James Rix of StreetPR argues that too many experiential activations are being let down by poor quality brand ambassadors – and that sourcing staff off the internet is to blame

Brand ambassadors aren’t commodities


James Rix of StreetPR argues that too many experiential activations are being let down by poor quality brand ambassadors – and that sourcing staff off the internet is to blame  

When it comes to making the most of a brand’s communications budget, few activities have the potential to deliver the same impact as face-to-face marketing, whether it’s at an event, a festival, on the High Street or in a busy train station.

Marketers know that if they can get their product into the hands of their target audience, or have the chance to talk to them about their services for even just a few minutes, they are more than half-way to converting them into consumers and even fans.

So it’s unforgiveable that so many live or face-to-face campaigns are being completely undermined by utterly atrocious promotional staff. There’s no excuse for that; staffing agencies should be investing time, money and effort in recruiting and training quality people – and then more on retaining them.

But many supposedly reputable staffing agencies, which reassure clients that they have thousands of qualified staff on their books, are actually advertising for people – often for jobs they are supposed to be delivering next week or even tomorrow – on job forums and social media sites.

Where’s the quality in that? Where’s the duty of care which should be owed to clients?

At StreetPR, we don’t run cattle call open casting sessions, either in person or on the web. Every brand ambassador we supply is interviewed by us, either in our offices or, on those rare occasions when it’s for a job in Edinburgh or Timbuktu or some other far flung place where we don’t have a nearby office, by Skype. We grill them to make sure that potential recruits are people we feel confident are going to be able to represent the client – and also us.

For any staffing agency or experiential agency with a staffing division, its people, its brand ambassadors, should be its biggest asset, not something to be treated like a commodity, bought at a knock down price from a website.

Everyone with an interest in growing the staffing industry – which includes not just staffing agencies, but experiential, integrated and through-the-line agencies plus PR consultancies, as well as the clients who use all our services – should be working together to encourage staff to become more professional.

But that means we all need to act in a professional manner ourselves. How is trawling the internet for people hours before you’re supposed to be staffing an event or a leafleting or sampling campaign professional?

Staffing agencies should be prepared to invest time, money and resources into giving all their staff (both new recruits and old hands) the support and training they need in order to learn the necessary skills to grow into the job.

As an industry, we should also be investing in measuring the effectiveness of the staff we are supplying, both for our own sake (so we can become better at supplying quality people) and so we can report back properly to our clients. Clients expect to be able to track the effectiveness of their marketing spend; if we don’t offer them some kind of auditing services, they will do it themselves.

We’ve been working closely with a client who has been using voucher campaigns to drive people to their site to sign up for their new home-delivery service. They code all their vouchers so they can see exactly where new customers are coming from, down to individual tube stations.

Due to massive growth, they brought us in to supplement their own in-house team. They used to run split tests to see whether our people were delivering better results than theirs. There were a few times when they came back to us and told us our teams weren’t pulling their weight – but we took those criticisms on board, improved our game and now they’ve got rid of their in-house team altogether.

If we aren’t prepared to check on the quality of service our people are delivering, how can we possibly know what training they need, or who is showing the intelligence and drive that singles them out as potential team leaders? Professionalism again – we should be looking out for people we can nurture. They are the future of our industry.

The idea that promotional staff are in some way ‘temporary’ is one we have to get rid of in the staffing industry. They may be temporary from the client’s point of view, because they are only working for them for a day or a week; but staffing agencies should be looking to build employee loyalty and longevity. Our people aren’t disposable – they should be our greatest assets.

James Rix is co-founder and managing director of staffing agency StreetPR, which supplies promotional staff to a wide range of clients including events organisers, gyms, hotels and restaurants, FMCG brands, shopping centres, sports and event stadia and the public sector.

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