Once you’ve identified the key communities you think it is important to engage with, the next step is to identify the people you’d like to represent your brand within these communities. For simplicity, I like to refer to these folks as brand ambassadors.
How to find brand ambassadors
Start by identifying the people inside your organization who have the best relationships with each community. These people are the best candidates to become your brand ambassadors. The ideal brand ambassador is already an actual community member, actively participating in conversations and projects with other community members.
While an employee of your organization, this person shares common values, interests, and experiences with other community members. It is less important what position they hold within your organization and more important how they are viewed by the community itself.
After you’ve identified possible brand ambassadors, reach out to them to see if they are willing and interested in expanding their personal roles in the community to include being representatives of your brand as well. Some might already be playing this role, others might be playing this role and not realizing it.
Don’t force or pressure people. The ideal candidate will be excited to be considered and will be passionate about the opportunity, so if your best candidate doesn’t seem interested, try to find someone else who is.
Creating brand ambassadors from scratch
If you don’t have anyone in your organization who is already a member of the community, you’ll need to have someone join. Choose someone who understands your organization’s story and positioning well but also already shares interests, values, and experiences with the community in question.
Have this person attend meetings, join mailing lists, participate on forums, and otherwise begin to contribute to the community first as an individual. It will take a little longer to get started, but it will be worth it if your brand ambassador has a deep contextual understanding of the community before they dive right in officially representing your organization.
Brand ambassadors as faces of the brand
You should ensure that your brand ambassadors deeply understand your brand positioning so they can live it (not just speak to it) in their activities within these external communities. If you are developing many brand ambassadors at once, consider hosting a brand ambassador bootcamp where new ambassadors can practice telling the brand story and get aligned on the overall positioning of the organization. Also use this as an opportunity to emphasize the key role of these ambassadors in developing the brand experience and keeping relationships with the community healthy and productive.
You may have some communities where there is a whole team of ambassadors, not just one. For example, at Red Hat, a large team of developers represented Red Hat (and themselves) in the Fedora community. Invest as many ambassadors as you need in order to provide the best possible support for and adequately communicate with the community.
As you recruit brand ambassadors, you extend the internal core of the brand. Although it is wonderful to see your core group getting bigger, extending your reach is also an important time to ensure consistency. Be very careful to take the time to educate all brand ambassadors well so the entire brand orchestra stays in key.
Brand ambassador philosophy
Wikipedia defines an ambassador as “the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization.” Usually an ambassador lives and operates within the country or organization where he is assigned.
Your brand ambassadors should channel the same philosophy. While they are members of your organization, they should “live” within the communities they are assigned to as much as possible while representing your organization within that community.
Great brand ambassadors are loyal to the organization and to the community at the same time. They develop relationships of respect, honesty, and trust within the community, which allows them to clearly and openly communicate the priorities, desires, and needs of both sides.
Brand ambassadors are not just mouthpieces for the organization, but should also maintain their own personality, interests, and opinions in the community—often distinct from those of the organization. In places where they are representing their own opinions and ideas, they should provide the proper disclaimers. With a little practice, this is not nearly as difficult as it might sound. The key is maintaining an authentic personal voice while being open, transparent, and human in their communications.
Don’t think someone in your organization has the right makeup to be a good ambassador based on what you see here, even if he or she has good relationships within the community? Don’t make him or her an ambassador. The brand ambassador is a representative of your brand to the outside world, and the job carries a lot of responsibility and requires a high emotional intelligence and diplomatic sensibility to do well.
So take the time to find, train, and support brand ambassadors within your organization. With some attention and focus, you may soon find that your network of ambassadors becomes one of your organization’s most valuable assets.
If so, you can find more tips about how to extend your brand effectively in my book, The Ad-Free Brand (not an advertisement, mind you, just a friendly suggestion:).
Last night I received a message via Twitter from a hot dog.
This hot dog, calling itself The Beefy Miracle, informed me that the latest version of the Fedora operating system, Fedora 17, was going to be named after it. The voting was close, but Beefy Miracle ended up winning by almost 150 votes.
Now I wasn’t involved in the naming or voting, but I was deeply involved in the original creation of this hot dog, so I thought I’d fill in some of the blanks regarding how it came to be in the first place. And for those of you who were also involved, if you remember additional details, please pass them on and I’ll share them here.
Way, way back in the pre-Fedora days, soon after the turn of the century, we were working on the release of a new version of Red Hat Linux (I’m guessing it was version 7.1, 7.2 or 7.3, but let me know if you remember the exact version…). At the time, most companies were beginning to fill up their software installer screens with advertisements for their other products and services. The hope was that, while you were sitting there bored waiting for the software to install, you’d see one of these ads and instantly make the decision to buy something else. Instant revenues! Instant riches!
I’m not sure how well this sort of installer advertising actually worked, but Red Hat was on the bandwagon too, and this sort of corporate stuff was beginning to sneak in to the company. Mind you, Red Hat also had a history of installer hijinks, dating back to the original option to set up “redneck” as your language of choice in the install process (which I think stayed in there until Red Hat Linux 5.1, but was gone by the time I started working there—Donnie or Mike, do you remember?).
