On one of my early spokesperson gigs, my co-host was a wiener. He was one-dimensional, wouldn’t speak his lines and always managed to be the center of attention for every one of the 30 media interviews we did via Satellite on the coast-to-coast Satellite Media Tour (SMT). I had to carry the client messaging for each and every morning news television interview, yet this co-star managed to soak up all the limelight and get the closeups, while I did all the heavy lifting. An SMT was brutal work and involves a high-level skill set that can only be successfully accomplished by the top 5% of Spokesperson / Brand Ambassadors. I was 100% on my messaging, no thanks to this high maintenance, hot dogging, co-host. The client was Oscar Meyer.
We’ve covered quite a few aspects of spokesperson work in parts one and two of this series, from the definitions of the work to the skill set required. Now let’s talk about the process of what happens from start to finish during the brand ambassador experience.
Step One: Initial PR Ping
The first outreach for a potential spokesgig is usually a PR firm, who googles experts in the area they are researching (finance, beauty, mommy bloggers, chefs, etc). Then they will send an email, fill out a contact message on your website or reaches out through social media platforms. This began to happen to me after my first book, Shop, Save and Share, came out in print. There was a query from Quaker Oats, then one from Dial soap, then another from Blue Diamond Almonds. The first time, I wrote back a message that quickly made it clear to the PR representative that I was absolutely clueless and didn’t even know what the outreach was about. I didn’t get the gig. I didn’t even know that I didn’t get the gig because I didn’t even know there was a gig to get.
The second query was turned over to a speaking agency that repped me at the time and they buffooned it because they didn’t know how to handle spokeswork. The third time, I turned it over to my publisher’s marketing rep and then discovered that’s it’s against policy for them to represent this kind of work—it’s a conflict of interest. In some cases, it’s even illegal. Oops!
Then there was the 4thtime a brand reached out, and I reached out to a group of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association to see if anyone knew a spokesperson representative. I was connected with a reputable agent and she helped me get that first contract that was with MasterCard. She also garnered 25% of my earnings—but 75% of something was better for me than 100% of nothing. Eventually, I was catching items on the spokes contracts that I didn’t want and the agent didn’t always catch them. Since then, I realized that 20% commission is common for gigs that the agent brings the talent and 15% is common for gigs that the talent brings the agent. My business background allowed me to become a master at reading, negotiating and executing my own contracts. But that took years of experience to achieve. At first, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I paid dearly for it before I got an agent.
Action Item: Make it easy for PR people to find you, add the term “brand ambassador” and “Spokesperson” to your social platforms, website and in any groups where you are a member. Set up a contact form on your website set up a dedicated website if you don’t already have one for your brand–a social platform isn’t enough.
Step 2: The Initial Conference Call
Today, I know that 9 out of 10 initial “Pings” or inquiries from an employee at a PR firm or from a corporation do not progress past the initial inquiry. If the brand influencer or spokes agent that answers
the inquiry knows how to manage the initial inquiry, then it can progress to an interview or conference call with the potential client.
It’s during this fact-finding conference call that you (or your agent) let them know who you are, how well you do verbally and what your skill sets look like. They also want to hear what ideas you might have for the project. Creativity is a must during this phase.
It’s also during this phase that you decide if you can get behind the brand or product. I made it a point of never endorsing a product I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in and that philosophy helped me keep my integrity intact. In addition, as a spokesperson agent, I won’t work with potential clients of mine that would take a deal just for the money–endorsing something that is bad for the general marketplace. Integrity matters.
This step is where your agent or other team member does the selling. They do the bragging on you and your abilities while you just talk about your projects and passions. You might also be required to sign an NDA (non disclosure agreement) and that’s not unusual.
Action Item: Never endorse a product you don’t believe in and keep a high level of integrity. Make a point of eliminating “uhs” and “ums” and filler words like “so” and “yeah.” The overuse of these words make you come across to the client as unsure or lacking in confidence. An organization like Toastmasters is a great place to go in order to learn to master the kind of extemporaneous talk that will occur during crucial conference calls.
Step 3: The Money Talk
If the PR firm and/or the client they are representing is interested in you and is seriously considering hiring you as their Spokesperson / Brand Ambassador then they ask what you charge. If you have an agent, they handle the money talk while you remain the happy talent. At this point a smart brand ambassador or a smart agent asks for a SOW in writing (scope of work), otherwise there can be a he said/she said in terms of what the work actually is during step 4 or step 5.
There’s an art of negotiating a deal and I absolutely love this part of the process—whether I’m negotiating my own deal or one on behalf of my clients. You give a price based on the fair market rates for someone with your following and skill set. I usually start a bit high at this point. It’s a delicate balance because you want to price yourself at the value you are worth without pricing yourself out of the market. I figure if they are interested, then they will be willing to come back during step four and negotiate for a deal within their budget. At this point, instead of a one in ten chance (as in step one) you have about a 50% chance that the deal could go to a contract.
Action Point: The money talk is a very important part of the process, establish a rate card ahead of time and know what the charges are for different deliverables. Make sure your agent (if you have one) or your other team member has also eliminated the filler speech we previously outlined in step 2’s Action Point.
I’m developing a course and we will get into greater detail when it comes to the money part of the contract. If you are interested in being a part of the initial core team for the “How to Earn a Six Figure Income as Spokesperson,” then send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the contact form.
The PR firm will present anywhere from 3 to 5 different spokespersons to a client as either part of an existing contract (that they’ve already negotiated and secured) or a pitch contract (where they are trying to get business with the client.) Obviously, a secured contract will be more likely to end in a contract for the spokesperson than a pitch contract.
Step 4: The Negotiation
After the PR folks have taken your name to pitch to the client, the client may ask for a meeting with you (this only happens about 20% of the time) so that they can decide for themselves. Or, they’ve trusted the PR person, reviewed your media kit and believe you are a good fit.
This step is the reason I decided to become a spokesperson agent because this is the step where brands take advantage of the spokesperson. PR firms are in the business of getting the best value for their client and you can’t blame them for that. But it also means that they try to get the brand ambassador to do more work than they proposed in step 3. Don’t be afraid of a negotiation, but do be prepared so that you can make the most of the deal that is being discussed.
Action Step: Read up on how to become a better negotiator, so that you can handle this step if you are representing your own contracts.
Step 5: The Contract
Once you’ve navigated the negotiation, then it’s time to go to contract. Hopefully, you’ll be chosen as the brand ambassador to represent the product, company or goods and services. Be sure you have a professional review the contract and understand that someone who may manage a brand ambassador may not be familiar with the pitfalls of a spokesperson / brand ambassador contract. You don’t know what you don’t know. But making sure that there are NO additional deliverables or restrictions that weren’t disclosed in the negotiation is a basic part of handling the contract. Recently, I was sent a contract on one of my existing clients and it was for a company that we had already signed a half dozen contracts with in the past. To my surprise, there were actually $180,000 in additional deliverables or exclusivity stipulations that they tried to sneak by us in the contract!
Action Item: Hire a professional to read your contract or partner with a spokesperson agency that can guide you through the sticky wickets of the contract.
Coming up next week:
We will discuss and define specific deliverables as well as legal disclosures that the FTC requires for all brand ambassadors in order to be in compliance.