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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.

How I Earned A Six Figure Income As a Spokesperson / Brand Ambassador – part 4

I’m gearing up to present this Brand Ambassador Workshop at Fincon this year and it makes me reflect on the last time I presented in that venue. It was 2014 and we were in a small space that accommodated about 40 people. In the audience were several bloggers and social media gurus who were interested in how they might be able to leverage their skills to be able to make money in this space. One of the people listening carefully was Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista, who was on the cusp of her potential career as a brand ambassador.

 

When I talked to her about it recently, she reflected, “I remember looking at the list of workshops and thought that I really wanted to see what that was all about. When you were talking, I kept thinking about brands I could possibly partner with and didn’t really know. But now, four years later, I’ve exceeded my expectations with your help.”  Tiffany is modest, but she’s currently in the top 5% of non-celebrity spokespersons/brand ambassadors. I worked with her on her first major deal and I’ve represented her ever since. I’ve also worked with a half dozen others who were at that Fincon presentation. What made Tiffany pop out as a top performer? Let’s look and see:

Characteristics of a Top Brand Ambassador:

  • Great work ethic– Tiffany delivers on time or early. Period. No excuses. I had another  rospective brand ambassador 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 do 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), Tiffany 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…and again is a gift. Tiffany makes it her goal to exceed a client’s expectations. This doesn’t mean that she does extra work for free (I don’t let her) but it does mean that she’s open to revising her work, she’s flexible and she gives the client better results than they ever dreamed of getting.

 

The Upward Spiral for a Spokesperson

I’m a pretty big Bradley Cooper fan and I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie, A Star is Born with Lady Gaga. That’s one premiere I’d like to go to as an influencer! I saw the previous version of the film with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand as well as the 1937 original. It’s 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 brands 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, media personalities, or speakers.
  • Skills – We already discussed the different skills, but the best of the best spokespersons will move outside their comfort zones 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 and then achieve the elite Accredited Speaker status (the top 1% of 4 million Toastmasters globally). 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 Tiffany, because they are working it and getting better every day.

In this blog series, we already learned the definition of a spokesperson/brand ambassador, the skill sets of a spokesperson,  the process involved in garnering, negotiating and contractinga spokesgig. Now it’s time to look at some of the specific deliverables as well as how to remain in compliance so you don’t get in trouble with the Feds!

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 – They pay you to go live on either their platform or your own platform. This 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 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. You 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 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.

 

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 stuff and 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 ambassadors.  A big part of every contract is FTC disclosures. In fact, when I went to select a photo for this section, I didn’t just grab a logo off the internet, I purchased the FTC pic—that would be ironic, violate copyright law when writing about the Federal Trade Commission!

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 you 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 and saw that I 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 thing?

This concludes our four part series on How to Become a Brand Ambassador/Spokesperson. Feel free to ask me any questions or let me know how you are doing in this journey. If you’re at FinCon, I’d love to meet you and hear about your experience.

And remember, if you are interested in becoming a part of our beta team for a new Brand Ambassador Course, then submit your name to assistant@elliekay.com and we’ll see if you qualify.

One last word of advice as you continue this journey. 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.

 

How I Earned A Six Figure Income As a Spokesperson / Brand Ambassador – part 3

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 assistant@elliekay.com 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.

 

 

Credit Card Choices — Big Benefits With Right Choices

Southwest Airlines is running a credit card offer for qualifying applicants where they will get a companion pass for the rest of this year and all of 2018, plus 40,000 points. My daughter uses credit cards sparingly and her score is in the 800s (on a FICO scale up to 850). She decided to get the card and is thrilled to add her husband a companion to her recent round

trip purchase from Burbank to San Francisco for only $59. Pretty good deal for her. Since I already have a companion pass on a #SWA card, it wouldn’t be a good deal for me.

But not all deals are that good. How do you know which choice is best for your needs?

On my recent trip to #USAA, I learned a lot about the latest offerings in credit cards.

In fact, Yasmin Ghahremani, a writer with USAA, contributes the following information on how to navigate your first rewards card in three easy steps.

Credit cards that offer rewards like airline miles or a percent of cash back on everyday purchases can be a pretty great deal. But with so many different rewards credit cards available, choosing one that’s right for your lifestyle can feel overwhelming. Not only that, are you sure a rewards credit card is a smart financial move?

First off:  rewards credit cards aren’t for everyone. If you’ve never owned a credit card before or have a not-so-great credit score, you may not even qualify for a rewards card in the first place. And because interest rates for rewards cards tend to be higher than most credit cards, if you are the type to miss payments, make minimum payments only, or carry a hefty balance, your best bet is to look for a credit card with a low interest rate.

