A Financial Education Event
     

Writer’s Corner — Should I Fund My Own Travel to Go on National Media?

I’m beginning an “Writer’s Corner” for my friends who are in the publishing and media field. One of the questions that authors often ask is, “Where should I put my marketing dollars?” When you have an opportunity to go on a nice, national show and you have to fund the trip yourself, how can you make sure it’s worth what I call the “Media Investment.” So if you are invited on a show, make sure that they are a class act, with a nice set, great team of professionals, excellent production quality and easy to work with ahead of time. But NEVER pay production costs and RARELY pay for play! I do have a source that has a worthwhile pay-for-placement schedule and if you email me at assistant@elliekay.com, I’ll send you her contact info. The main thing this blog is looking at is: paying your own travel costs.

When it comes to the ever present question: “should I fund my travel or should I not?” A big consideration is if your publicity dollars are tight–then you might want to pass. Instead, spend those dollars on your website, social media and radio or skype ops that can be done from your home office.

That having been said, there are some ways to make the possibility of a national television appearance more viable financially, even if you have to fund travel yourself. Here are some ideas:

1) TWO FOR ONE DEAL — Dovetail the media trip off of a nearby major market media trip. If your publisher will pay for you to do a nearby media market tour, then let them know you’ll do the secondary show on your own. This might make your publisher more likely to fund the first market for you since they will be getting a “two for one” deal out of it –two media markets for their one market investment. Or, if you are speaking at an event near the proposed television show, then dovetail the media gig off the speaking gig.

2) MULTIPLES —Pitch the producer with the idea of recording multiple interviews. If you can do the live interview that day, then record 2 to 3 more interview segments on the set after the show, then they will have these shows in the can and you will be on once a week until these segments run out. It makes your monetary investment (for the trip) more valuable. This is how I was able to be on one international show 12 times in 3 trips. I did one live show on each of these trips and 3 recorded shows. But please note: THESE MUST BE ARRANGED BEFOREHAND. Don’t expect to make the pitch about multiple shows the day before you travel and then expect to record afterwards. Pitch the idea of multiples ahead of time, before you book the show and see if they have time in their production schedule to make it work.

3) TIMELESS – If your interview is not headline driven, then try to make it timeless by avoiding mention of events in the news, holidays, days of the week or seasons. Then tell the producer that you are going to try not to “date” the interview so they can re-air it at another time in the event it fits another show in the future and they want to drop in as a segment again on another show.

4) SKYPE – Pitch the idea of a skype interview (free for you). If the angle of your story can become newsworthy (highlighting something that is in the headlines), then they might consider a skype interview. These are usually reserved for those who have been in studio at least once and proven that they can handle an interview. But if you have media clips you could show them and if you’ve done skype interviews before, then make the offer. That way you don’t incur any travel expenses at all. Furthermore, if you go in studio (following one of the tips listed), then be sure you get the producer’s card for future skype opportunities.

NEW AUTHORS – For some writers who are new to the game, a show where you have to fund your own travel would be a good option for you if: 1) you are just starting out in media & want the experience 2) you have the money to invest, and/or 3) you really need a media clip of you on an international or national show. In these cases, it could be all right to invest in going on this show. But be sure you try to get the most “bang for your buck” by following some of the ideas I listed above.

BONUS TIP: If you are recording multiple interviews (in person or via skype) for a faith based show, then try to make one of them a bit more generic (or crossover friendly). Oftentimes these clips are required by national shows like The Today Show, the Nate Berkus Show, ABC News, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, etc, when they are exploring the idea of having you on a show. These mainstream producers might come calling (or if your publicist pitches them) and they will ask for a media clip to see how you look and act on the air. If you have a clip that is more mainstream (and less evangelical), then you’re more likely to get the media booking.

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)
www.elliekay.com

The Writers Corner – Can You Handle an SMT?


So you’re a writer. Then you get a book published and now you’re an author. Now it’s time to try your hand at media and you begin to do “phoners” or radio interviews on the phone. Next, you have a nice break and get to do some regional and even national television. Eventually, you’ll progress to the point where you’ll hit out of the nearest large city via Satellite and do an interview for a major cable or network station. Then, if you’re among the top 10% of authors, at some point, you may be ready to try an SMT or a RMT.

A Satellite Media Tour or Radio Media Tour is where an author is interviewed in back-to-back shows for anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. It usually starts at 6:00 AM Eastern Time, which is 3:00 AM Pacific Time (my time). This means I’ll wake up at 1:30 in the morning, go to the studio, go through makeup, then rehearse the interviews, then hit the first show live at 3:00 AM. The challenge is to stay alert and high energy for the next six hours through sometimes as many as 35 interviews. You won’t see your interviewers, but they will be in your ear as the the morning news teams from Boston to Los Angeles. You’ll hear them ask questions while you look straight into the camera and sometimes they’ll stick to the question list, but at other times they’ll throw you a curve ball. You will have 3 minutes for the entire interview in which you will need to deliver your points and then it’s off the air with a 2 to 3 minute break and on to the next show. Forget about going to the bathroom, that’s a luxury that isn’t built into the schedule!

Who sponsors SMTS? Sometimes, if your publisher has a boat load of money, they’ll give you media training and sponsor a book tour SMT. But those are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Most of the time there is a corporate sponsor, who will handle the bookings, pay the expense of the SMT and handle all the details. Your job is to give a good interview based on the predetermined focus of the SMT. It becomes a win/win for the author and the corporate sponsor. You get to promote your book and the sponsor gets to say “this interview brought to you by….”

