The media and entertainment (M&E) industry has a reputation of being the glitziest within the technology sector.
If it was a place, it would be Hollywood. If it was a color, it would be red like a movie premiere carpet. And if it was a person, it would be a paparazzo – competitive, reactive, and quick-footed, ready to get the money shot with the best camera in hand. It’s the home of blockbusters, boxsets, big names, and now – born out of the digital age – brand ambassadors, which are increasingly dominating our TVs, ads, and YouTube videos.
Within the M&E technology industry specifically, brand ambassadors have had a slow start. Having not experienced the catapult to success they’ve achieved across other technology sectors such as mobile, brand ambassadors in the M&E technology industry are often thought about and then pushed aside. They’re thought to be unpredictable – the ultimate gamble which, when big business deals by big media players are at stake, is not worth taking. These industry-wide hesitations have stalled their progression. M&E technology companies have traditionally shied away from implementing a brand ambassador program in fear of:
- the chosen brand ambassador(s) not being the right fit after all
- it falling apart due to a lack of internal resources to upkeep the management of the brand ambassadors
- it not aligning with their brand values, right now and in the future as business priorities shift and evolve
- the brand ambassadors not adhering to brand guidelines and corporate law
But the reality M&E businesses are facing is that it has become increasingly more difficult for them to understand who their customers are and what makes them tick.
The diversification of audiences – complicated by their vast range of needs and expectations in a multi-faceted technology-driven environment – is one of the reasons it has become harder for businesses operating in the M&E industry to get to know their customers. And without knowing them, targeting them effectively is almost impossible. Couple this with the lack of visibility and accessibility businesses often find themselves facing from being elevated on a corporate platform, and it’s no surprise that customer personas can become hazy.
Therefore, using a magnifying glass to discover what makes customers tick and why is crucial when building a PR, sales and marketing strategy. Without insight into their priorities and buying behaviors, businesses are prone to create assumptions on what these could be, often missing the mark completely.
For M&E businesses that market their products and services to a broad spectrum of customers, there may be several audiences that need speaking to. With no set rulebook for audience targeting, a tailored approach is required to get them to sit up and take notice. But if not implemented effectively, it risks draining resources.
Bridging the gap between the business and customer, brand ambassadors are effective in helping businesses access their customers while gathering valuable insight on their behaviors.
A brand ambassador is an influencer who embodies, champions and promotes a brand out of perceived genuineness, passion and authenticity. They’re the perfect consumer, the person the end user strives to be and is therefore most likely to emulate. And thanks to their loyal following, they have the connections and audience that brands might not have or be able to easily and honestly access.
Brand ambassadors are closely connected to their online following. The deep bond they’ve formed with their audiences online has been achieved through both bidirectional communication and, more commonly, unidirectional communication – which is favored due to the impossibility of speaking to every single follower on a one-to-one basis. They talk to their online audiences – whether that be via Instagram posts or YouTube videos – without expecting anything but a ‘like’ or comment in return.
Requiring less time and effort than thousands of two-way conversations, social media allows them to boost their visibility on a frequent basis. By keeping their voice personal and relatable, and performing their online persona with such openness, it also enables them to exercise transparency to help ensure they remain accessible.
This is why brand ambassadors can bring new opportunities for M&E businesses. These individuals possess significant influence over and intelligence into their loyal followers who, despite not always speaking to the influencer directly, continue to commit their time and attention.
A brand ambassador’s online profile is a brand’s treasure – not only for their reach but the lens it presents into the way customers are behaving. It can help answer questions regarding their personas, the type of content they’re most (and least) likely to engage with, and the social platforms they’re congregating on the most. And even though unidirectional communication is more frequent on social media, there are opportunities for bidirectional communication such as forums and live Q&As. These allow for high-quality conversations to happen between influencers and their followers, thereby helping to form greater brand-customer relationships.
The online world undoubtedly makes up a large proportion of a brand ambassador program but taking them offline also brings new opportunities to amplify your brand, such as joining you at industry events for speaking sessions and roundtables.
The role of a brand ambassador has evolved alongside celebrity culture and social media. In a time where consumer cynicism is growing, getting the right people to represent your brand is paramount. And employees aren’t always enough.
The brand ambassador should still act as a consumer and not be molded into a brand lap dog. They must still be seen as a human, not a robot programmed with corporate speak. Activating a brand ambassador program should, therefore, be executed with careful strategic planning. Here are some key considerations for M&E businesses to implement during the planning stage:
1. Enforce clear messaging that aligns with your brand’s values
There’s no point employing brand ambassadors without briefing them on who you are as a brand. What defines your brand are the values that underpin your people, business and services/products – and your brand ambassador should embody these too. Your brand ambassador program should establish clear messaging that guides the brand ambassador to stay aligned with your core values and business objectives. Without it, they risk going off the road.
2. Build strong relationships with the brand ambassador
An open dialogue with your brand ambassador(s) is crucial to building a strong relationship with them. These are people who have worked tirelessly – often as a side hustle – to build their profile and following. They strive to protect their audience and integrity, so it’s key that you outline what’s in it for them with transparency and careful consideration. This relationship building can be enhanced greatly by giving the brand ambassador a designated point of contact within your business in case they have any questions or concerns. And I’m sure a few branded freebies will also go down a treat.
3. Remember that quality trumps quantity
While a following in the millions is pretty impressive, a big-time mainstream influencer isn’t always the best option when it comes to reaching your target audience. In the M&E b2b technology space, businesses are addressing a pretty niche pool of customers who are most likely following a niche pool of influencers. These influencers don’t need a giant following. But they should fit an audience criterion that aligns with your target market.
4. Tailor first, engage second
It’s easy to jump into a brand ambassador program by getting in contact with your brand ambassador(s) right away to hit the ground running. But as previously mentioned, not all brand influencers are the same. They wouldn’t be as successful as they are without being unique. Before approaching them, tailor your brand ambassador program to suit the influencers by identifying how they currently engage with their followers and what their followers are paying attention to. Just like you, they wouldn’t want to go off brand.
5. Think long-term, not short-term
Brand ambassadors shouldn’t be thought of as a quick marketing fix. For example, seeing one Instagram post linked to your brand on the ambassador’s profile will have little long-term impact on how your brand is perceived. But if this is repeated regularly, yet tastefully, across a longer period of time – especially in different variations to keep it fresh and exciting – people will begin to form a positive perception of your brand.
It won’t happen overnight, but the long-term value can be significant for those that are willing to put in the effort.
Thinking of employing brand ambassadors to take your brand to the next level? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our contact page to ask us about creating an authentic brand ambassador program or to find out more about our PR and marketing services.Sign up to our newsletter