Once your cash flow and spending habits are more favorable, you can give rewards cards another look–otherwise, the interest you’ll pay on a carried balance will easily outstrip the value of any rewards you’ll receive. “Rewards cards are really best for transactors: those who pay off their balance every month,” says Mikel Van Cleve, Advice Director and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with USAA

That said, if your credit card hygiene is superb and you make a habit of paying off the balance in full each month, then you’re probably ready for your first rewards card!

1. First, consider the kind of rewards you’d like to earn. If you’re a jet-setter and love to take frequent vacations, travel rewards cards that can earn airline miles, waive luggage fees, grant access to posh airline lounges and more might be right up your alley.

Not the globe-trotting type? Then a cash-back rewards card might be more your style. These essentially give you a small percentage discount (anywhere from 1–5%) on the stuff you’re already buying with your credit card, like groceries, gas, online purchases and more.

Once you’ve identified the type of rewards you’d like to earn…

2. Match your spending habits to your overall rewards card management. Take a look at how much you actually spend in certain categories on an annual basis to pinpoint where you could earn the most rewards. If you’re single and eat out a lot, a card that offers extra cash back for grocery spending might not be the best fit.

Plus, not all rewards cards work the same way: some offer more complex variations, like extra cash-back percentage points for spending in certain categories, such as 3% at supermarkets and 1% on all other kinds of purchases.

Other kinds of rewards cards offer additional percentage points on a rotating calendar for certain types of purchases, with bonus categories changing every quarter. For example: you might earn 5% on groceries one quarter, 5% on gas the next quarter, 5% at restaurants for another quarter, etc.

Complex earning structures may ultimately earn you more, but only if you’re really familiar with your own spending habits and the amount of time you care to spend tracking expenses and managing rewards redemption. Depending on the card you choose, you’ll need to keep up with rotating categories that may require an opt-in action (like visiting a website or filling out a form) every quarter, or you miss out on the perks.

If you don’t want to hassle with that, consider choosing a card with a flat base earning rate. Many credit cards now offer 1.5% or even 2% on every purchase you make. For instance, if the card offers 1% cash back for every dollar you spend on the card and you’ve spent a total of $2,500, you can earn $25 cash back. Even better, you often have a choice on how to spend those rewards, usually via a check, a credit to your statement, or points good towards purchases with other retailers. (Beware the latter as it may encourage you to spend needlessly!) 

3. Examine the fine print of any offers you see. Does the card charge an annual fee that costs as much or more than you will likely earn back via rewards? If you feel pressured to spend more just to get enough rewards to justify the annual fee, that card might be causing you to spend more than you normally might.

Does the card place limits, or “cap” how many rewards you can earn in bonus categories? Some cards allow you to earn 3% on only the first $3,000 a year you spend on groceries, and after that rewards may diminish or disappear entirely. You’ll want to factor those considerations into your decision.

“Make sure you know how the cards you’re considering work, and figure out which one works best for your habits,” advises Van Cleve. “If you do that the rewards can really help you save some money and work toward other goals that you have.”

Heroes at Home Goes International

What happens in Vegas, never stays in Vegas—it gets populated on Facebook! If you follow us on our Facebook page, you’ll see that “Heroes at Home” made a big splash in that city.

In our Heroes at Home Financial Event Tour, I present a segment called “Heroes at Home” where we talk about the amazing way that our military members and their families not only survive the challenging lifestyle, but they thrive by demonstrating key characteristics. Every time we present this, we find our audience laughing and eventually crying, but they leave feeling inspired and they know that the sacrifices they make are worth it.

As “America’s Family Financial Expert” I’m often in the media giving advice and as a corporate spokesperson, I help Fortune 500 companies launch new products and services. In all these venues, I talk about our Heroes and our Heroes at Home, informing a civilian population about the unique characteristics that comprise a heroic group of Americans. While my profession is finances, my passion is military families.

This past weekend, the Heroes at Home message went international when I presented this keynote to a Toastmasters International audience of over 1000 Toastmasters and more as it was streamed live, internationally, as well. WHAT AN AUDIENCE! They not only caught the vision of what it means to serve our country, they got behind the message 100%. In the process, I received the very rare designation of “Accredited Speaker” which is awarded to less than 1% of all Toastmasters globally.

