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Are ambassadorships becoming meaningless?

I’ve never been 100% sure of what being an “ambassador” for a product meant, despite having been one about a dozen times. The Blogging Angels (Rebecca, Nancy, Heidi, and yours truly) discussed this on our last podcast, Blog Ambassadors Do Not Have Diplomatic Immunity – what it seems to mean, and what it should mean.

My own feeling is that it should include compensation – ideally in cash, but if it’s in product it’s got to be a spectacular product well worth my time – and should include some kind of special access to the company, exclusive opportunities, something…at the very minimum.

Additionally, to me ambassador means someone who isn’t writing about a product or participating in a program just because they’re being paid, but because they’re genuinely enthusiastic about the product. This is not their first exposure to the product, they already use it and like it. Kind-of a combo employee/fan. A fanployee, if you will. When I get those opportunities it feels like I’ve won the lottery.

But more and more I see posts about being an ambassador for this or that product, with disclosures that the ambassador received the product for free. And that’s it. And I’m not talking about appliances or computers, I’m talking things that cost under $20. And the sum total of the ambassadorship seems to be that one post. I’m trying to figure out what differentiates these posts from reviews, except that the ambassadorship posts have zero chance of anything bad being said about the product.

Let me be clear: I have absolutely no problem with signing a contract, receiving payment (or worthwhile products) and promoting the products – call them ambassadors, spokesbloggers, whatever. But to call a one-off guaranteed good review an “ambassadorship” confuses me, because I can’t figure out what’s in it for the blogger. It’s clear what’s in it for the company, but why do bloggers say yes? Is it a hope of bigger things to come? The cachet of the word “ambassador?” Or is it just that the word has lost all meaning and is slapped on any situation where a blogger is writing about a product? A way for a pr person to try to cut through the noise of other free product offers?

Someone please enlighten me.

Originally posted on Behind the Screen. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.

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9 Responses to “Are ambassadorships becoming meaningless?”

  1. ThermomixBlogger Helene on May 23rd, 2011 1:01 am

    Hear hear, I think the word “ambassador” is used specifically because it does all this at the same time: intrigues (the readers), elevates (the product and the blogger), and sugarcoats with a veil of political correctness. Its nebulous and most people probably don’t want to admit they don’t know the rules, so the obfuscation is perpetuated. Bravo to you for talking about this.
    ThermomixBlogger Helene´s last [type] ..Australia’s Top Thermomix demonstrator in the news!


  2. veep veep on May 23rd, 2011 7:05 am

    You hit the nail on the head. For some, the $20 free product or hope to be a part of a bigger (paid) project is enough to do a one time “ambassador” post (and add a badge) on their blog. It’s as simple as that. And some brands see they can call it whatever they want because they find some bloggers interested in what they aren’t offering them as long as it has a fancy (misleading) title.
    veep veep´s last [type] ..Regrets I Have a Few


  3. Mom101 on May 23rd, 2011 8:32 am

    Ambassador is just a word, same as “endorser” or “spokesperson.” I’m sure we can think of plenty of celebrities who are enlisted by brands then put to use in more or less effective ways.

    It’s the same with these ambassador programs. If the women aren’t actually ambassadors of some kind, representing the brand positively in various venues (think Angelina as an Ambassador for UNICEF) then it’s useless. Or maybe, it’s just the wrong title.

    Maybe it needs to be “bloggers who put a free ad on their blog because it has the word ambassador on it.”


  4. Roxanna (miguelina) on May 23rd, 2011 9:12 am

    Interesting. I’m an ambassador for Nintendo, and in that case I really feel like a brand ambassador — I’ve thrown parties in their honor, learn about their products, my IRL friends know to come to me for information on the co. because I can get their questions answered by Nintendo — it really is a fun partnership. 

    Hilariously, a family member who shall remain nameless is a retired Ambassador (for a country, not a brand) and he sheepishly admits that what I’m doing for Nintendo isn’t that different from what he used to do. Ha!


  5. Ashley @ Mama of All Trades on May 23rd, 2011 9:15 am

    When I see “XYZ Ambassador”, I automatically think that person is representing the company for a length of time (6 months-year)and has access others can’t get. For example, they are sent to retreats or events where they learn more about the company/product. Hanes Comfort Crew is one example of an ambassador program I think is very well run.

    Otherwise, I consider it a product review or maybe a sponsorship, even if they aren’t calling it that. I applied for an “ambassadorship” for a company where we had to post for 3 months and got a small stipend. No product, no insider info, nada. I’m glad I didn’t end up getting selected because it didn’t seem worth the work (or worthy of the title “ambassador”). I think it’s easy now for companies to get bloggers to do free/cheap work for them by throwing out titles like “ambassador” because people want to be on the “inside” or appear to be, anyway. I know I’m guilty of doing a lot of free PR, but it’s always for a brand I already use and love.


  6. Julie Marsh on May 23rd, 2011 9:44 am

    Echoing Roxanna regarding Nintendo and the relationship fostered by Brand About Town between Nintendo and bloggers. (Disclosure: I’m a member of the Brand About Town advisory board, and it’s a position I accepted not just for the money, but because I really dig what they’re doing.)

    The key facet of that ambassadorship, in my opinion, is that it *is* a relationship, one that’s built on genuine enthusiasm with virtually no strings attached (excepting occasional legal releases set forth by Nintendo). No badge, no posts, no tweets – nothing is compulsory.
    Julie Marsh´s last [type] ..How to socialize with a recovering alcoholic


  7. Mom101 on May 23rd, 2011 9:50 am

    “Insider access” has a whole new meaning with Haynes, doesn’t it.
    Mom101´s last [type] ..Spying on your kids – or the time when Mom-101 becomes Mom-007


    Amy Reply:

    @Mom101, I don’t like where that comment has my mind going now, and I can’t stop it. Diva Cup, RePhresh Tampons, the possibilities are endless.


  8. Glamamom on May 23rd, 2011 6:15 pm

    I have accepted 4 “ambassadorships” as of late (others that have been presented to me weren’t the right fit for me personally, the themes of my blog, and what I think my readers are interested in). Two are paying me in cash, the other two are compensating with product/experience. The reasons I accepted the ambassadorships are:

    (1) The product/experience is of interest to me personally.
    (2) The product/experience will make for good content for my blog.
    (3) In both cases, the ambassadorship allows me to network with other bloggers, many of whom, I don’t know.
    (4) In 3 of the 4 cases, I will be featured on the brand/company’s website with a link to my site, which will potentially increase my blog’s exposure and traffic/rank.

    The requirements in all 4 cases have been on my terms. I am upfront about what I will and will not do for what they offering in return and in a couple of cases, they have come back to me with a better arrangement after I simply asked. For example, I do not post badges on my homepage (I consider that paid space with separate rates).

    The ambassadorships are different from typical product reviews and giveaways I have conducted because they’re not one-off posts but rather on-going relationships that I have directly with the brands for a defined period of time.

    Thanks for posting about it. I’m curious to read others’ experiences as it’s always helpful to understand what “market” is for these opportunities.


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