors given the option of renewing their term?

In our case, ambassadors can apply to become a ambassador, but to date they have been selected by invitation. I select them based on their behavior in the community. Also current ambassadors can suggest candidates. Like you, I send an invitation to learn more about the ambassador program and follow-up with a telephone interview. Have you ever withdrawn the invitation after the telephone interview?

(Rebecca Braglio) #12

I think most importantly it all comes down to setting expectations and making them clear.
In this scenario, it sounds like your program is already off the ground. Since they have already been participating, their expectations (of no term limit) may already be set. To go back now and set a term limit may not go over well.

Are your ambassador actual professionals associated with the clinic (doctors, nurses, etc.)? One way to get around the “set term” is to simply state that participation/membership is contingent upon them adhering to the ethical rules of the profession (or of the clinic). Professional Ethics rules are usually written broadly enough to cover a rogue situation - so you could always use that as a backup to justify having to rescind an offer or terminate an ambassadorship.

The other option to consider here is not “terminating” or limiting the time commitment but after a certain period of inactivity (that you would determine) shifting them towards an “Alumni” type role. This way they are still in the program, but they’ve been given a different type of status that still recognizes their value. Characterize it as alumni members take more of an “advisory” or backseat type role to help mentor newer members. This way, you’ve managed to lessen their role in the program in a way where you are still showing you value their input. This way, newer members get a chance to be more active as ambassadors, shine in the spotlight, and take advantage of opportunities.

Pros of a set term: It gives you complete control over the confines of the relationship. If things are going badly, you know that you have an end date coming and you will not work with that person again. The other benefit is what I listed above - it gives newer members the chance to shine. If you have the same ambassadors always speaking on your behalf, or representing you at conferences, or leading events, it limits the opportunity for “fresh” blood. Having an end date may also lessen the likelihood for “entitlement” because you have already taken control of the terms of the relationship. Boundaries and expectations are set. If the ambassador-ship is an open-ended, nebulous kind of never-ending opportunity, it may make it easier for difficulties to arise.

The cons of having an end term: Having a beginning and end date may come across as more “corporate” and less “friendly, grass-roots.” I think it’s a bit harder to build trust with someone this way - you’re basically asking them to advocate for you, but telling them that after x period ends you don’t want their help anymore. One of the factors that will make an ambassador program successful is if the participating members feel a sense of ownership and investment in the program. They have invested their time and efforts into growing the program and helping it develop. If you have an end date and make them re-apply (and they may feel, “Why should I have to apply after all of my hard work?”), it may be a huge turnoff. And, if they re-apply and you don’t want to accept them…then you have to figure out how you are going to send that “rejection” letter.

If I were implementing a program in this scenario, I would probably survey my current ambassadors about setting term limits, requiring application versus hand picking, which behaviors would be deemed unacceptable, etc. I think that you have a gold mine in front of you that you can use to help shape the program – your current ambassadors know their peers in a way no one else can. They are in the best position to make a recommendation, in my opinion. By surveying them, you are also giving them that sense of ownership/investment. This doesn’t mean that you have to accept their recommendations (after all, it’s up to you whether you share the results with them), it just means that you are giving them the opportunity to be heard and showing them that you are taking this program seriously.

Regarding the telephone interview: I haven’t been in this situation, actually. However, I have been in the situation of interviewing potential site contributors (who end up in an ambassador role eventually). I think by nature of the conversation being an “interview” (I’m assuming it was conveyed as such), the expectation was set that this was not a given kind of thing. If the candidate presumed the call was just a formality, you now have to tell not only to the candidate that they weren’t accepted but also the ambassador who recommened them. I would suggest you reveal as little as possible and make it not up for discussion. This is a business decision and you have made the determination that at this time that you have decided to onboard other candidates. Keep it simple. The last thing you need is the ambassador who recommended the candidate to be blowing up your phone wanting to know why you didn’t pick them.

When you say you select them based upon their behavior in the community, what does that mean? Do you have set achievements they need to reach?

(Colleen Young) #13

Hi Rebecca, thanks for such a thorough reply! Somehow I missed the notification that you had responded hence my delayed response.

Our ambassadors are patients themselves, not clinical professionals. All of them bring professions however: lawyer, journalist, mother, tech writer, systems analyst etc., and skills for managing their health. On Connect, the value of the expert by experience is underlined.

So far I’ve been able to nip any hint of rogue behaviour in the bud, but I’ve seen enough to know how easily it could happen.

Your suggestion of the alumni role based on inactivity is pure brilliance! Keeping inactive ambassadors onboard undermines the value of the active ones. I’ve retired a couple of people, but alumni is more dignified than retired and values their contributions when they were able to be active. Thank you for that framing.

Using your pro and con criteria with respect to a term, I’m confident that no term is better for our program at the moment. I like the suggestion of consulting the current ambassadors however. It was quite easy to recruit the first 2 waves of ambassadors. I started inviting a third set this month and have been surprised that quite a few have declined or deferred the offer. I think this is, in part, because they see the commitment of the very active ambassadors and think that’s too much. They don’t realize that there is a lower level of commitment that is also acceptable. It’s always important to keep in mind that these people also have serious health issues to manage.

For the telephone interview, I will have to tweak my invitation a bit. While the interview does not signify commitment, I’ve been more careful to allow them a chance to decline, but not framed it well enough to allow myself to do the same. Wording needs to be different now that we have an established program.