A quick recap of the characteristics of successful military families:

  • A Sense of Humor – this lightens the load and brings joy to the journey.
  • Patriotism – Even if you are riding a mechanical bull in Billy Bob’s you can still be a patriot and proclaim that you are proud to serve America.
  • Courage – Admiral Chester Nimitz said of the Marines in Iwo Jima – “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” I believe those who serve today show that same kind of courage.
  • Faith – There’s a chapel at every base and a chaplain assigned to every unit in our armed forces. Whether you are an atheist or an Anglican, you have an equal place at the table.
  • Legacy – Even though 1% of the American population protects the rights and freedoms of the other 99% of us, we are still a part of a long line of military service. In this audience and all our audiences, we see 80%+ of the hands going up saying that someone in their family has served.

My husband, daughter and friends were in the audience, and others who can be called Heroes and Heroes at Home. The exciting part of the message was that this audience gave our Heroes at standing ovation when I encouraged them to tell our Heroes:

We love you.

We are proud of you.

And together, we will be all right.

We are building this tour for Fy16 and will be going to Europe and wherever else we are invited, spreading the word of hope, help and humor to our military members and their families.

Thank YOU for your service and thank you for your time.

 

 

Be A Hero, Help A Hero

 

When I married my husband, I married “The World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot” and I also inherited two step-daughters in the process. Then he said we could “join the military full time and see the world.” But what he really showed me was five more children in the first seven years of marriage, for a total of seven children to financially support. Then we took the show on the road and moved eleven times in thirteen years. I learned that I was going to have to look at life in a funny way or end up on the funny farm.

Today, I’m not sending a husband into harm’s way, but I’m sending sons as we have three sons serving in the Marines, Air Force and Army.

One of the critical ways I found help was through our community. When my husband was deployed, the local community helped me and now with a Marine son deployed, there are those who are helping him by sending care packages. Here are a few ways you can inform others on how to be a hero to our heroes and their families.

The Kay clan in front of an F-117

Operation: Courageous Character

When my husband, Bob, flew the F-117A fighter and was on long military deployments, he spent many days away from family and needed reminders of what he was fighting for overseas. You can help in this area by creating a Service Member’s “Wish Book” for the deployed military member or their family members. Be creative and put together these “wishes” (and some of your own):

  • I Wish For You. . . the Courage to Laugh With Friends (a funny card, humor book or share a family anecdote)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Redeem Beauty for Ashes (send something lovely created out of something unusual.)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Choose Peace and Tranquility (include a instrumental music CD with a note as to why your family likes the music)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Cherish Memories (a personalized family photo)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Keep in Touch (pre-addressed cards to family and friends)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Be Wise (a favorite self help book)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Be Cool and Fresh (mints)

Operation: Compassionate Kids

It’s also important to encourage military kids. Consider approaching your child’s classroom teacher, Scout troop or after school club about the idea of sponsoring a different military member each month. In English, the children can write letters; in Art class, they can draw pictures; and in Scout Troop, they can put together care packages. Children can learn the value of caring in community with others and it can teach lessons in altruism by creating an “others” orientation that will last a lifetime. Be sure to get instructions for shipment before sending care packages so that all regulations are followed. Some of the care packages might include:

  • Toiletry Pack – Sample size shaving cream, disposable razors, wet wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss q-tips, shampoo, lotion, bug repellent, foot powder, & socks.
  • Food Pack – Pre-sweetened drink mix, slim jims or jerky, granola bars, power bars, bag of candy (non-chocolate), gum, canned soup, canned fruit, fruit snacks, cool scar, nuts & trail mix.
  • Smart Pack – Books of all kinds, crossword puzzles, stationary, stamps, phone cards, online gift certificates and fact books.

Help Others Help You

There are a number of organizations that can help you get in contact with ways to serve military members.

  • TreatTheTroops.orgThe “cookie lady” Jeanette Cram, can help you organize your own “cookie bakes” for the troops overseas. “We are always looking for ‘crumbs,’ or people who bake for us,” says Jeanette, “we have them all over the country.” Or, you can make a tax-deductible donation to help with postage. The have shipped almost 3 million cookies since 1990!
  • OperationShowBox.comDonate travel sized toiletries that you may not use from your hotel stays or business trips. They also pair up troops and teachers as a way of allowing school children to learn geography and reach out to volunteer troops overseas.
  • OperationGratitude.com – This group has local assembly days where you and your family can arrive at a central location and help put together care packages.
  • Heroes at Home — A non-profit that I run which provides financial education for military members and their families. All donations go through our Women of Purpose 501c3. For more information on how to donate, write us at assistant@elliekay.com

What is YOUR favorite way of helping our heroes?

