A Financial Education Event
     

How to Nail the 400K Interview

Do you enjoy working with tomorrow’s leaders? I sure do!

One of my many volunteer efforts is working with students who have a desire to go to a Department of Defense United States Service Academy such as Navy, West Point, the Merchant Marine Academy and the Air Force Academy (Coast Guard is not a DOD Academy and doesn’t require a Congressional Nomination.) An education that has a value of over 400K and is paid back in 5+ years of military service.

A key part of this process is the Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO) interview AND the Congressional interview. I’ve sat in on over 300+ of these interviews and I’ve thought “with some tips and coaching, these students could have done much better in this interview.” We recently participated in a zoom panel with several of these students and their parents.

Besides being an ALO and Congressional Panelist, I’ve also mentored the three Kay sons who graduated from Navy, Air Force and West Point. Here are some ideas that can help you (or your favorite student) go from good to great in high level, pressure interviews. These ideas are based on work I’ve done professional in Toastmasters, in 2800+ media interviews and in being the interviewer on Congressional panels that interview as many as 50+ students in ONE DAY.

Please feel free to share this blog with the student or person you know has a high level interview coming up. It’s written directly to them!

Best Practices, Tips and Tricks

Keep in mind, this is the most important interview of your life thus far. It’s worth approximately 400K+ (the value of a Service Academy education). This is a high-level interview and these tips are not official USAFA policy, nor have they been endorsed by USAFA. These come from 25 years as a professional speaker & corporate media trainer.

They are also based on my experience as an ALO (USAFA Admissions Liaison Officer) and Congressional Panelist, having interviewed/assessed 300 student candidates.  Besides our kids who graduated from USNA, USAFA and USMA, our other civilian children who graduated from Stanford, Columbia, UTA, &  Moody Bible Institute. All of our kids had interviews involved in their education and all got substantial scholarships to graduate debt free from college.

  • Affirmation – Before the interview, practice some positive affirmations such as “I can do this” and “I’ve prepared for this” and “I’ve worked hard, this is going to be a great interview.” It doesn’t matter if you feel that way or not, just say it either out loud or in your mind. If you have a negative thought leading up to the interview,such as “I’m really nervous” or “I’m not looking forward to this interview” or even “I wish this were over.” Then stop. Reset your mindset and say the positive affirmations I mentioned at the beginning of this point. You could even create your own “Top Ten Affirmations” that you and your parents come up with to counter what I call “stinkin’ thinkin’” Your first three are already listed above.Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
  • Story Telling and Transparency – As you think through the answers to these questions, incorporate some of your own story that sets you apart. Are you first generation American—there’s a story there. Were you raised by a single parent? Did you have younger siblings to take care of? Did you help care for a family member who was ill or had special needs? Did you have a relative whose example inspired you to military service? Do you have a passion that motivates you such as going on mission trips, helping the homeless, fighting illiteracy or social injustice? Have your parents or mentor help you think through your story and learn to tell it in a way that will have an impact on the listeners.
  • Keep your answers to the ABC Model:

Accurate – Don’t tell anyone else’s story but your own, it will ring of insincerity. If you use numbers, make sure they are up to date. Don’t overstate your scenario. If you quote someone, then give attribution to that quote or story, you don’t want to pretend it’s your own.

Brief – You shouldn’t have an answer that lasts more than one minute. Otherwise, it

sounds like a monologue. But don’t give a “yes” or “no” answer either.  That’s too brief! A 30-45 second answer is ideal.

Clear – Even if you are using fewer words, you still want to be clear so that the panel understands what you are trying to communicate. Ask your parents if you really answered the question and ask them what they heard your answer to be. If they are hearing something different than what you are saying, then you need to rework the answer until you are clear.

  • Practice answering the questions and have your parents listen for the following:

Superfluous Words – parents count how many times they say filler words such as uh, um, ah or like. Work to eliminate these from your vocabulary with more practice. (Using filler words sends a subliminal message of a lack of confidence in what you are saying. )

The Robot – Don’t practice so much that you sound like a robot or like you are giving canned answers. This comes across awkward and/or disingenuous. You want to retain the element of spontaneity even if you have worked on some answers ahead of time.

The Timing – See above under the ABCs of answers (Brief). Parents can time your answers as you aim for a 30-45 second answer. This is just a suggestion and not a hardline rule. The best interviewees keep their answers long enough to answer the question but not so long that they sound like a run-on sentence.

Pacing – Are you talking too fast? This can come across as being nervous if you are a fast talker. The idea is to tell yourself to “slow down” as you are talking and then talk slower still. It “feels” strange to a fast talker, but it comes across as just the right pace. Unless you are from Texas (as I am), then you probably already talk slow enough.  

  • Take Your Time – If you don’t know the answer to a question asked, it’s ok to take a few seconds and compile your thoughts. Look to the side or look down briefly. I call this the “Ryan Seacrest Effect” where that emcee will put his fingers together, briefly look down, then look back up again. By breaking eye contact with the audience, his brain goes to a place where he remembers what he wants to say. It can also eliminate the “deer in the headlights” effect.
  • Complete Sentence – Take a breath, wait a few seconds, then start answering in a complete sentence. As you begin this way, an answer will likely come to you and you buy time in trying to come up with your answer. For example,  Question: What are your two greatest strengths? Answer: I would say that my greatest strength is…
  • Technical Issues – If this is a virtual call (zoom, skype, FaceTime) make sure you have good lighting (light should be BEHIND your computer/device shining on your face.) Check your sound, too. You may want to wear a headset or earbuds to cut down on feedback during the call. You can test these at www.zoom.us/test
  • Posture – Whether virtual or in person, you can improve your posture by sitting on the front half of your chair. Never sit fully back in the chair or you are more likely to slump. Sit up straight with shoulders back, but be comfortable as well. Too straight makes you stiff, too comfortable comes across as careless.
  • Appearance – You can wear a JROTC or CAP uniform (no Scouting Uniforms). It comes across as professional & shows what you look like in uniform.
  • Service Academy Interviews – Young men get a fresh (shorter) haircut, wear a dark suit, even if it is a virtual interview. White shirt, conservative tie. If it’s a new suit, make sure the thread stay holders are off the pleats in the back of the jacket. Just look at the pleats and if there are long threads there, holding the jacket in place, cut those out. Young ladies can wear a modest suit or dress (not a super short skirt). Neat hair (not trendy or brightly colored). Modest makeup (if you use it). Mid height heels (no higher than 3”). Nails should be plain or freshly painted (no peeling polish.) This is a professional look worthy of such a high-level interview.
  • Eye Contact – If in person, make eye contact with the interviewer that is consistent (but not so intense that it comes across as creepy.) If virtual, look for the camera and try to look into the camera.
  • More Information – For further research, I’ve created a three-part blog on how we helped the Kay brothers get into their respective service academies.

https://elliekay.com/wpress/2018/06/12/its-academy-time-usafa-usna-usma-part-1/

https://elliekay.com/wpress/2018/06/19/its-academy-time-usafa-usna-usma-part-2/

https://elliekay.com/wpress/2018/06/26/its-academy-time-usafa-usna-usma-part-3 /

Mock Interview Panel – Zoom/Skype/GoogleHangouts

WHY:  This is an opportunity to compile a group of people to interview the student. It simulates the pressure the student will feel at the Congressional Panel. If they can experience it once before it actually happens, it will give them greater confidence.

