Forget ‘warm bodies’—these brand ambassador types are essential staff members
Brand ambassadors have always been a valuable part of the experiential ecosystem, and perhaps now more than ever, their ability to manage crowds, give direction, add context to an experience and make people feel at ease is essential. We’ve come a long way from recruiting “warm bodies”—these days, brands and agencies seek out intelligent brand ambassadors who can effectively relay their messaging. And while, as Larry Hess, ceo and owner at Encore Nationwide, puts it, “there’s no glossary that everybody abides by” when it comes to the types of staffers surrounding events, it benefits event marketers to understand some of the key roles that fall under the definition of brand ambassador. Here, we outline six you should know about.
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The Standard Ambassador
Outgoing and energetic, the standard brand ambassador’s job is to represent the brand in a polished manner. You’ll find them greeting attendees at the entrance to an event or experience, luring people in and “selling the experience,” as Dayna Gilchrist, founder and ceo at The Hype Agency, puts it. This staffer is a champion at working a queue and keeping attendees entertained and interested in the experience at hand.
Serving as one of the most prevalent brand ambassador roles, the sampler delivers. Literally. Their primary purpose is to distribute a brand’s product to its target demo. Sometimes it’s a simple hand-off, while for others the job requires a more in-depth explanation of the product’s benefits. “Their whole goal is pushing product as fast as possible and getting as many products out there as possible,” says Joe Wroblewski, president at Assist Marketing.
The Product Specialist
Of all the brand ambassador types, the product specialist is the one that requires the most extensive training. This staffer knows the ins and outs of a product or service, can expertly speak to its benefits and answer any questions an attendee might have. And today’s product specialists have to be more knowledgeable than ever, according to Gilchrist. “Consumers today are researchers, so brands need a staffer who’s an open book,” she says.
The product specialist is always willing to take a one-on-one deep dive into the product at hand, according to Hess, who recently staffed a campaign for a new wine brand. “It’s a much deeper education process,” he says. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, here’s a wine. Do you like it? Go buy some.’ It’s, ‘Here’s this wine, and here’s why it’s healthier for you.’”
The Promo Model
The term “booth babe” has rightfully been deleted from the industry’s vocabulary, but the concept of having a polished staffer who can draw people in with a certain look (and charisma) is still relevant. Some brands might be looking for a clean-cut look, while others might be seeking out something glitzier. In any case, the desired appearance is what defines this role. And these days, the position is taken on by both men and women. “The great news is there’s a lot more diversity than ever before as far as promo models go,” says Wroblewski.
Knowledgeable and well-trained, the spokesperson is an emcee of sorts, often found on a microphone delivering key taglines and brand messaging. At an auto show, for instance, this staffer might be found giving 10-minute presentations at the top of every hour to ensure messaging is delivered to as many attendees as possible. It’s also worth noting that this role sometimes overlaps with that of the product specialist.
The Safety Lead
It will come as no surprise that the pandemic has given rise to the importance of having a safety lead at events. Now more than ever, it’s critical to have staff on-site that can oversee the security and sanitation elements of an experience, and ensure their fellow brand ambassadors are adhering to all guidelines. In the current climate, aspects of their job might encompass ensuring everyone is positioned six feet apart from one another or administering health questionnaires.
“We feel like every program needs someone to make sure that people are staying on their social distancing decals, they’re using the hand sanitizer down the line, people are taking the breaks when they need to, to wash their hands. Because otherwise it’s going to get lost because you could be at an event and it’s 10 hours later and you don’t realize that you haven’t left your spot,” Gilchrist says.
KEEPING STAFFERS SAFE
There are a number of measures event marketers are taking to keep their brand ambassadors safe on-site. Across the board, PPE is being provided, and staffers are being required to wear masks (and in some cases, face shields), take their temperature leading up to, and on the day of, the event, and fill out health questionnaires. But there are other steps being taken to ensure the safety and well-being of brand ambassadors.
Giving staffers ample breaks is important in the current climate. Not only does it offer them a chance to wash their hands—something many staffing agencies require at various intervals—it provides an opportunity for a mental pause.
“The good news is that our clients are giving a lot more breaks than ever before to make sure that people stay hydrated, that they’re able to step away on their own and take a mask break when no one else is around,” says Wroblewski. “I think the guidelines are a lot stricter, but there’s also been a lot more understanding of staff needing a little extra time to make sure that they are taken care of.”
According to Gilchrist, providing brand ambassadors with the proper training up front in order to outline what their roles and responsibilities are, and what health guidelines are in place, is paramount. That includes establishing clear lines of communication.
“They should know, when they get on-site, who to talk to,” she says. “If you aren’t feeling well, who do you call? If somebody comes up to you that isn’t wearing a mask and you don’t feel comfortable, who do you tell? So providing that training and knowledge up front is super important.”
Certain staffing agencies, including Encore, require their brand ambassadors to essentially quarantine themselves for 14 days prior to an event, and confirm that they haven’t had COVID-19 symptoms during that period. What some of these firms don’t do, however, is follow up to check on their health, and “close the loop” on the event after it has taken place—something Hess says is a miss.
“After 14 days, we follow up with the same staff and we make sure that they’re not showing symptoms,” he says. “And if there is anybody showing symptoms, we ask that they go get tested. If they show positive, then we go through a contact tracing scenario.”
Photo credit: Hilton
*This article was originally published in 2020 and is updated periodically