Whether you have an existing chamber ambassadors program or you’re looking to start one, creating a group that is welcoming and has the kind of energy that is infectious can be challenging. But it’s absolutely necessary if you want it to be successful.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of creating a program and laying the foundation for success.
For a successful chamber ambassadors program, concentrate on:
- Recruiting the right people
- Creating solid goals for the ambassadors
- Explaining expectations to them
- Giving them the tools they need to succeed
What is an Ambassadors Program?
Chamber ambassadors are the face and heart of the chamber. They will be seen at events and in the community talking up the chamber, answering questions about the organization, and generally serving as a friendly connection to the chamber. What makes their role valuable and different from what you do is that they are volunteers. They are not paid by the chamber so when they speak about the difference the chamber made in their lives and careers, they are believed at a rate that is much higher than any clever marketing campaign you could put together.
There are in-person ambassadors and social media ambassadors (or influencers). In-person ambassadors network at events and throughout the community, while social media ambassadors share your content with their followers.
Both are valuable but should not (in most cases) be the same people. Some volunteers love getting out in the community–and have the time to do so. We’re referring to the kind of people who have never met a stranger. They make terrific in-person ambassadors.
On the other hand, some people love the chamber but don’t have the time, nor the inclination to attend your ribbon cuttings and events. Yet, they love interacting online. They’ve likely built a large following. Those people make excellent brand/social media ambassadors.
Who Does What: Chamber Board Members vs. Ambassadors It’s important that all your volunteers understand expectations and goals. This article helps you separate who should be doing what between your board and your ambassadors.
The Challenges with Chamber Ambassador Programs
One of the things that is a challenge for most chambers and chamber pros is that they inherited an ambassadors program that was started before social media was mainstream. Their program may be filled with well-meaning retirees who just love being social–on their schedule. It makes sense that retirees would make excellent ambassadors because they aren’t reporting to a job on a daily basis. They have time to shake hands and talk about the chamber.
But do they?
The benefit of retirement is an open schedule and many retired ambassadors want to participate occasionally. After all, they have a life to lead!
A successful chamber ambassadors program will require a commitment in duration (usually one year) and attendance (must attend 2 events a month). When you create those types of expectations, the position may no longer interest some of your volunteers. That’s okay. Let them find other positions or ways to help that are more to their liking. you want someone who will be recognizable as a chamber ambassador. That happens through repeated exposure to the community, not floating in and out occasionally.
While being a chamber ambassador does involve attending a lot of events, it’s not all parties. Or rather, there’s a business purpose to the “parties.” The role may seem like a social one–and it is–but for the ambassadors program to be its most effective, you must select ideal candidates to represent the chamber.
Ambassadors aren’t attending events merely because you want them there as extra headcount. There is a business reason behind their presence. They are an army of referral marketers for the chamber and they must understand that role to accomplish the goals you have for the program.
Tips for Creating a Thriving Program
When it comes to creating a thriving chamber ambassadors program, there are several important parts. First, you want to select the right people, then you want to give them directions and communicate expectations. Finally, they need tools to help them become successful at the tasks you’re giving them.
Here are a few additional ideas:
How Do You “Cast” for the Role of Chamber Ambassador?
The role of chamber ambassador may not have the same deliverables as a membership director but it is important. People considering the position should understand that they do more than just meet people. They are there to act as a “super member,” one that exemplifies the chamber in words and action.
It is an active role that requires them to be “on” all the time. Many people don’t realize this but just as the CEO represents the chamber at all times, so do the ambassadors. If a chamber ambassador is waiting in line at a local business, for instance, and they speak negatively about the length of the line or the business, that could impact the chamber. All ambassadors must realize the strength of their affiliation and the power of association.
Find out why they want to be a chamber ambassador. You don’t want someone representing the chamber for the wrong reasons.
Here are a few tips when recruiting ambassadors:
Questions for Prospective Chamber Ambassadors – ask the right questions during the screening process. You need more than just a vivacious personality in your chamber ambassadors.
If you’re recruiting for a social media brand ambassador, you want the following skills and characteristics:
- strong knowledge of social media best practices for business.
- desire to keep up with the latest trends and information on social media.
- a strong, active following. Numbers are not enough. You want them to influence their followers to act or attend.
- a passion for the business community.
- professionalism. An intern with a big social media following is not always the answer. If they’re not presenting themselves professionally or have the wrong kind of crowd following them, it won’t do the chamber any good.
What Rules or Directions Do You Provide for Chamber Ambassadors?
In addition to ensuring ambassadors understand they are always representing the chamber, they imust know the rules and directions under which they should be operating. Many chambers create a chamber ambassador’s packet or welcome kit/resource for them to consult. Others place the resources online. Whatever you decide, it’s helpful to share:
- a to-do list (if they don’t know where to start)
- the event calendar
- a means to communicate with one another
- talking points on frequently asked questions
- popular Dos and Don’ts
Things Your Ambassadors Need
Many chambers have an ambassador’s uniform because it makes the volunteers immediately identifiable as chamber ambassadors, even from across the room. While this isn’t a critical need, it is helpful. So is a name tag.
Ambassadors should also be on your communication distribution list. They should know about things as soon as they are made public or even before if appropriate. Ideally, these hard-working members will be in the community talking about the chamber. You don’t want them to get a question about an event or chamber program that they haven’t heard about yet. You may want to consider an ambassadors’ newsletter or email.
No matter how extraordinary your communication is, at some point, someone will ask them a question they don’t know the answer to. That’s just the nature of chamber business. When that happens, make sure they know exactly how they should handle it. Should they research the question on the chamber site, direct the person to someone who might know, or set up a time for them to research and get back to the potential member?
Finally, make sure your ambassadors understand that although they represent the chamber, they should not be speaking to the press or making formal announcements on your behalf.
To run a successful ambassadors program, you want everyone to understand the goals for the program and the individuals. Ensure they have the resources they need to be successful and feel comfortable in their role and you’ll be on your way to one of the most potent referral marketing engines out there.