WHO:  Your parents, educators or JROTC Leaders can help get a group together. If you’re in Scouting, they could help put together a panel for you. About 3 to 5 people who join all at one time (probably virtually) to interview you. It will last about 20-30 minutes, depending on how verbose the interviewee and the panelists are during the interview and the feedback section.

WHEN:  Sometime before the ALO and Congressional Panel interviews. You can send out a doodle (organizer) to the panelists to get a date that works for everyone. www.doodle.com

HOW:  Let someone serve as the organizer (maybe a parent) who will send out copies of the questions provided in this document. The questions are numbered.  (Or even send this entire file so they know what to look for in the interview.)

  • The organizer will assign different questions (by number) to the different panelists ahead of time (dividing it up equally).
  • Everyone will join the call and the organizer will welcome everyone, then provide an order of who asks questions first, second, etc. Then the panelists take turns asking their questions and taking notes.
  • I suggest the organizer give a copy of all the questions to each of the panelists ahead of time so they can take appropriate notes.
  • Parents will count uhs, ums and filler words.
  • Each panelist can also add ONE question not on the file so that the student gets to answer extemporaneously (something they didn’t prepare ahead of time.)
  • NO feedback comments from panelists (other than questions) will be made DURING the interview. This is simulating a real interview.
  • At the end of all of the questions, the organizer will say “Thank you for coming today.” That marks the “end” of the formal interview. Next–the feedback session.
  • Then the panelists will take 2-3 minutes each to give feedback verbally. I suggest a “feedback sandwich.”  Say something encouraging first, then the “meat” of what needs to be improved, then something encouraging again. Please do not select panelists who are overly critical—this will not improve the student’s confidence. We are looking for constructive feedback, NOT constructive criticism and there is a difference. It’s the mindset of helping versus a mindset of being critical.
  • The panelists can scan and return their written feedback after the mock panel.

For the actual questions, you can email us at assistant@elliekay.com and ask for Mock Interview Questions.

The World is Going to Know Her Name

Bethany Grace. That name means something. It was the name I had for her two older brothers if they had been born a girl. But then I finally got my Bethany Grace. There’s power in a name. There’s power in THAT name. Bethany Grace. It means “graceful one in the house of God.”

She was born unconventionally with a doctor I’d never met. The base hospital was being closed down in phases and if a mom delivered on two particular weekends a month, she had to go downtown. We had to use the ER doctors and they didn’t know me. But that issue was soon rectified. I arrived in the middle of active labor and I fought for my birth plan and won. The prize? The winners got a beautiful baby girl born in grace and joy.

Long before Alexander Hamilton became a play, the world was going to know her name. Bethany Grace.

I told Bob I didn’t know what to do with a girl, I was the mother of boys that kept a cloth diaper near the changing table to stop a sudden fountain. I knew about boys. I knew about overalls and Tonka trucks. But a girl?

My daughter got two baby showers and we had TONS of dresses that she would soon outgrow so I had to make use of them quickly. Every day Bob came home from flying jets, he saw his baby girl in a different dress with ruffles, bows, lace and bonnets. Our friends were very generous. After two straight weeks of new dresses, he came home one day, shrugged his shoulders, and wryly said, “I guess you figured out what to do with a girl.” Bethany Grace, you are a gift.

She grew in grace with a joy that was contagious and quickly spread to all she met. She laughed and giggled and suddenly the old curmudgeons in the restaurant were laughing and giggling. She had the power to exchange storm clouds for sunshine and butterflies. She still has that power.

She’s used her power wisely–to bring grace to others, to selflessly serve a community of children in Europe and military members around the world. She’s used her power to revitalize an indifferent audience into a mosh pit of excitement and anticipation. Whether she’s speaking to 3 people or 3000, she’s engaged, enigmatic and effervescent. She’s Bethany Grace.

Today, she turns 30 and has much to show for her years– she’s visited 30 countries with no debt, she’s spoken to large audiences and worked her magic on them, she’s become a Godly wife and a couple months ago, she became an unconventional mom. I say unconventional because Caden was born during COVID19 and with a “eventful” pregnancy. I say unconventional because motherhood doesn’t normally come so easily to women the way it did to my daughter. Her child doubled his birth weight in 7 weeks under her expert care. You would have thought this was her 5th child instead of her first. Bethany, there’s no shame in having a smooth transition to motherhood and a fierce love & appreciation for your good little baby.

Bethany Grace, you’ve done right by your name. You have walked gracefully in the House of God and outside of those walls as well. You’ve conquered opposition and oppression along the way. The world may not yet know your name, but YOUR world knows it–your mama & papa, your brothers, your faithful friends, your sweet husband and your precious son. It’s a name that brings a smile to our lips and joy to our hearts. It’s a name that will live eternally in a kingdom far away. It’s a name I love.

Happy Birthday, daughter. Happiest of Birthdays, Bethany Grace.

 

This was written by Ellie Kay as a tribute to her co-host on The Money Millhouse for her birthday. To hear this mother/daughter team in action, go to The Money Millhouse podcast.  

Give to our Heroes and Heroes at Home This Holiday

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What does Giving Tuesday do for our Heroes? Here’s a recap of our last tour season.

Heroes at Home completed their 26th event on 17 bases in 4 countries when they blew into Pensacola Naval Air Station like a storm—actually, the Tropical Storm Gordon. The Heroes at Home speaker team barely made it to Florida ahead of cancelled
flights and delays to stay at Pensacola Naval Air Station and provide free financial education to the Airmen, Sailors and Marines stationed at that base. The morning of this free event, the base was closed, due to the storm to “all non-essential personnel.” But since financial readiness equals military readiness, the Heroes at Home event was deemed an essential event and it’s speakers were given Distinguished Visitor status.

In the military, a service member must maintain financial health or they could lose their security clearance. If a military member has excessive debt or other money issues, they could be a target for compromised security and they are kindly asked to leave the military since they cannot hold their security clearance. This is one of the many reasons financial education is so very important to our young military members.

Our audience consisted primarily of Airmen who were going through Combat Systems Officer Training, to become Electronic Warfare Officers and Navigators. Since flying was cancelled, we had almost all the students present from the CSO course and they were enthusiastic and engaged with the program. The audience was almost all servicemembers in uniform and they primarily ranged in age from 23-25. They seemed eager to begin their military careers financially healthy.  They were released to come to our program during the duty day because of the importance given to financial education by the Command. They left excited and with autographed copies of 200 books for the 200 servicemembers present. Many expressed gratitude for our sponsors and our speaking team who weathered a near hurricane to provide this essential education.

Our four top level speakers trained the audience in budgeting, how to purchase a vehicle without excessive debt, how to plan for retirement, how to build savings, and other special financial programs only available to military audiences.