Ambassadors are:

  • Patients, caregivers or family members
  • Active members of Mayo Clinic Connect
  • Passionate about the topics they participate in
  • Knowledgeable and compassionate
  • Have personal experience to contribute to the discussions
  • Available and responsive to the groups and discussions they monitor

Essentially, I’m looking for these qualities to be displayed in the community before they are invited to the program. Are they active and participate regularly. Are they knowledgeable, articulate, supportive, etc.? Do they also display good “listening” skills online, meet the member where they are at rather than only talking about themselves?

I do. I have a low bar of achievements that they all have to attain. These will be helpful for me to develop criteria when introducing the alumni status. Additionally, I set out tasks regularly in the private group just for ambassadors. Sometimes these are suggestions, coaching and tips. Other times they are specific tasks to certain ambassadors, tailored to the engagement and stage of their areas.

(Rebecca Braglio) #14

I think you are covered! The bar for the program is quite reasonable, and it also gives you a clear response if/when someone asks why they can’t be part of it — but also gives them a way to modify their behavior online to be eligible.

I’m currently working on a similar program for patient advocates - but we are so early in growth it’s really just “member appreciation” right now. I’d love to keep connected with you to see how yours evolves!

(Colleen Young) #15

Yes, please do.

(Jack Horman) #16

hey there people. i’m just a newbie here but i really want to learn (i’m sitting home for a while now doing nothing but searching for or such sites because of my health problems and money problems) and instead of not doing anything wanted to learn and from reading through your posts i see that i have from whom. i would like to hear more from you and update whenever you can. can i ask some questions if i would have for ya’? thanks!!

(Rebecca Braglio) #17

Welcome and of course!

(Emily Neufeld) #18

@colleenyoung I know I had just reached out to you via personal message, but I figured since knowledge has already been captured here and can be more beneficial for everyone, I figure it makes more sense to continue here!

What kind of community are you building?

It’s a blended product and support community- additionally we’re gated to existing customers and partners. We implemented a soft launch in the spring to small group of beta users and did our full launch at the end of Sept - so we’re pretty young! Our product is e-commerce software and our audience is very technical, which I am not, hence one of the biggest gaps to fill with the program is building a base of passionate people who hold the knowledge to actively help and connect one another. I’ve seen I’m not the only one who has this experience!

Where we are:

I just completed a requirements gathering session with key stakeholders who are also a part of the pool I’ll be recruiting from to start the program. @rebeccabraglio’s comment about starting small and managing expectations (both mine and ambassadors) speaks to me as our community is just over 300 users and our internal experts who can answer the questions are under 50. I’m looking to build with select internal members for piloting.

From our requirements gathering session, our experts want to be able to choose which roles they play in the community. Examples are a Content Fairies (edit sp/grammar, tags and categories), Moderators (facilitating answering of questions through resource connection and tapping into networks), Content ‘QAs’ (QAing content for duplicates, out-of-date, versioning), and Slack Advocates (our devs live on Slack - work on the Slack/Community info flow).

Do you have this kind of role differentiation? If yes, why do you think it was successful for your community? If not, do you feel like it wouldn’t be successful and why? How do you effectively cover the needs of the community, while leveraging individual skill sets without it becoming too cumbersome? Do you have ‘on duty’ weeks for select ambassadors?

Coming up from the tactic levels, in what ways did implementing this kind of program accomplish your strategy and what was it? Currently our priority strategy is around making newcomers feeling confident, but I know who is actually doing the behaviour here isn’t targeting newcomers - although they benefit from the success of this. Does that make it a tactic that supports the newcomer strategy?

(Colleen Young) #19

Great questions, @emilyneufeld. Your community type and ambassador approach differ from mine in several ways, so I dare not speak to its likelihood of success or not. I have managed communities for patients with health conditions and communities of practice for health care professionals, some of which include patients.

I did not pre-determine roles for ambassadors, but rather watched behaviours and the intrinsic motivations of key members (defined by regularity and quality of contributions). I encouraged, thanked and rewarded the members who displayed the behaviours that I particularly wanted the community to adopt and portray. Members who were invited to become ambassadors shaped their own roles, rather than be assigned a role. This had several benefits. People are more likely to stay committed to a role of their own choosing, they do it naturally and training is minimal. Instead you can enhance their natural talents as the community evolves. Additionally, they may develop roles you haven’t thought of that are very beneficial to the community.

How do you effectively cover the needs of the community, while leveraging individual skill sets without it becoming too cumbersome?

Needs of the community or of your organization? I should think that the members you choose to be ambassadors would share the purpose and goals of the community members. To paraphrase MacMillan and Chavis (1986), a healthy sense of community means the goals of members match those of the membership as a whole and members should feel they can influence and be influenced by the community. I fear you may be defining the structure too definitively. The expectations of the role, responsibility and commitment are a lot to ask from people before they have displayed a commitment and behaviour in the community. What is in it for them? And will members accept the ambassadors as special members just because they’ve been assigned as such? In others words, will they trust them if they haven’t been a “regular” member first and been awarded the status of ambassador after displaying a desired quality and built relationships with members? How are you currently identifying the ambassadors?

(Cathy Galindo) #20

When you are ready to pitch your idea for a brand ambassador program to the C-Suite, make a plan that details exactly how the program will benefit the brand, and exactly how it will benefit the ambassadors who participate. Carefully and clearly spell out all the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that will be measured and tracked, as well as an explanation of why it is important to do so. Also, give a thorough timeline of the roll-out of the brand ambassador program, for at least the first 6 months of the program, 12 months is better. Assume that there will be a healthy amount of skepticism from upper management about the success of a brand ambassador program (since your brand has likely never launched one), so the eventual signoff by the CEO or CMO will greatly depend on how well you address these concerns head on.