SMTs are a strange breed, but I find them to be loads of fun because I like a good challenge. They’re like a media marathon and at the end, you get to go back to the hotel and go to sleep. Since most SMTs are done out of NYC, you might also wake up in time to hit a Broadway show.

It’s an adventure, but one that is worth it!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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?

 

Soldier of Finance

My profession is finances but my passion is helping military families.  But I’m not the only writer whose professions and passions collide. At a #USAA blogger conference held every Fall, I met Jeff Rose, author of Soldier of Finance, where he compares the battles of finance to that of the reality of living in the military. He has great stories about his time in the military, and correlates them directly into the war of Finance.

In a chapter entitled “FRAGO—The Savings Accounts Survival Guide,” Jeff talks about the importance of putting away an emergency fund to be able to pay bills and enable you to live for a period of time if your income were to suddenly stop. Just like life in the military, there are always going to come things that you cannot predict and you must have the means of adjusting your plans on the basis of new contingencies.

The Army calls these midcourse corrections FRAGO, which stands for “Fragmentary Order,” but Jeff calls it “Financial Reserve and Goal Fund.” He suggests that 3 months is ideal, which gives you time to make whatever adjustments are necessary. He warns to also be on the lookout for imposters that make you think you have cash on hand when you do not, which are taken directly from Jeff’s book:

  • Credit Cards: Just because you borrow cash does not mean it comes cheap. When you pay 20% interest on the money you borrow, you are just digging yourself into a deeper hole.
  • HELOCs (Home Equity Line of Credit): Equity in your home is not as good as cash. When you take out a line of credit on your home you could potentially be putting yourself at financial risk because: 1) HELOCs are debt because you are still borrowing money, 2) They may disappear because the rules and availability if HELOCs have changed since 2008, and 3) Because you use your home as collateral, you could lose your home if you aren’t able to make the payment; it’s not worth putting your home at risk.
  • Payday Loans: If you take out a payday loan, you could still have the same problems as a credit card, but worse interest rates. About 200% to 500% worse, to be precise. Don’t get sucked into these vicious cycles.
  • Your Stuff: If you think you can sell your stuff at a pawnshop or consignment store, Jeff recommends to not bank on it. There are other people thinking the exact same thought, and you will be very surprised at what you will actually receive for your “valuable” items.

Jeff gives solid financial advice whether you are soldier or not. It’s great to have friends that love military families as much as I do!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

 

Career Choices for Teens and Beyond

Career Choices

My husband always said that “flying jets beats working for a living.”  But he didn’t start out flying fighters, he had to develop a good work ethic as a teen. He washed airplanes at the Van Nuys airport, dug ditches and he managed to get good grades in high school that earned him the privilege of going to the Air Force Academy.

Part of getting ready to go to college or launch into a career involves finding a good job. Many high school students want part-time jobs. Often these part-time jobs help finance their college and can become stepping-stones which lead to lifetime careers. For this reason, high school part-time jobs are to be taken as seriously as an adult’s profession.

  • Where do I begin? – Looking for work means looking—profound, huh? Here are a few places to start:
  1. Referral – There are decided advantages to a job referral by someone who is in the company. You might hear about a position before it is advertised through the idea of a referral. Ask people that you respect for a referral within their company. If they are respected, you can benefit from their recommendation.
  2. Help Wanted – Pursue help wanted ads in your local newspaper if your personal connections fail.
  3. Employment Agency – Go through a state or private employment agency to open other options
  4. Door-to-Door – One last area that should not be overlooked is to go from business to business to ask if there are any job openings.  Warning, make sure you look the part before you knock on that first door!
  • Developing Confidence – Oftentimes a young person is lacking in confidence, but parents can help them overcome this insecurity by helping them to see areas in which they have experience and skills.  Sometimes kids ask, “How can I gain experience if I don’t have the job?”

Well, your kids do have experience, even if it isn’t the specific job experience they think they need. There are plenty of other skills that are a good compensation for work experience. Here are a few questions from Larry Burkett’s excellent resource entitled Get A Grip On Your Money—Student Text (order at http://crown.org/) to go over with your teen. Ask your teen the following questions and discuss the answers to help them gain confidence in applying for a specific job. Then help them go through the job wanted ads to get an idea of how their answers can place them in a specific job.

  1. What skills has your life at home taught you which might be helpful in serving others?
    1. Do you have younger siblings? This could prepare you to do child-care.
    2. What about lawn care, being a farmer’s helper, wood cutting, snow removal, house cleaning (spring or fall), or painting or papering?
    3. What academic skills have you developed?
      1. Are you good in math, English or other subjects? If you are, you might be a good tutor to a lower-grade student or a teacher’s aide.
      2. What skills have you learned in school such as typing, computer skills, filing, shop classes automotive mechanics, sewing or cooking? These are all marketable skills.
      3. What skills and personal qualities have you developed in outside of

school activities such as athletics or clubs?

  • Following Up on an Ad – If your child decides to answer a want-ad placed by an employer they should read it carefully and do as the ad instructs. If it says they need to present a resume, apply in person, or talk to a specific person, then they need to follow those instructions.  That way, the first impression on the employer will be a good one.
  • Telephone Follow Up – Practice phone etiquette with your child before they make the call. Pretend you’re the employer and they are trying to get an interview. Ask for the person specified in the ad, say please and thank you and speak clearly. If the person is not available, ask when they will be back and call at the specified time. Teach your child to identify themselves by saying something like, “Hi, I’m Ellie Kay and I am calling in reference to your ad about writing financial humor books.” Have a pencil and paper by the phone and write down instructions. Tell them to ask questions to make sure they understand and never, ever ask about salary or pay in the initial contact.

What is your dream career?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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.