Thanks to donors like you, this program was executed flawlessly, and was the 26thand final event at 17 bases in 4 countries. This was also the conclusion of a very successful 2017-2018 Heroes at Home world tour.

Later that night, we were staying on base when the storm gained force, the entire base population lost power and we were in the dark for many hours. But once the lights came on at 1:30 AM, we were back on track to get home that day.  We could see how valuable our time had been at Pensacola. Many thanks to donors like you for helping to sponsor this event and for making a difference in the lives of our young servicemembers.

Many Easy Ways to Contribute

  • Amazon Smile – Sign up to support Heroes at Home, 501(c)(3) at amazon smile. From that point on, every time you shop at amazon, year round, just click on the amazon smile link and our Heroes benefit. Don’t worry, we won’t see how much you purchase, so we won’t spoil any holiday secrets!
  • Giving Tuesday on Facebook – On Tuesday, December 3, Facebook will match your donations, so please donate today!
  • Heroes Come First – If you are military, veteran, first responder, medical professional, educator or clergy, then you qualify for up to $2000+ in a cash back check when you buy, sell or refi. Plus, Heroes at Home benefits when you use our link.

For more information on Heroes at Home or to make a donation, go to www.heroesathome.org

The Science of Laughter

Next week, I have the privilege of keynoting at the AFCPE symposium and I’ll present The Science of Laughter. This is a topic near to my heart because it’s the way I’ve lived my life.

When I married my husband, I got a three for one deal: I married the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot and I also inherited two young stepdaughters. Then my groom said, “let’s join the active duty Air Force and we can see the world.” But what he really showed me was five more children in seven years for a total of seven children. Then we took the show on the road and moved eleven times in thirteen years. I learned, very quickly, that I needed to learn to look at life in a funny way or end up on the funny farm.

I chose laughter.

I chose joy.

And my life has been better for it.

It has been said that “Laughter is Good Medicine,” but why is that actually true? There are a number of ways that laughter benefits the health and wealth of the communities we serve. These benefits exist on a number of levels.

 

The Physical Benefits of Laughter – Research from a variety of sources, including UCLA’s famous RxLaughter program explains what happens to someone physically when they laugh.  It has a measurable benefit for an individual’s blood pressure and stress levels, it decreases heart disease, and improves overall physical health. In fact, Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University, asserts that “Laughter appears to cause all the reciprocal, or opposite effects of stress.”  The amazing result is that when we laugh more, we stress less.

 

The Social Benefits of Laughter Robert R. Provide, a behavioral neuroscientist from the University of Maryland indicates that laughter is a social behavior. His studies testify that humor is contagious & can spread to an audience, it’s actually a form of communication. Sara Algoe, an associate professor of social psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has said, “We think laughter can draw us closer together to other people and grease the wheels for better social interaction”

There is also a specific science behind jokes, anecdotes and one-liners. When you build these into your work and presentations, everyone receives a quick, mental vacation.

 

The Financial Benefits of Laughter – You may have heard the classic premise of “laughing all the way to the bank,” but it is actually true in some ways.  The quantitative data & my own personal experience proves how incorporating laughter into speaking events, financial education & contract negotiations improve an entrepreneur’s bottom line. Humor also helps teams maximize efficiency, effectiveness and it facilitates employee retention.

I was once working a contract to gain funding for Heroes at Home, my non-profit dedicated to providing free financial education to young military members. I was making very little headway with lead decision maker and it looked like we were going to end in a “no deal” situation. We decided to table the discussion until the end of our lunch together. I took the time to share humorous anecdotes about my biggest gaffes in my work with these service members and also shared some lighthearted stories that made the table begin to laugh. And I shared more and they laughed more. You’ve probably guessed the end of this story—we got our funding and more. I didn’t share the stories to get the contract, I shared them to lighten the environment. In the end, everyone was happier, and my military audiences were the ones who gained the most.

Take Away/Application to the Field

There is a very specific take away to the Science of Laughter and the way it applies to the entrepreneurs, the field of financial education and AFC® practitioners. I’ve seen these results in some of the 2000 financial education presentations that I’ve made to hundreds of thousands of participants and I’ve been gratified by the results. Using laughter helps in many unexpected ways such as information retention, better health and as a way to grow your business.

 

Information Retention – Humor helps the AFC®’s clients learn more in financial education sessions, whether it’s one-on-one or in front of 5,000 people. By including very specific humorous examples & conducting exercises that are effective but are also workplace appropriate, we can help our clients and audiences retain more information. One of my guiding principles is: when in doubt about a joke, always err on the side of propriety. I’m not willing to lose an audience member in the name of humor if it could alienate them in the process. But sharing a lighthearted quote or story can give the mind a break and then allow my audience to reengage in order to learn more.

 

Greater Health – Incorporating humor into your work life not only helps others, it helps the entrepreneur as well. If you are presenting at a workshop, a keynote or even in your own Toastmasters group, your audiences can experience this real time with some simple, short exercises that they can do during the session you present. One such exercise is to have them imagine what they would look like if they were shocked with an electrical shock, then turn to the person next to them, and without a word–imitate that look. It’s almost impossible NOT to laugh.

Another example of seeing this in action was when I was at FinCon19 and one of the keynote speakers quoted Mayo Angelou’s famous quote, “’I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Bethany Bayless, the wildly funny FinCon emcee, applauded the speaker and then said to the audience, “Now turn to the person sitting next to you, put your hand on their arm and say, ‘I will always remember how you feel.’” It took a moment for them to understand the humorous twist. But it was such an in-the-moment and funny turn on the quote that the audience kept laughing, in waves, for a full 3 minutes.” They needed the mental break from the heavy content they just heard from the keynote and this humorous exercise was just what the doctor ordered.

Grow Your Practice and your Business – Incorporating humor improves audience feedback and can lead to more opportunities for the practitioner. It’s one of the reasons we use liberal doses of humor in our podcast, The Money Millhouse. Whether it is word of mouth amongst individual clients, a greater social following or a demand for these skills in front of larger audiences, anyone can grow a practice or a business by adding the tool of laughter to their toolkit.

Service Academies and Military Funded Education

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 I recently spoke at Congresswoman Katie Hill’s (25th Congressional District) Military Academy night.  The audience members were parents and students in high school.   These federal academies are highly competitive and look at the whole person. So it’s not enough to be a brainianc (super smart), they are also looking for students who are exceptional in the area of athletics, community involvement and leadership.  In return for this amazing education valued at $450,000, your student will be required to serve in the military for their “commitment” period. The commitment is a minimum of 5 years of service and can be longer, depending on a number of factors in regards to additional training after graduation.  If you have a “hero at home” who wants to go to a service academy, there are several things to keep in mind.