Lean Body, Fat Wallet: The Health and Wealth Connection

I’m announcing, in this blog, my new upcoming release with friend Danna Demetre!

What would you do if you finally lost all that excess weight and had energy to burn?  How different would your life be if you were completely out of debt and in control of your finances? And what if you could do both at the same time with just few simple lifestyle changes?

Those were some of the questions we wanted to answer when I wrote this book with Danna Demetre. In the interest of full disclosure, there were other reasons I wanted to pen this work as well. One of them was because it was a good excuse to spend time in Danna’s lovely San Diego home doing the writing (and drinking beverages from Italy)! Plus my hubby likes her hubby, Lew (except when the West Point grad takes on the Air Force Academy grad and they engage in a death-match-war-of-the-words to see whose academy is superior.) It also meant that I only had to write ½ of a book instead of a whole book.  Don’t laugh, this is a very important reason I engaged in this project.  In fact, my literary agent, Steve Laube, says, “Ellie you are the kind of author who likes to have written books.”  So what’s your point, Steve?

Even though Danna and I are experts from two seemingly different fields – finance and fitness,  in our new book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet, we let readers in on a remarkable discovery – the habits that are good for your wallet are equally good for your body. The principles that help you stick to a budget are the same ones that help you eat better, lose weight and keep it off.

The simple and practical teaching in this “two for one” bargain of a book will help you put those principles and habits to work using an innovative approach to improving both your wealth and your health.  Lean Body, Fat Wallet, includes real life stories of failure and success readers will identify with and draw inspiration from. It also links common issues of health and money, such as balancing a budget along with a diet and how overspending relates to overeating.

Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find in Lean Body, Fat Wallet:

  • Four essential habits for satisfying, sustainable change and how to make them part of your life
  • Ten “failure factors” that trip us up and how to steer clear of them
  • Proven strategies to overcome emotional eating and spending
  • A wealth of stress busters that don’t rely on food or money
  • A game plan for raising fit and frugal kids

We also offer a tool kit of charts to track your accomplishments and a recap menu that allows readers to easily navigate each chapter and pick out specific sections relevant to current needs.

Here’s a list of reasons people fail to develop that Lean Body, Fat Wallet we will give you ways to overcome these:

Top Ten Failure Factors

  1. Set unrealistic goals ­
  2. Motivated by the wrong motives
  3. Believed failure was inevitable
  4. Fulfilled the need for immediate gratification too often
  5. Influenced unduly by other people
  6. Practiced a “deprivation mentality”  – all or nothing/black or white
  7. Rationalized and made excuses rather than taking responsibility
  8. Displaced emotional issues through overspending and overeating
  9. Procrastinated rather than taking action
  10. Lacked the tools to make compounding incremental change

Through this book you, too, can discover a new way to approach your financial and physical challenges. Join Danna and I on this amazing journey and at the end of the road, you’ll develop your very own lean body and fat wallet!

Pre-order the book and we’ll send you a special surprise!

What would YOU rather have, a Lean Body or a Fat Wallet?

 

Blockbuster Deals on Blockbuster Movie Tickets!

 

Blockbuster savings

One of the biggest traditions in the Kay family is watching movies. Well, more specifically, watching movies AND quoting movie lines at every opportune moment. For example, if I were to mention that tradition in front of one my boys, they’d likely pipe in with something like, “Really boot? Why don’t you give me 100 right now?” (Bonus points if you know the reference–scroll to the end of the blog for the answer.)

Like many families, our movie watching time increases in the summer. Kids are out of school, air-conditioned indoors suddenly become more appealing and Hollywood starts cranking out its big-time money-makers. But one of the most important reasons is the fact movie theaters start offering some of their best deals and reward programs of the year.

