Shakespeare_Droeshout_1623If I were launching an Ambassador Program I’d hire William Shakespeare in a “Stratford-upon-Avon” minute. Not only is he highly productive, his communication skills are excellent, and at 450 he’s gained centuries of experience.

That’s not why I’d hire him though. What makes Bill my top pick is his people expertise. He pays laser-focused attention to what people say, don’t say, like, dislike, love, hate, crave, value, and fear. In short, he puts himself in other peoples’ shoes to understand who they are and what they want, which is critical for a successful Ambassador Program.

In this article we’ll learn how Shakespeare and his passion for people can help you understand your Ambassadors and give them what they want, not what you assume they want.

Discovering Your False Assumptions
“That my Lady Beatrice should know me, and not know me.”

In “Much Ado About Nothing” Benedick complains that Beatrice makes false assumptions about his character, having no idea who he really is. The same can happen when you launch your Ambassador Program. What you think you know about your team members turns out to be false.

You begin with the best laid plans, working up a thoroughly researched strategy and recruiting ideal candidates. Then after all that prep you turn on the program lights and what happens?

Crickets. Silence. No one comes to play. The amazing activities and benefits you laid out for your Ambassadors are lying fallow in an engagement wasteland. In other words, your plan is not working. What’s going on?

Let’s call Bill for a consultation.

Much Ado about Nothing: Beatrice and BenedickWork with who you’ve got
“Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.”

After you describe your situation to Bill, he identifies your problem within minutes. He’s that good. His first lesson? “Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.”

Shakespeare’s character Don John (a villain driven by sibling rivalry), knows exactly how he feels – anger, resentment and jealousy – and what he wants – a quick but satisfying revenge.

Although Don John isn’t your typical team player, Bill encourages you to understand your Ambassadors the way he understands his character. Learn what drives them and what they want, then let those discoveries guide your program.

Little adjustments create big impact
“The smallest twine may lead me.”

Taking Bill’s advice is not as daunting as it sounds. You know what you want out of your Ambassador Program, and you know facts about your Ambassadors. The key is to discover those false assumptions. Once you fill that information gap, the smallest adjustment can turn your program from a wasteland into a thriving community.

Here’s an example of turning your “false assumption failure” into a big win.

Background: based on extensive interviews you know your Ambassadors value community and enjoy connecting with others. They’re active on many external forums and social media platforms like twitter (you’ve seen their tweets).

False Assumption and Failure: based on this information you assume they want to connect with each other on a community and you build them an online space with dozens of potential conversation threads. You turn it on, share it with your Ambassadors, and… zilch. Nada. Nothing. Dead zone. What happened? They said they wanted this! Or did they?

Discovery and Turn-Around: Before you erase your good work let’s circle back and ask your Ambassadors why they aren’t engaging on the brand new forums. Here’s what they say: a) we belong to many forums already b) we like having a central hub for resources. c) we use twitter to get help and share advice with our peers.

Ah hah! This means you got the community/connection part right, but you chose the wrong platform (forums instead of twitter)! So here’s what you do. You turn your forums into a resource center by posting a calendar of events and links to relevant content. You build community and connection by making sure all members have each other’s twitter handles.

Voila! Your Ambassadors start jumping in and connecting on twitter, and your forum traffic increases dramatically. Congratulations! You’ve turned it around without re-inventing the wheel!

lester wallack much ado about nothingAvoid Content Traps
“Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.”

Two weeks later, still reveling in your triumphant turn-around, you’re eager to begin those Ambassador activities again. You’ll ask them to share your company’s TV ad from the Marketing Department, they’ll love that, and an infographic from Communications, awesome.

Your mobile phone pings. It’s a DM from Bill. “A false aim endangers thy fine intentions. Hold, my lady, and ringeth me.”

You call Bill and he explains you’re dealing with one of the most dangerous temptations an Ambassador Program Manager can face: the content trap.

Here’s what happened. You got the big win and you shared it with your colleagues. They loved it. You also encouraged them to work with you, leveraging the Ambassadors to help them meet their goals. Excellent.

What you forgot to do was think about who your Ambassadors are and what they want.

Who they are: based on extensive interviews you know your Ambassadors are expert users who have a deep understanding of your product. It’s part of their job.

What they want: you also know your Ambassadors want detailed product information and access to product experts.

The Content Trap: you were so thrilled about your colleagues’ enthusiasm that you forgot to provide them content parameters based on your Ambassadors’ preferences. Now you’re stuck with an irrelevant TV ad and infographic.

Like Bill says, once you discover the false assumption, it’s easy to turn it around. So you reach out to your internal stakeholders and let them know what you’re looking for, based on who your Ambassadors are and what they want. You also target other groups in your company who align with your Ambassadors, like the product managers, engineers and the beta testing teams. Now your activities will resonate with your Ambassadors.

Bill’s last piece of advice
“And To Conclude”

Before Bill hangs up he encourages you to ask yourself this question: “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” Rosalind in “As You Like It” says no but Bill feels strongly that you must say yes.

You may WANT to cram twenty messages into each of your Ambassador communications. You may WANT to talk to them every day. But do your Ambassadors want to talk to you? Respect their time.

Speaking of time, Bill needs to hop on another call. Meanwhile, if you have a question or comment about understanding your Ambassadors Bill will answer them as soon as he can. And if you’d like to learn more about the Cisco Champions Program, Bill will be happy to give you a tour.


Rachel Bakker

Social Media Advocacy Manager

Digital and Social