One of the first places to visit is your service academy’s admissions site:

USAFA – The United States Air Force Academy

USNA – The United States Naval Academy
USMA — The United States Military Academy

USMMA  The Merchant Marine Academy

USCGA    Coast Guard Academy (does not require a congressional nomination)

From Prospect to Appointee:  

  • Prospect: A student who has filled out the initial response form showing interest. This means they are essentially on an admissions mailing list. You can fill this out as early as middle school by going to the academy’s website.
  • Applicant: The individual has filled out a pre-candidate questionnaire and provided initial info on PSAT/SAT/ACT scores, grades and extra-curricular activities. This is usually done NO LATER than the spring of their junior year. This is also the time to contact your congressman and senator in regards to a nomination. In addition, if the student’s parent is qualified for a Presidential nomination, (see nominations and appointments below) then the student can contact the academy directly to pursue this nomination as well.
  • Candidate: To move from applicant to candidate indicates that you have cleared your first competitive hurdle. This step is decided by the Academies admissions staff in the early summer of a student’s Senior year. Not all students will get to this point, but this is when they will be interviewed by the Academy Liaison Officer (or the equivalent). It is from this list that appointments will be offered as early as the fall. For example, one of our sons was offered an USNA appointment by October.
  • Appointee: This means that the candidate has been offered an appointment into the Academy. They can choose to accept it or turn it down, but it means they have not only received an official nomination, but they have also been approved by the Academy’s admissions board and offered an actual appointment.

The Essay

It’s never too early to begin to think about what you would like to write in your admissions application essay. These are very important and should be well thought out before submitting. Be sure to have you liaison officer review it before you submit it or ask an academy graduate to help. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a faculty member from your school review it as well. More eyes on the project can mean a broader perspective, but it still needs to be your own voice, so you will have the final word on the essay.

Service Academies and Military Funded Education

 

 I recently spoke at Congresswoman Katie Hill’s (25th Congressional District) Military Academy night.  The audience members were parents and students in high school.   These federal academies are highly competitive and look at the whole person. So it’s not enough to be a brainianc (super smart), they are also looking for students who are exceptional in the area of athletics, community involvement and leadership.  In return for this amazing education valued at $450,000, your student will be required to serve in the military for their “commitment” period. The commitment is a minimum of 5 years of service and can be longer, depending on a number of factors in regards to additional training after graduation.  If you have a “hero at home” who wants to go to a service academy, there are several things to keep in mind.


One of the first places to visit is your service academy’s admissions site:

USAFA – The United States Air Force Academy

USNA – The United States Naval Academy
USMA — The United States Military Academy

USMMA  The Merchant Marine Academy

USCGA    Coast Guard Academy (does not require a congressional nomination)

From Prospect to Appointee:  

  • Prospect: A student who has filled out the initial response form showing interest. This means they are essentially on an admissions mailing list. You can fill this out as early as middle school by going to the academy’s website.
  • Applicant: The individual has filled out a pre-candidate questionnaire and provided initial info on PSAT/SAT/ACT scores, grades and extra-curricular activities. This is usually done NO LATER than the spring of their junior year. This is also the time to contact your congressman and senator in regards to a nomination. In addition, if the student’s parent is qualified for a Presidential nomination, (see nominations and appointments below) then the student can contact the academy directly to pursue this nomination as well.
  • Candidate: To move from applicant to candidate indicates that you have cleared your first competitive hurdle. This step is decided by the Academies admissions staff in the early summer of a student’s Senior year. Not all students will get to this point, but this is when they will be interviewed by the Academy Liaison Officer (or the equivalent). It is from this list that appointments will be offered as early as the fall. For example, one of our sons was offered an USNA appointment by October.
  • Appointee: This means that the candidate has been offered an appointment into the Academy. They can choose to accept it or turn it down, but it means they have not only received an official nomination, but they have also been approved by the Academy’s admissions board and offered an actual appointment.

The Essay

It’s never too early to begin to think about what you would like to write in your admissions application essay. These are very important and should be well thought out before submitting. Be sure to have you liaison officer review it before you submit it or ask an academy graduate to help. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a faculty member from your school review it as well. More eyes on the project can mean a broader perspective, but it still needs to be your own voice, so you will have the final word on the essay.

Memorial Day and #HonorThroughAction

Gold Star Family

Being part of a gold star family is like being part of an honored and exclusive club—but one that no one wants to join. The gold star indicates that a member of that family died while serving their country. We are a three-star blue star family, which means that we currently have three family members serving with sons in the Marines, Air Force and Army. We’ve weathered deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq—praying our way through each day they were there. We never want to add another gold star to our family.

Yes, our family is a gold star family because of my Grandfather, SSGT Walter Rawleigh, a bombardier on a B-24. He was on his 47thmission in Madang, Papua New Guinea. Fully gassed and loaded with bombs, the “Cisco Kid II” had an engine malfunction on take-off and crashed into an encampment of Seabees having breakfast. Ten members of the crew and 165 Seabees suddenly died that day. Obviously, I never knew my grandfather and my dad was a young child when his father perished. I know that my father, Chief Master Sgt Rodger Rawleigh, USAF (Ret) was inspired to serve because of the fact his dad never came back from war.

 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is about gold star families and should not be confused with Veteran’s Day. The latter is a day which honors all who have served in the United States military. A memorial is a remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It’s not a day to say, “Happy Memorial Day,” even though many Americans have a day off. Many will use that time to picnic and enjoy their families and friends. In fact, the original tradition of this day was to eat a picnic while sitting on the grounds of a cemetery.

This national holiday was first recognized by Congress in 1971 and before that time it was known as Decoration Day, which originated shortly after the Civil war. Besides my Grandfather’s tragic accident, 645,000 Americans have given their lives in defense of our freedoms. What can we do to appropriately honor those who died? I’m glad you asked.

 

The Poppy

 Honoring our fallen with a poppy is a tradition that was inspired by the poem crafted in 1915
entitled, “In Flanders Fields.” It was written by Lt. Col John McCrae after he lost a friend during WWI.  McCrae’s poem inspired Moina Michael, an American professor and volunteer for the American YWCA, to write a response poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith,” vowing to wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance.

Michaels campaigned to have the red poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance and, with help from Anna Guerin and the 1920 National American Legion Conference, the poppy became the official symbol of remembrance.

But it’s not limited to our country, the poppy is used as a symbol of remembrance all over the world. Along with the American Legion, we encourage people to wear or display a poppy on this weekend to remember those who lost their lives in battle.

 

Virtual Poppy Field

I invite everyone to join the conversation online using #honorthroughaction and share your story. What does Memorial Day mean to you? Who are you honoring? You can visit www.poppyinmemory.com to dedicate a digital poppy to a fallen hero or as a gesture of appreciation for those who have sacrificed all. It only takes minutes to participate and I want to thank USAAwho are sponsoring this initiative and for all their help in Heroes at Home.

Honor the fallen today.

5 Do’s and Don’ts For a Smooth Transition to College or A Service Academy

When my daughter, Bethany was 4 years old, we called her “Bunny” because she hopped from heart to heart. She loved to play with her little girlfriends and one afternoon she spent the entire afternoon with Amanda. She was a little girl who felt life deeply and could go from being on top of the world to the depths of despair in nanoseconds.

When I picked her up from her friend’s she bounced to the car and chatted all the way home. We walked in the door and I asked her how Amanda’s older sister was doing. Suddenly, she began to sob, uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong, Bunny?” I handed her a Kleenex.