Here are some of the blockbuster deals from some of the biggest companies in the United States:

  1. Cinemark – These guys are probably the best when it comes to the sheer number of discounts and savings they offer. The Values page on their website is full of printable discounts and coupons such as free popcorn and discounted tickets. These coupons can be used in conjunction with their refillable soda and popcorn cups and tubs. They also offer discounts for seniors, groups, the military and students! If you go on the right day (like a Tuesday), you’d like be able to pull off a movie for two with concessions for less than $20, depending on what part of the country you live in. Best of all, Cinemark has a large number of dollar or discounted theaters, where you can get tickets for less than two bucks.
  2. AMC Theatres – If you go to the movies frequently, AMC has one of the best reward programs out there. Their AMC Stubs program not only gives you discounts and rewards, the online portal lets you track every cent you spend on concessions and tickets. Another perk is that the program waives all fees for purchasing tickets online. At $12 per year, the card pays for itself after only a few visits.
  3. Regal Entertainment Group – The best part about the Regal Crown Club? It’s absolutely free. In addition to offering rewards and discounts, members also have the opportunity to enter sweepstakes for vacations and movie-related prizes.
  4. Carmike Cinemas – TBG? TAG? Those are some of the promotion names at Carmike, which offers exclusive discounts on its social network pages. Of course, you’ll only know about them when you like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Their Family Pack, for example, offers amazing savings for families.
  5. Daily deals – Sites like Groupon may not be as popular as they were before, but that’s good for deal hunters, as they need to offer better deals to attract new customers. One popular deal is a movie ticket and drink for half price, meaning you only have to pay for popcorn (or simply enjoy a soda and a movie).

Whether you’re a student, senior or simply love movies, you can save big on movies this summer. Save what, you may ask? “Presidential flashcards.” Ok, that’s another movie line from the movie quoted at the top of this blog. Did you guess it? “That Thing You Do!”

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Military Heroes, Money and Me

If time and money were no issue, what could you see yourself doing for the rest of your life? That’s the question we ask in order to discover our passions.

Think about this for a minute and remember this would be something you have to do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! What would you do and why? Could you really travel for the rest of your life?  Could you eat chocolate for the duration? Could you go to spas forever? Most of the “splurges” we would indulge in if time and money were no object are not sustainable for the REST OF OUR LIVES.

Here’s my answer:

I’d speak to our military members and their families. I’d give two kinds of presentations:

1) Heroes at Home — The top characteristics of military families that help them not only survive the lifestyle, but thrive in the midst of it. These families would experience humor, hope and healing and walk away feeling that what they do as Heroes at Home has a life and death impact on our world. They would feel they are leaving a meaningful legacy.

2) Money Matters — The number one problem in marriages is money. I would show families how to get out of debt, improve FICOS, teach their kids financial literacy and pay cash for cars. I would give them real world examples from our very real family of kids that graduate from college debt free with 700+ FICOS. This is the message I’d give to families if time and money were no object.

Wait a minute!  This is exactly what I’m doing because my “profession” is finances in which I’m a media veteran, financial expert and spokesperson. But my “passion” is helping military families and it’s what I have the privilege of doing in between my corporate work, speaking and media appearances. In fact, the two often marry such as the recent appearance I had on Fox and Friends talking about sequestration and the loss of tuition assistance for military members. Click through to see the segment. 

Thanks to sponsors like USAA I can give away hundreds of free books to these military audiences so that they can walk away with some tangible military and financial help at their fingertips. I waived my usual honorariums at these events. With additional generous donors like ProFlowers, I’m able to travel to military bases and give away lots of free stuff to our Heroes at Home like several $200 gift certificates for San Diego’s own Shari’s Berries, Red Envelope, Personal Creations and ProFlowers . What do these corporate sponsors get out of the deal? They get the satisfaction of knowing they are making a difference in the lives of people like Shari.

I did a Heroes at Home presentation last month at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD)and there was a woman named Shari* (*name changed) who came up to me after the event. She confessed that she was at the end of her sanity because she was stuck at home with two toddlers while her husband was facing his 3rd deployment in 5 years. She was all of 23 years old.

Shari smiled weakly, “I came out tonight because of the free childcare and to get a break from the kids.”

She wiped away her tears, “I didn’t expect to laugh so much. Isn’t that silly, I don’t know why I’m crying now…But to hear that others feel the same way I do and I have people here who can be a support has changed my outlook. I can’t believe you did it with all those kids of yours.”

“I feel that I know why I’m a military spouse and that it really is worth it after all.” She smiled bravely, “I know what I need to do and you helped me see that.”

“Besides,” she wiped her nose “I won the gift basket door prize.” She laughed and blew her nose into a kleenex.

I got an email from Shari a few weeks later and she’s plugged into a family support group program at MCRD to get the support she needs. She said that night we met was a turning point for her because it gave her hope.

Hope. That’s a powerful word.

I guess you can see why military families are my passion.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

If you live in the San Diego area, then save the date:

Camp Pendleton – April 19th — Del Mar Beach Resort – 6:00 — Call 760-725-9052 to make reservations for free childcare

We will be giving away free books, and $200 gift certificates from San Diego’s own, Shari’s Berries, plus $200 gift certificates for Red Envelope and Personal Creations plus a $350 gift certificate to ProFlowers.

