Brand Ambassadors

I received an offer recently to become a “brand ambassador” for a product line. The company is owned by someone who is an acquaintance and knew I had a background in social media marketing. Boosting brand awareness by using celebrities, customers and employees is becoming more and more common.

Though customers and employees may not have the audience and followers of a celebrity, they may have more believability as a spokesperson, especially if they are not being paid to endorse (which is what celebrities have been doing for a lot longer than there has been social media).

When you officially make some a brand ambassador, you should not just let them go on their own.

Most brands will create clear guidelines as to what they can post. A bad post can do a lot of damage.

You would need to create and curate relevant content for them. Images, logos, and text can be provided with guidelines how how much personalization and variation can be done.

I did this kind of campaign with a large national professional organization. The official but “unpaid” ambassadors who completed a series of campaign tasks around a national conference could get all or a portion of their conference stay covered. It was a good motivator.

Employers will often use a platform like Hootsuite or Smarp to facilitate employee engagement and advocacy by providing an internal content management system. Employees can access shareable content and schedule posts.

Customers – who are generally unpaid and unofficial ambassadors – can also be effective. As in my own experiences, when someone retweets or shares your official post they are endorsing (unless they make a negative comment along with that share!). That kind of 1:1 or 1:many word of mouth promotion is very powerful.

You’ll see offers made in this vein. For example, retweet this to your followers with a special hashtag and the company will select 10 retweets to win a product package.

Unretiring to Consulting

consulting

Are you planning a post-retirement or unretirement career? The number of people who are considering it grows each year. The old standard of retiring at 65 is gone. Not only do more people work beyond 65, but many people retire well before 65 to an unretirement.

There is a growing trend towards shifting employment to consulting and coaching.  Harvard Business Review says that this desire to stay employed is about personal and professional fulfillment. You may be surprised that the wealthiest people were the most likely to want to keep working. 80% of retirees who work say they are doing so because they want to, rather than because they have to.

I made this move in 2013 well before my still-to-come-65th birthday. (The majority of consultant/coaches are 50+.)Like many of those in the 2016 ICF Global Coaching Study, the majority of senior professionals don’t want to “retire.” They like what they are doing, but don’t like the pace and amount of work required at a corporate job. Clearly some of the appeal is  more flexible hours, possibly higher rates, working virtually and from your own location.

But you would not be the only person to have come to this decision. Another HBR article discusses some things to consider and I agree with most of them.

One tip is to “Give yourself sufficient runway. ” They suggest 1-2 years to prepare. Circumstances pushed me to make my decision in less than a year and at the start of my unretirement I didn’t have clients waiting. You also need to be sure you can handle the financial changes that occur with going independent.

It is recommended that you give your company plenty of time for succession planning. You don’t want to burn a bridge behind you, especially since you will probably be building this new career off your experiences, reputation and possibly even your past clients. As long as it is done in a legitimate and ethical way, you want to start lining up clients early. This doesn’t mean pilfering current clients but it does mean using a network you’ve built over the years. I had many colleagues in education at all levels and I used those contacts as entry point into new clients.

I spoke with small business counselors at my bank, opened business accounts, obtained a business/vendor number (rather than using my own Social Security number) and formed an LLC.

Dorie Clark, who writes about this topic, suggests that you do a skills self- analysis to evaluate your  entrepreneurial abilities along with your subject matter expertise. She even offers a tool to do that analysis. I picked up her book Reinventing You which got me thinking a lot more about personal branding.

If you do an honest skill analysis, you may determine that this new venture requires some new skills or updating existing skills. Examples might be social media, technical communications, online training or web services, digital marketing and design skills. You may not need another degree, but many colleges offer certifications and targeted courses on these and other topics. There are also hundreds of free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that can sometimes serve the same goals. Some of these courses are offered by the world’s leading universities and may also offer certificates of successful completion.

I have taught, and continue to teach, in several graduate certificate programs at New Jersey Institute of Technology. The majority of my students have been people either working in a field and seeking to upgrade skills for advancement, or people hoping to shift careers. A few have been moving towards consulting, but most are still hoping to work for their employer or another company in a new capacity. Don’t feel bad if you turn out to have a skills gap, because that is very much the norm in business today.

You will need a web presence. Business cards alone won’t cut it. A website and a social media presence for you and for your company should be on your To Do list early on. You will need to market yourself and your brand. I would add to that list – but much further down – things like creating a logo.

If social media hasn’t been your thing professionally, you could begin with having a personal and company presence on LinkedIn and even using that as a “blogging” platform. It is one way to connect your professional contacts with what you are doing.

On the  upside, consulting and coaching offer flexible, interesting, and sometimes well paid opportunities for second careers for active or retired professionals. On the downside, the competition is definitely out there, so be prepared.