“I don’t want to leave you, Mama!” she wailed.

“Why would you think you have to leave?” I was really confused.

She looked at me through her tears, “To go to COLLEGE.”

Apparently Amanda’s older sister was preparing to move to go to college and Bethany couldn’t imagine a day when she would have to leave her Papa and myself to go to school. The good news is that fourteen years later, she was a little bit more prepared when she moved from California to Chicago to go to college. She got a B.A. in Communications, with an emphasis in Electronic Media and was in her element.

Today, Bethany and I host The Money Millhousepodcast and still get just as emotional, on occasion, while putting her college degree to good use. We made a point of preparing Bunny and all the Kay kids for college, long before they went to Freshman orientation. Three of the Kay kids went to service academies, which meant they only had less than a month at home after high school graduation.

Whether you are prepping kids to go to a civilian university or whether they are going a service academy like three of our sons (USMA, USAFA, USNA) here’s some “homework” in the form of five do’s and don’ts to make a smooth move.   

  1. Don’t – Fill up free time with friends at the expense of family. 
  • Friends come and go but family is forever.
  • Only a small percentage of your friends from high school will still be your BFFs throughout college. Less than 2% of boyfriend/girlfriend relationships will last until

    college graduation.

          Do – Tell your mama (and papa) that you love them early and often.

  • Mend fences and build bridges with family members.
  • Expect there to be some pre-separation anxiety on both sides (parents and kids) so give each other a lot of grace.
  • Students, please understand that this is hard on your parents, especially if you are moving away to go to school.
  • Parents, understand that this is hard on your kid because they are about to go do something they’ve never done before. For those going to service academies, it’s going to be big and scary and you won’t be there.
  • Students, take the time to thank your parents, grandparents, friends, educators and coaches.
  1. Don’t – Take a break from physical fitness, especially if attending a Service Academy.
  • My husband, Bob, and our son, Jonathan, went to The Air Force Academy and they used to say that “The Air Force Academy is at an altitude of 7258 feet—far far above Annapolis or West Point.” That’s why physical fitness was important.
  • If you’re going to a service academy, you’re going to take a Physical Fitness Test as soon as you get there.
  • Engage in risky behavior, now is not the time to push the limits legally or physically. Don’t take up space jumping or quad racing because a broken limb could cost an appointee their service academy appointment.

          Do – Continue to workout and make wise choices.

  • Physical fitness is a healthy way to cope with pressure in college.
  • Even if you go on a family vacation or have a lot of things to do.
  • For service academy appointees, run 3 miles 3-4 times a week and then do 50 pushups and 50 sit ups every day.
  1. Don’t – Make this all about you.
  • Parents, don’t create drama before they go or after they’ve gone.
  • Moms, don’t sob and cry and tell them you don’t’ know how you’re going to survive without them. Shedding a few tears is OK, but doing what Oprah calls “the ugly cry” isn’t all right.
  • Parental, sibling or significant other drama is a distraction to the service academy appointee going through basic cadet training or “beast.” Distractions can lead to accidents and accidents can lead to a turn back (meaning they have to go home.)
  • Don’t post a bunch of “poor me-isms” on social media

          Do – Keep it positive. 

  • Right now, service academy portals will have a mailing address for the student. Give this address to friends and family and with your network because cards and letters mean everything during basic training. “Basics” aren’t allowed access to computers, phones or social media.
  • Do send simple cards and letters – no perfume on the cards, no kissy marks on the envelopes, no care packages during beast, and no food. After beast is over, you can send these.
  • Do tell your student funny stories about a younger sibling or the dog.
  • Do send pictures of the dog or pet.
  • Do keep it light and not heavy.Students, do make your social media channels private or have them go dormant.
  • Do clean up these channels because you never know what the cadre will get ahold of and you don’t want to embarrass yourself or become a targ
  1. Don’t –Be Han Solo – you don’t have to do this alone.
  • My husband’s advice to our sons for basic cadet training was. “Keep your mouth shut and help your classmates.”
  • Don’t stand out as the first, the most knowledgeable or the best or worst
  • For parents, don’t go this journey alone, join a parents club or booster club.
  • Remember, parents, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.

          Do – Be a team player.

  • Look for ways you can help others get through Beast.
  • The friendships you make in BCT and college will last a lifetime. My husband, Bob and I just had dinner with a classmate of USAFA class of l978.
  • Do take advantage of the sponsor family program, a program that allows local families to “adopt” a cadet or midshipman.Some of these friendships may become like a second family—or at least get you to the airport.
  • Parents, do join a parents clubfor your respective service academy. Your civilian friends don’t get it, other service academy parents do understand the unique situation your family faces.
  1. Don’t – Ever forget the “why” of what this education and your career means.
  • Service Academy Appointees are choosing something hard, something their civilian friends will never understand, but there’s a big “why.” They want to serve their country as officers.
  • During BCT and during your 4 years there, you’ll have to sometimes take life a meal at a time, a day at a time.
  • Parents, don’t forget that being a good parent means you let them fly and you support their choice to serve. You don’t have to like it or feel good about what those choices may include.
  • Parents, DON’T borrow tomorrow’s trouble. While they are there, they are safe, they are not deployed, they are not in harm’s way. Today has enough challenges of its own without borrowing on tomorrow. As long as they are in training, they aren’t in combat. If and when that day happens, you’ll have the strength you need to cope. We know this, having had one son serve in a combat zone in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Appointees, remember your goals in getting through BCT and the academy—to fly, to serve, to go into cyber security or intel, or missles or space. Your goal is much bigger than BCT and that’s why you’ll get through.

Do –  Remember the Legacy

  • You are part of a long line of military service.
  • Think about the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles who have ever served. You are part of that legacy.
  • Your legacy keeps American free.
  • Putting on a uniform doesn’t make someone a hero, but those who put on that uniform and serve with integrity first, service before self and excellence in all they do—that’s pretty heroic.
  • There’s another kind of hero as well, the Heroes at Homeand those are the parents, siblings, grandparents and family members of those who serve. America thanks you as well. 

“It starts and ends with character, and it’s a journey, not a destination. Leadership is a gift, and it is given to us by those who follow.”

General David Goldfein

Air Force Chief of Staff

 

 

How to be a Brand Ambassador: A Step-by-Step Guide-UPDATED!

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When I was a young mom with five children ten years old and younger, I launched a side hustle as a Brand Ambassador that eventually helped put all those kids through college debt free, and pay for their weddings. It also helped me gain financial independence, start a non-profit, Heroes at Home, to teach financial education to military families, and start a podcast called The Money Millhouse.

Who would have thought a side hustle could grow to become something so meaningful that could do all that?

That is the beauty of following your passion, developing your profession and living your purpose. You never know where a side hustle can lead.

My work in this space led me to be an advocate for new Brand Ambassadors in yet another new side hustle as a Boutique Brand Ambassador Agency.

We began to work with talent who have the skill set to earn a minimum of $5K per deal. We can afford to be choosy and will only work with Brand Ambassadors who are hard working (they can be trusted to get the deliverables completed on time), have high integrity (they won’t promote products that are bad for consumers or sell their mama for a buck), and they are dream talent for PR agencies and corporations (they exceed expectations).