Pass along this info to your military friends in the area, there are limited spots available for childcare, so they should act now

Five Top Money Moves for 2013

This month I’ll be on over 25 television and radio stations talking about the Top Five Money Moves for 2013. So look and listen for yours truly in the media. My long time stylist, Ricardo, saw me on a national show and said, “You looked and sounded just like you do when you sit in my chair!”  My daughter, Bethany, was in the salon with me and piped in with, “That’s what happens when you’ve been on television as much as my mom has.” I could have sworn she rolled her eyes when she said it, but she insists she didn’t. I really do loving helping families do money matters smarter and media helps me get the good word out to these people across the country.

According to a recent survey, 40 to 45% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. Among the top new year’s decisions are resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and money management or/ debt reduction. While a lot of people who make decisions during the new year do break them, research shows that making a decision to change is useful. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

If one of your resolutions involve getting fiscally fit, then there are five things individuals, couples and families should do every January, year in and year out, to help their financial picture. These five money moves will help you pay down debt, save more in your emergency fund and be prepared for possible financial setbacks in 2013. They include:

 

1) CUT COSTS ON FIXED EXPENSES – there are some expenses that people rarely check, but they could be missing out on hundreds of dollars of savings.

  • For one thing, it’s important to call your homeowners insurance provider and ask about getting a better rate. Oftentimes, you don’t think about this policy because the bank may cover this premium and you put that renewal to the side—wrong answer. The other biggie in fixed expenses is auto insurance.
  • If you drive less, in safer ways, and during safer times of the day you can save money on your car insurance. If you are military or a military legacy (child of someone who served), be sure to compare prices at USAA for car, home and other benefits to members.
  •  One final, quick tip to cut costs by shopping around, is for groceries. Go to couponmom.com where the site will tell you what’s on sale in your neighborhood, which items have coupons, double coupons and store coupons. Using this layered savings approach in the store helped our large family save $160,000 over the course of twenty  year!  (Yes, you read that right, it’s not a typo).

2) COMPLETE TAXES EARLY & FREE– The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund.  Even as this year’s tax laws get settled, you can still get your return started online.  I recommend the online TaxACT Free Edition has everything you need to prepare, print and e-file your federal return free.  TaxACT and I have worked together to help American families and specifically military families, because their tax solution guides you step by step through your return and guarantees your biggest refund. It’s fast, easy and even offers free help. Remember that the fastest way to get your refund is to do your taxes online,  e-file and choose direct deposit .  And once you have that refund, put the money to smart use like paying down consumer debt, bolstering your savings or saving to pay cash for your next car. Or, if you are a Kay kid, then you can use it to buy your Mama a really nice present!

3) CATCH UP ON SAVINGS – In money moves one and two, you freed up extra money by cutting costs and getting your refund back early. I recommend that you take a hard look at your emergency fund. If you are a single income family, you should have twelve to fifteen months of living expenses in this fund. If you are a dual income family, you need six to nine months of living expenses. With uncertain employment situations, it’s important that you save for a rainy day. Use 50% of that tax refund and money saved from cutting fixed expenses to help build up your emergency fund. Then every time you save money on expenses, write a check or transfer those funds into this important account. It will become a habit and you’ll build that account up more quickly.

4) CUT OUT DEBT – If you took 50% of the money you gained from steps one and two and put it in your emergency fund—good job! Now it’s time to use the other 50% to pay down credit card debt and get started on the “snowball effect” of getting rid of consumer debt. This snowball plan works by paying off the credit card with the highest rate first. Then you take the payment you would have made on that first card and put it toward the next card on your list, thus doubling up on that payment. Each time you pay off a card, you keep taking what would have been that minimum payments on paid off cards and put them toward the next credit card balance. You will eventually find yourself making triple, quadruple payments and you can see why we call it the “snowball effect,” thus getting ahead of interest charges and paying your debt down more quickly.

5) CARE AND SHARE MORE – This is a good time of the year to map out a strategy to give more and get more out of your giving so that you can itemize your deductions. Go through closets and donate clothing and furniture to IRS- approved charities, but keep track of your donations. Go to the giving arm of the Better Business Bureau to check out the status of charities before you give. Ask charities for receipts. You usually get more for each item than you would selling it at a yard sale.  Remember, monetary donations and certain expenses for volunteering are also deductible.

Happy 2013
Ellie Kay
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