Is it possible to have a group of extremely enthusiastic and well-informed parents who make lousy ambassadors? The answer is yes. Why? Because when it comes to successful ambassadorship, knowledge takes a back seat to passion.
Ambassador training in many schools is focused on ensuring that parents know all the pertinent facts – student-teacher ratio; the percentage of graduates who get their first choice of school; average SAT or other standardized test scores. But that’s not the key to a productive encounter between current and prospective parents. So, what do parent ambassadors need to know in order to be effective emissaries for schools?
Based on the ambassador training that I do, here are the 11 things that parent ambassadors need to know.
Ambassadorship is a form of word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. WOM has been proven to be exceptionally effective. There is lots of proof for this, including these data points :
- 84% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family and friends about products making these recommendations the information source ranked highest for trustworthiness. [Nielson]
- 74% of consumers identify WOM as a key influencer in their purchasing decision. [Ogilvy/Google/TNS]
Three-quarters of WOM conversations happen offline, notwithstanding the power of social media. They are one-to-one interactions – conversations at skating lessons or the questions being asked in the grocery store check-out lane. [Keller Fay Group]
WOM marketing empowers people to share their experiences. It harnesses the voice of the customer for the good of a school.
When ambassadors engage with other parents, they are having a passion conversation. They aren’t having a product conversation or even a school conversation. They are definitely not making a sales pitch. They are having a conversation about the way they feel. It’s not about the school. Rather, it’s about their passion for the school. It’s about them and their experiences.
Storytelling is the currency of ambassadorship. The primary job responsibility of an ambassador is to tell stories.
Ambassadors need to tell stories that are emotionally compelling. A saying attributed to both Rumi and Jewish scholars is that words that come from the heart enter the heart. The best way to encourage someone to take action is to make them feel something. That’s the power of storytelling. Ambassador storytelling is all about aha! moments – the moments when you know you made the right decision; the moments that brought tears to your eyes; the moments that made your heart thump.
People become intellectually receptive when they are emotionally engaged. When ambassadors get someone’s attention by appealing to their heart, they will find that person is much more interested in the facts, figures and details about a school.
Storytelling should be strategic. This is the real finesse of an ambassador program. Presumably, ambassadors have a host of stories they can tell about their experiences and those of their children. Many of them will have an appropriate emotional quotient. Ambassadors should be telling stories that align with a school’s value proposition and key messages. For example, if one of a school’s key differentiators is its athletic programs, ambassadors should be telling stories about how their kids benefitted from being on a particular team. This blog post provides a deeper exploration and other examples.
Ambassadors don’t have to know everything. Often times the best thing an ambassador can do is direct a prospective parent to those better able to provide information like someone in the admissions or business office.
Ambassadorship is a two-way channel. It’s equally important for ambassadors to listen to prospective parents and be able to report on their impressions and concerns.
Finally, ambassadors have the power to make a difference. You never know when a particular story is going to lead to a positive decision or when the bond an ambassador creates with another parent is going to make them feel comfortable enough to join the school community.
Put these 11 principles into action and your parent ambassador program is almost guaranteed to be successful.