There is a lot to know about this space, and you may be itching to get into it, which is why I created this comprehensive guide on how to be a Brand Ambassador. It is everything you need to know when breaking into this space.

How I got my start as a Brand Ambassador

When my five youngest kids were ten-years-old and under, they made their television debut in a New York local news segment entitled, “The Back to School Garage Sale Fashion Show.”

They strutted their stuff on camera, with sweet little smiles and childish eagerness as I described each item they wore. Then I shared the cost of these items at a Garage Sale versus retail. The overall savings was over $300.

When it came time for the youngest, three-year-old Joshua, to show us his shoes, he lifted his foot and showed the camera to bottom of his shoe. He was a natural.

We went to Dunkin Donuts to celebrate and life got even more exciting for them as one of the patrons recognized the kids from the segment they just watched on the news. “Hey, weren’t you kids just on television on the news?”

They handled their fame with quiet dignity and grace with Joshua shouting,

“I showed them my shoe” as he held up his foot to demonstrate.

They were celebs—for 15 minutes!

That weekly TV segment was a spot I secured several months earlier went I went on the local news to talk about a coupon seminar I was giving that would benefit a local food pantry. I had $200 worth of groceries on the set for which I paid $7.

After the segment ended, I pitched the idea of a weekly savings spot and the producer agreed.

The time came for my first segment, and I totally bombed. I didn’t realize that I needed to talk in short, sound bites for the 4-minute segment. My story went too long and I didn’t even get to my first tip.

It was horrible.

I dusted off my pride, practiced at home, and came back to nail it the next week.

And I nailed it every week for a year.

Those 50+ segments laid the groundwork for eventually becoming a spokesperson as I developed and grew my brand as “America’s Family Financial Expert” ® and “America’s Military Family Expert.” ™

I started as a young, homeschooling mother of many who began a side hustle of writing books and speaking while moving our herd every 1-2 years. As a military spouse, it was hard work while trying to balance a family and life as a mom with a spouse who was often gone.

But this side hustle surprised us all and grew into a six-figure income (working with 100+ brands).

It helped put all the kids through college (debt free), paid for weddings, and provided money in the bank for our financial independence. But it all started somewhere—it started small.

What is a Brand Ambassador?

Before we talk details, let’s look at the difference between a Spokesperson and a Brand Ambassador or Influencer. These terms are often used interchangeably, but amongst the people who work with brands, there is a difference.

Spokesperson

This was the original term for the person who spoke on behalf of an organization or a brand. It’s been a term that has been around over 30 years. A Spokesperson is the face that represents a corporation promoting a brand or product. Sometimes they are CEOs for a company or for a Foundation.

They are sometimes famous people. But the most common kind of Spokespersons are those who are experts in their field, unlike a celebrity spokesperson, who is usually not an expert. With celebrity spokespersons, the rates are quite high, whereas a non-famous expert is more affordable.

Spokespersons usually possess a wide variety of skill sets with a high level of expertise. They are authors or speakers, and are often adept at television and radio interviews. They are able to handle Satellite Media Tours (see SMTs below). They are well-spoken, polished schmoozers at trade shows, or are just good at “in person,” off-the-cuff desk-side interviews in New York City.

Brand Ambassador

With the emergence of social media, the Brand Ambassador, or Influencer, began to evolve.

Those with medium to large social media followings (usually 20K or more) were approached to mention brands, write blogs, and share on their social platforms. They didn’t necessarily to have all the skill sets of the traditional spokesperson.

If they could host a twitter chat with their 20K followers, then it didn’t matter that they couldn’t put two words together in front of a live audience of 500 people.

They could concentrate on their preferred skills within their comfort zone.

Are most brand ambassadors leaving money on the table by not developing ALL the skills found in the traditional Spokesperson?

Yes, they probably are.

But they can still make a good living as they get compensated for blogs, Facebook mentions, tweets, Instastories and Pinterest pins. They don’t have to be adept at television, radio or podcast interviews.

Brand Ambassadors don’t develop the corporate product or service, they simply promote it.

Brand Ambassador tip:

It can be easy for PR firms and their clients to take advantage of brands because most of the social media stand-outs were not familiar with contracts and rates. Most were not represented by agents. To avoid this, find an Agent to represent your contracts, find hidden fees, and get you the best price for the scope of work.

The Skill Set of A Six Figure Influencer

Here are the 5 components that will lead to a successful career as a Brand Ambassador. These have worked for me and my clients thought the years and have lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Brand Ambassador space. They may be different for you and your brand, but they serve as a good starting point.

Speaking

Learning to become a quality speaker was a component in some of the gigs I got.

For example, I did an event for U-Promise that required me to give a speech in New York City in front of 1,000 students and their families for the Jumpstart Coalition partnership where they unveiled the world’s largest piggy bank.

I have another client who gives sponsored speeches at Essence Fest in front of thousands of women and she rocks it every time.

Even today, after more than 2,000 paid speaking events, I still work on becoming a better speaker by receiving post-event debriefs from my Money Millhouse Podcast co-host, Bethany Bayless.

I don’t get my primary feedback from someone not familiar with the space. At this point in my career, I listen to experienced speakers who have my best interests in mind.

Eventually, I worked hard enough to earn the Toastmasters elite Accredited Speaker designation.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Develop your skill set, never stop working on it and remain teachable.

Books/Blogs

I published 15 royalty-based books with major publishers such as Random House, Simon Schuster and Harper Collins subsidiaries. My educational background was business and HR, and I didn’t have certifications such as a CFP, AFC or CPA.

I became an expert by investing 1,000 hours in research and writing each of my 50,000 word books (if you’re doing the math, that’s 15000 hours of research). I keep up-to-date with this blog, and most of the brand ambassador clients I work with have a blog as well.

Blogs can be sponsored by clients who pay them for a product mention. When a blogger makes the jump to books, it becomes a timely media hook that garners the interest of a brand for a potential partnership. A new book creates open doors in television, radio, podcasts, and for other projects.

A quick word about self-publishing and e-books versus royalty based publishers (those who pay YOU to write a book).

A royalty based book has greater weight and is more highly respected in the literary world than a self-published book. Anyone can self-publish if you have the money, but 99% of all book proposals are refused by royalty based publishers.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Make writing part of your platform and don’t exclusively rely on social media or speaking audiences.

Media

As I mentioned above, my time in New York on local media helped me develop a television skill set.

I also began radio interviews when my first book came out, and I learned the value of a hook to make my expertise media worthy and timely. Print media interviews as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) followed, as well as the launch of a very fun (slightly irreverent) financial podcast called The Money Millhouse.

All these components have been used a various deliverables in many of my 100+ contracts.

A great place to develop your media chops is at a conference, FinCon. Money Nerds unite every year at a conference where money and media meet. I have gained vital connections and relationships, as well knowledge and practical tools, at every FinCon I have attended.

