I have been threatening myself for the past 3 months to write a not-so-friendly stance on being a brand ambassador in the outdoor industry. I go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth because while I planned to talk about the state of the industry in general, I have accidentally pissed off some of the folks I represent in the past because “they thought the post was about them.” They’re so vain.
Thank goodness that Paul from TheOutdoorAdventure.net covered 98% of what I wanted to say, in a much more ingestible format for brands to read while they stalk us online.
I used his comment section to get out the last little bit of frustration I have with the state of affairs.
So now that people are aware that’s actually an issue, let’s take a look at why that’s an issue.
That’s most likely going to be the very first thing a brand manager looks at. How big is your social reach, on which platforms? What is your blog traffic like? Do you even have a blog?
What is your message? How are you delivering it? What is your tone? Does it fit well with the brand’s?
Even though you’re not posting about the brand(s) you represent 100% of the time (or at least you shouldn’t be), you still need to be active on your channels to keep your audience engaged.
That take time. Lots of it.
And when it comes to blogging, it takes even more. Including financial costs of hosting a blog.
Once the brand manager deems your influence numbers big enough (I’ve guessed the minimum magic number to be around 20,000 people combined: blog, social media, other outlets and publications), they will then look at the quality of your content (or should be).
Do you write well? Are your posts engaging? Do you have a basic grasp of the English language? Do you have less than 3 typos and grammatical/punctuation errors in the first paragraph?
Are you pictures of general quality? Are they getting the number of ‘likes’ they should be based on the amount of followers you have? Are they all relative to their brand?
If you post videos, does it sound like you’re talking with a mouthful of chewing tobacco? Is it HD? Is it shot in landscape?
Creating high quality content is absolutely paramount to being recognized as a potential brand ambassador. In fact, if the quality of your content far surpasses other candidates with a larger reach than you, you still may win out.
It’s been this way for over a decade now, and it’s still true:
Content is king
A GREAT Brand Ambassador
A good brand ambassador is aware of these things. They know they have to post timely information. Engaging posts. Interact with people to continue growing their sphere.
They still go on hikes because they love hiking, but it’s just a little less about being present in the moment and more about constantly searching for that perfect instagram photo or brainstorm blog ideas as you’re walking. Even worse, trying to direct your own video cuts to edit them for a YouTube clip later.
It’s possible to go even one step further. Now you go on for fun hikes and sometimes you recruit a friend to be your model *just* so you can get shots and videos.
You constantly try to hone your craft. You upgrade your own equipment with your own money. You read books. You subscribe to forums.
All because you want to be a damn good ambassador. Or hell, just trying to get your first gig at all.
Too Much Stress
And then it all just becomes too much.
You realize you’re no longer mountain biking for the fun and exhilaration of mountain biking. You’re simply doing it because you feel you have to.
You used to like putting together short, little 30 sec. video clips. But now it’s a daunting task where a 10 min. YouTube video may take you 6 hours or more just to edit. And that doesn’t include filming and re-shooting either.
If you’re a total geek, you may even have a publishing calendar that includes all your different platforms. Maybe you even paid for some management software with your own money (again).
At some point time, you have the epiphany:
What am I really doing here? Like, why? What am I getting back from the brand? Why am I putting in all this time and adding all this stress to my HOBBY for a free t-shirt once a year and maybe a couple shout outs on their social media just to get a few extra followers?
Ambassador for Hire
And that’s why, from here on out, I will no longer partner with new companies unless there is monetary compensation or the value of the gear or trip or whatever is of significant value AND I need the gear anyways. As in, I’m set on free t-shirts. Don’t come at me with your startup Etsy store and say that you can pay me in clothes. 1) That’s not a high enough value for what I’d give back. 2) I don’t need them.
I’m also not going to represent junk. You may want to pay me money to represent your product, but if it’s subpar and I don’t believe in it, then that just devalues MY brand and reputation with my followers.
I know I’m a great ambassador. I know the product (content) that I am giving you is incredibly high value. I know how much time and effort I put into doing a great job. And I know how much the stress of doing those things are stealing away from my enjoyment of the outdoors.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love love love the outdoors, even when I’m pre-occupied, but it’s gotten to the point where I know what I’m giving you is more than you’re giving me. So much so that I may even re-negotiate brands I’m currently with.
It’s a scary thing to say, really. To approach a company that you truly love and truly believe in and say that they need to hold up their end of the bargain or do more to support me, and if they can’t, maybe it’s just not meant to be anymore.
But at the end of the day, if I lose brand, what did I really lose? I didn’t lose any money, and I didn’t lose any promotion (really, the only two things they can provide you with). I maybe lost some gear and I maybe lost out on “future possibilities.”
And what did I gain? I gained one less ‘client.’ So I gained a little bit more freedom. I gained the ability to enjoy my time outdoors a little more and worry less about setting up a magical picture.
But again, those are things that are all self-imposed. Because I believe in doing, whatever I’m doing, to the absolute best of my ability. And continuing to advance and grow my abilities.
So am I worth more than a free t-shirt? Yeah, I’m worth more than that.
Don’t Miss Your Chance
I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.
Then I took control.
You can too, and it starts right here.