Telum Talks to... Alt/Shift Managing Director Elly Hewitt about the role of brand ambassadors in 2020

Telum Talks to... Alt/Shift Managing Director Elly Hewitt about the role of brand ambassadors in 2020

With the growth of the social media influencer market, are traditional brand ambassadors having as much of an impact as they did in the past?
People who started out as an influencer, and haven’t grown further, are still only influencers. Whereas a brand ambassador offers so much more, they can’t really be compared. When you get the right brand ambassadors, they can carry a story really well.

A project we recently worked on was the “Good Calls” initiative. It involved 7-Eleven partnering with Dylan Alcott to thank people who have stepped up to support others during isolation. Dylan is someone we have worked with closely in the past with Ability Fest. When we reached out to him, he was all for it. He really believed in the campaign. Dylan is so seasoned and professional with what he does. The interview was tricky. It got interrupted by a live press conference and when they phoned back they were just so focused on Tokyo, but he knew how to bring them back and land the key messages.

A good brand ambassador can do so much heavy lifting, particularly for a consumer-based brand. I think brand ambassadors are going to become almost more important, but the stakes are higher. You are really going to want to make sure you're putting your dollars into the right people, because marketing budgets will no longer be anywhere near what they used to be. And if businesses are going to put the budget into one person, you want to make sure they've got their own reach on their own platforms. You want to be able to pitch them to media. If someone has just made a living off being an influencer, they need to add another string to their bow.

Can you tell me about the process of finding the right brand ambassadors?
We have a rigorous traffic light system based on the brand values we're working with. We also go really in-depth with our social media tools to make sure engagement rates are there. Then we reach out to management to open discussions with brand ambassadors. By the time we get our shortlist to clients, they’re really well vetted. We know that (a) they’ve got an appetite, (b) they’ve got the audience, and (c) they’re within budget.

The traffic light system we utilise when it comes to vetting influencers not only analyses the social engagement the ambassador has with their followers, but does an audit of their overall lifestyle and personal brand, to ensure they have the right and genuine alignment with our clients. Authenticity and permissibility for brand talent is what aids in a successful brand ambassador led campaign - consumers and media can see through when it's not the case. 

Are influencer marketplaces like TRIBE competition for PR Agencies?
No, I wouldn't see those marketplaces as competition. We engage TRIBE. When we're looking for a really specific micro audience, TRIBE is a really valuable tool.

I know Bacardi had a really successful campaign of TRIBE influencers creating, essentially, what was their above the line campaign.  It really depends on the brief. If they want mainstream media, we need a name. If they want reach and engagement, we might not need that media lens over it. It really depends on what the objective is.

We also find TRIBE a good avenue for great content creation when budgets are low given a large bank of incredibly creative micro influencers are registered with them. PR agencies and these platforms can work really well together, depending on the brief.

Are big-name brand ambassadors still attracting earned media?
In the early days of COVID? No. We were really in a health crisis and news was really living up to its name, in every sense of the word, of delivering factual information to the masses. But then as we started coming out and things looked a bit brighter, media outlets were actually contacting us, because they needed the light to the shade.

That's why the “Good Calls” campaign we did with Dylan went so well, because you had a well known person who was quite relevant at the time because the Olympics had just been postponed. There is still a real desire for the lighter pieces and readership of major news outlets has skyrocketed. The Herald Sun is currently attracting more than 800,000 eyeballs. So, if you can get a high profile enough person to land a good picture opportunity, in say a News Corp paper, they're worth every cent.

How is ALT/SHIFT getting around not being able to have large-scale launch events for products, typically where brand ambassadors would turn up? 
For product launches, you have your top-tier guest list of around 50 people if you're doing a launch. They would be your top-tier media and your top-tier influencers. Then you would have the mid-tier that you would send out the beautifully designed product packages. Now, that people have been on their couches for a long time, you've almost moved completely to the mid-tier talent. Now, more than ever, people are on an array of social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, and are better able to consume and view ambassador content virtually.

Influencers still play a really important role. It's just how you package up that product. And again, for me, it's all about alignment. Don't go for reach, go for the right alignment and you'll get that cut through.

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