The Money Millhouse Podcast with PT, the founder, is a greater introduction to this huge event being held in Washington D.C. this year. Be sure you use this link  if you register and a donation will be made to the non-profit, Heroes at Home.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Develop an informational one-sheet or media kit, listing your areas of expertise. Pitch them to various media outlets and use a service like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to find potential media outlets.

Repeat Brand Ambassador Work

At least 50% of new contract are referrals or renewals of old contracts.

You will get more spokesperson work if you have already shown viability in the space. If a PR agency or a company likes what you delivered in an existing campaign, they’ll hire you again and again and again.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Become proficient in the various aspects of the Spokesperson skill set to leverage previous work and aim to exceed client expectations. Add “brand ambassador” or “spokesperson” to all your social platform bios as well as your website.

Social Following

I came into the spokesperson arena before social media and was able to get a lot of work even before social platforms became the norm for Brand Ambassadors or Influencers.

However, in the current landscape, building a (legitimate) audience is crucial to your success as a Brand Ambassador.

Increase your following by reading blogs on how to develop your social platforms. Google is your best friend when it comes to finding good, actionable advice out there.

Aim for at least 10K likes or followers on each of your platforms. It’s likely that one platform may exceed involvement than others. Your community may use Facebook more than Twitter or Instagram. You may have a YouTube channel that is very active or Instagram may be your forte.

While you’re building your social following, don’t neglect your email list. If you can build a significant list (aim for 8K for starters), then you’ll be more marketable in this space.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Engage in the kinds of conversations that generate involvement with your community and they will share with others. Don’t over sell on your social platforms or in emails as this will generate community fatigue and even alienation.

The Brand Ambassador Experience from Start to Finish

Step One: Initial PR Ping

The first outreach for a potential Influencer gig is usually a PR firm, who googles experts in the area they are researching (finance, beauty, mommy bloggers, chefs, etc). They then will send an email, fill out a contact message on your website or reach 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.

AND 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 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 messed it up because they didn’t know how to handle spokeswork.

The third time, I turned it over to my publisher’s marketing rep and discovered it is against policy for them to represent this kind of work—it’s a conflict of interest. In some cases, it’s even illegal.

Oops!

Thankfully, there was the fourth time a brand reached out. 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 my first contract with MasterCard.

She also garnered 25% of my earnings—but 75% of something was better for me than 100% of nothing.

20% commission is common for gigs that the agent brings the talent, and 15% is common for gigs that the talent brings the agent.

Eventually, I was catching items on contracts that my agent wasn’t catching. My business background allowed me to become a master at reading, negotiating and executing my own contracts. And I eventually began representing others on their contracts, as well.

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.

Brand Ambassador tip:

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

9 out of 10 initial “Pings” or inquiries from an employee at a PR firm or corporation do not progress past the initial inquiry.

If the Influencer or their agent who 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 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 who would take a deal just for the money. 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), which is not unusual.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Never endorse a product you don’t believe in. Put service first 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 Brand Ambassador, they will 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 (scope of work) in writing. Otherwise, there can be a he said/she said in terms of what the work the Brand Ambassador will be doing during step 4 or step 5.

There’s an art of negotiating a deal.

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.

You want to price yourself at the value you’re 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.

Brand Ambassador tip:

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 tip.

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.

It is this is the step where brands most often take advantage of the Brand Ambassador.

PR firms are in the business of getting the best value for their client–you can’t blame them for that. But it also means 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.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Read up on how to become a better negotiator, so you can handle this step if you are representing your own contracts. 

Step 5:  The Contract

Once you’ve navigated the negotiation, 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. Also understand that someone who may manage a Brand Ambassador may not be familiar with the pitfalls of a Brand Ambassador contract.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

But making sure 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 for one of my existing clients from a company 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!

All Brand Ambassador work should be paid. This is also why it is important to have your rates laid out ahead of time so you can refer back to them.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Hire a professional to read your contract or partner with a spokesperson agency that can guide you through the sticky wickets of the contract.

Characteristics of a Top Brand Ambassador

Good Brand Ambassadors do the work. If you want to keep getting hired over and over, make sure you are someone companies want to work with.  You will not go very far if you aren’t.

  • Great work ethic–Deliver on time or early. Period. No excuses. I had a prospective client who couldn’t keep her phone appointment with me three times. I know, why did I give her so many chances? My daughter says I’m too nice sometimes, but I like to believe the best in people. However, if she can’t keep a phone appointment with me, how could I trust her to manage the deliverables on a contract?
  • Great questions– A great Brand Ambassador knows the right questions to ask when working with a client. While I (the agent) ask all the deliverable and money questions (the talent doesn’t need to talk money when they have a representative), the client usually asks things like, “What are your expectations?” and, “How do you measure success?” She wants to know the client’s target so she can hit it every time.
  • Great Performance– Repeat work is a big part of income for a Brand Ambassador and getting a client to want you again and again is a gift. If you want to keep getting work, make it your goal to exceed a client’s expectations. This doesn’t mean doing extra work for free (I don’t let her). B it does mean being open to revising work, being flexible and a giving the client better results than they ever dreamed of getting.

The Upward Spiral for a Spokesperson

If you saw the recent A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper andLady Gaga, you know it is a painfully sad story of someone on top who works their way up and then enters a downward spiral to destitution and despair.

That same story can happen to Brand Ambassadors when they believe their own press, think they are better than others, or they let success go to their head.
But just as there is a downward spiral, I believe that there’s also an upward spiral that incorporates the adage, “success begets success.”

Here’s how that happens:

  • Start – The brand ambassadors start somewhere. Some of the best begin as bloggers, writers, podcasters, YouTubers, Instagram Influencers, media personalities, or speakers.
  • Skills – We already discussed the different skills, but the best of the best Brand Ambassador will move outside their comfort zone and develop additional skills. Some bloggers are afraid of public speaking—but a top 5% brand will go to Toastmasters and get over that fear. A skilled podcaster will learn to become a better writer. An old-school book author will learn about social media. They seek to become the EGOT of their space in the marketplace—achieving excellence in all areas.
  • Success – As they develop their skills, they get gigs and execute all the deliverables in their contracts with excellence—exceeding client expectations.
  • More Success – As they are successful in contracts, this leads to their ability to develop even more skills and confidence, which leads to more success. They remain teachable and realize there’s always room for improvement.
  • A Star is Born – Some of the most remarkable and successful spokespersons are people that will never achieve celebrity like Kendal Jenner, who gets a cool mil for an Instagram post. Nonetheless, these top 5% non-celeb spokespersons are stars, like my client Tiffany Aliche, because they are working it and getting better every day.

Deliverables

In the SOW (Scope of Work) and in your spokesperson contract, there will be an Appendix or a specific outline of what you are to deliver as well as the timeline (due dates) for those deliverables. When working for my brand ambassador clients, if these areas of the SOW or the contract we get from the corporation are not clearly defined, I’ll push back and ask for clarification.

Here are examples of the various kinds of deliverables that are part of a working brand ambassadors rate sheet:

  • Per day or part of general appearance day (national TV, local market media TV, print, radio interviews, trade show appearances, podcasts, press conferences, etc.); per pre-tour development day.
  • Per travel day, if required, prior to or following work days
  • SMT (Satellite TV Media Tour) day – These are one of the most lucrative aspects of a contract because they are VERY difficult and require the highest skill set for a spokesperson. You have to be 100% in your messaging (you deliver at least the primary client message in each and every interview.) You usually arrive in a studio at 4:30 a.m. (EST) for makeup and rehearsal, then you have your first media hit around 6:00 a.m. with a morning news show via Satellite. You continue this for 3-4 hours and anywhere from 10 to 35 TV shows. They key is to be upbeat, perky and consistently deliver messaging the entire time. These SMTs earn 3K for a neophyte up to 30K for a non-celebrity pro.
  • Keynote message (speaking)
  • Workshop/Seminar or Breakout Session
  • Panel (as a panelist or moderator)
  • Media training day – This is usually the day before you kick off a campaign or the day before an SMT or RMT. This rate is usually 2x a social post.
  • RMT (Radio Media Tour) day– This is where you are on 10 to 30 radio shows, back-to-back, delivering key messaging for your client. This are usually done from a landline from your home or office and you can even do these in your pajamas. They make about 10x what one social mention makes for you.
  • Facebook Live – A client will pay you to go live on either their platform or your own platform. To go live on the Influencer’s platform is a premium deliverable and is usually about 6x the cost of one social mention on Facebook. Make sure the contract doesn’t include a “Facebook Live” bundled into all the other social deliverables, because this item should rate more.
  • Email or Newsletter – Believe it or not, some clients still like newsletters or a blast of a promotion to your list. This is never free for the client and the price you get for doing this depends on how big your list is and your open rate (how many people open your email when you send it out).
  • Fully-sponsored podcast appearances – You can go on to a podcast like The Money Millhouse and if a sponsor is covering it, then you get paid to go on the show and mention the product, campaign or idea. Make sure to give disclosure about the partnership, but more about that in the FTC/Compliance section below.
  • Initial use of name and likeness and continued use – You should get paid for the use of your name and likeness. If the client wants to continue to use it on a social platform or a website, then they rent it monthly.
  • Webinar – These are very popular and can be sponsored as long as they don’t seem like a commercial. They need to be organic or your Brand Ambassador presence can quickly turn into that of a commercial huckster. Keeping it informational, educational and non-commercial is the key to see both the brand ambassador and the client succeed in this kind of partnership.
  • Pitching tips (up to 3 tips) – Separate from Interviews. You get paid to create pitches for media and then if the client pitches them and you get a hit, then you also get paid to go on the show (or the media.)
  • Branded Educational Content – helping companies develop education material as a public service is really hot these days. You step in to help develop this and you put a friendly face on a corporation so that this content is more human.
  • 5 Day Course – Pricing varies depending on deliverables, but you are creating the course for the brand and will get compensated accordingly.
  • Branded 1-sheet PDF with client links – this is a product that you create with the input from the client.
  • Video Series – you get paid per video and the length of the video needs to be defined. There’s a world of pricing difference between a 1 hour video and a 3-minute video.

Important Note on the Federal Trade Commission

I’m not an attorney, but I know how to read a brand ambassador contract. I’ve been known to catch more nonsense than our attorneys who are not working in this space full time. I read, push back and sign every contract that has my name on it for myself or my Brand Ambassador clients.

A big part of every contract is FTC disclosures.

In short, you have to disclose any material connection between you and the corporate client you are working alongside. You have to let your public know you are being compensated in some way, whether financially or materially. If you are in doubt about what this kind of disclosure looks like, then look at a recent letter written to influencers from a key official at the FTC and make sure you are in compliance.

The corporate contract will outline, specifically, how you are to disclose in the different forms of media. Follow that part of the contract as if your life depends on it—because your life as an Influencer does depend on following those rules.

Remember Your Why

As you navigate new territories in this space, remember why you are doing what you are doing.

If it’s all about the money with and that’s all you care about, then please don’t call me. I’m not interested in working with you. I want to work with people care about something more than money.

I entered into these waters as a side hustle from home, to supplement our family income and my own income as an author/speaker. I started as a mompreneur who saw that she was leaving money on the table.

I didn’t like that.

My goals were pretty simple: to send my kids through college (debt free) and to pay for their weddings. Along the way, I not only met those goals, but I was also able to reach financial independence and start a non-profit Heroes at Home, which provides free financial education to service members, veterans and their families.

Why do you want to do this?

Brand Ambassador tip:

Comparison is the thief of joy. You’re going to find amazing people doing amazing things in this space but remember that YOU are amazing, too! So have fun and run your own race.

Join the Movement

We are currently interviewing and selecting a core group of 20 current or potential influencers for the initial launch of a online and interactive course, “How to Earn A Six Figure Income As a Spokesperson / Brand Ambassador.”

This course will include one-on-one time with me as I help you evaluate where you are and where you want to go in this space. If you are interested in being considered for this core group at 50% off the retail price of the course, then please reach out on our contact form  or sent your resume directly to assistant@elliekay.com.

We will be in touch with an interview should you be a good fit for our core group.

Give the Gift of Investing

During the holidays, it’s a time of giving—and sometimes sorting. For example, this past week, I sorted my closet and gave away 10 bags of clothing, purses, belts, scarves and shoes. I did a quick reckoning and calculated that the original value of those items was a cool $1000. Many of those giveaways were once gifts from friends and family. I couldn’t help but think, “What if I was gifted with money in a savings account or an investment fund instead?” The answer is: “You’d be a lot better off and your investment would have earned money instead of ending up in a giveaway bin.”

This year, why not take $500 and open an investment account for someone you love? Give the gift of investing by getting a loved one a start in this key area of financial responsibility. Recently on The Money Millhouse, we hosted Brenna Casserly. Brenna Casserly is CEO and Co-Founder of Emperor Investments, a Toronto-based robo-advisor.

She helped us understand a lot about Emperor and how they work as well as other investment terms such as an ETF. Brenna said, “Think of an ETF like a black box. When you open the box you notice that it is filled with some really great companies and others not so good. When you buy an ETF, you buy the entire black box and unfortunately cannot just pick out the companies you wish to own.”

One of the reasons we like Emperor Investments is that Emperor was founded on the notion that investing is highly personal. Over the course of the last decade, Brenna and co-founder, Francis Tapon, have developed proprietary technology that builds personalized portfolios. This means you don’t have to know everything there is to know about investing, you’ll have a partner at Emperor who will help you decide which fund is best for your investment style and your financial needs.

For a limited time, you can open an account at Emperor and our non-profit, Heroes at Home, will benefit from your new account if you use this link to Emperor Investments for the Money Millhouse. We believe in this kind of investing so much that we gifted an account to others who need help in just getting started.

So instead of giving your friend or family member gifts that will end up in the giveaway bin in just a few years, give them an investment account that will be worth more than your original investment in a few years. The gift that will keep on giving.

Don’t forget to use our Money Millhouse link in order to benefit Heroes at Home, so that we can continue to provide free financial education to our military members around the world.

 

 

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