So faced with an increasingly corporate installation experience, we decided to bring some of the fun back into the installer and had our designer at the time, Kyle Hoyt, a brilliant illustrator, create some installer screens that evoked the experience of the interstitials at the movie theater. Here is the result:
For us, they were love at first sight, and they actually made it into the installer. But as you can imagine, not everyone inside Red Hat loved them. Some thought the images were not “enterprise enough” for our rapidly growing company (it is hard to argue that a dancing hot dog is “enterprise,” but we tried). I remember more than one heated conversation about turning the Shadowman logo into a comic book character, about dancing hot dogs, and about what we were “doing” to the product with this strategy.
By the next release, the dancing refreshments were gone, I thought forever, until I received the tweet from a hot dog last night. It was nice to see them again, it had a been a long time.
And to know that Kyle’s dancing hot dog was the inspiration for the name of Fedora 17? It truly is a beefy miracle.
Thanks to those of you who played a part in bringing these images back to life. And my congratulations to The Beefy Miracle on your new job!
A big part of my day job is to help organizations with their brand positioning and strategy.
So when I read the article in the New York Times this past Sunday about TEDx, the relatively new (and incredibly popular) offshoot of the legendary TED conference, I thought it might be a good opportunity to take a closer look. The issue?
Clearly TEDx has been a smart community-building strategy, but will it ultimately prove to be a smart brand strategy as well?
Let me take a few steps back. If you are not familiar with TED (seriously? have you been camping in Siberia?) you can learn more here.
The main TED conference is a place where smart people (with big $$ and a personal invite) go once a year to hear other smart people give short talks showcasing how smart they are. The rest of us poor, unconnected folks wait patiently for the nice TED people to release the TED talks one by one, teasing us like a painfully-slowly dripping faucet teases a man dying of thirst.
And that’s the way it worked. Until last year when, in June, TED announced a new program called TEDx that would allow anyone to organize their own TED conference anywhere in the world.
The New York Times article tells the story of what has happened with the TEDx program in a little over a year:
…there were 278 events last year in places as near as New Jersey and Florida, and as far as Estonia and China. There was TEDxKibera, held in one of Africa’s largest shantytowns in Nairobi, Kenya. And there was TEDxNASA, which had space-themed lectures.
Already this year there have been 531 TEDx events. Another nearly 750 are to take place this year and beyond.
Wow. Now that is community-driven innovation on a grand scale. From one event per year with a small number of people attending at a very high cost to almost two TED events per day, held around the world, and almost every event is free. All that in a little over a year.
I’d call that a smashing strategic success. A soon-to-be-classic community engagement story.
But if we look at the decision to create TEDx from a traditional brand or intellectual property point of view, would it also be viewed as a good strategy?
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
On occasion I get the opportunity to speak publicly about some of the things I’ve learned over the years applying the open source way in organizations.
In almost every case, when the Q&A session arrives, I’m greeted with at least one question from a poor soul who loves the idea of applying the open source way to management and culture, but doesn’t think it would ever work in his/her specific organization. Usually the comment is accompanied by some horror story about an evil co-worker, hierarchical boss, crappy HR policy, or some other impediment that would cause the open source way to fail.
And the sad truth? These folks are probably right. Many of these concepts wouldn’t work in their organizations.
So why do I waste my time talking about things that may not work in many organizations? Two reasons:
2) the wind
Let me be honest. I’ve never run into a perfect model of the open source way in practice (if you have, please point it out to me!).
There are clearly some organizations that have figured out how to build open source principles into their DNA better than others. Wikipedia is a good example. The Fedora Project is another. Still, my guess is the people who are deeply involved in those projects on a daily basis would probably be able to show you some warts, places where old-skool practices are still evident.
So why not be more realistic? Why not give up and accept that some of these principles work better in theory than they do in practice?
Simple: I have hope.
What gives me hope? Two things. First, I have seen first-hand many examples of great things that happen when open source principles are applied within organizations. From the collaboratively-designed mission of Red Hat to the work of Fedora marketing team, I’ve personally witnessed the power of open source principles in action.
Second, I believe in the pursuit of perfection. Why not aspire to create better companies than we have today? What do we have to lose? I don’t know that we will ever see a perfect open source company. But by pursuing perfection, we are likely to get a heck of a lot closer than where we are today.
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about Apple and open innovation. The discussion in the comments about Apple’s success, despite their non-openness, was pretty interesting. Greg DeKoenigsberg started things off with this salvo:
“No community could build something as gorgeous as the iPhone; it requires the singular vision of a beautiful fascist, and the resources of a gigantic company, and a world full of users who would happily trade simplicity and certainty for the ability to tinker.”
I think few people would argue that one of Apple’s greatest strengths is their amazingly consistent, and consistently beautiful, design work. And when I say design, I mean both “little d design” (their stuff looks awesome) and “big D Design” (their systems, processes, and experiences are expertly rendered).
From a design perspective, Apple has figured out how to make lightning strike in the same place over and over again.
Today, I want to ask a question that I’ve been thinking about for a long time:
Can truly great design be done the open source way?
Meaning, can a group of people designing collaboratively, out in the open, ever do the kind of consistently beautiful design work that Apple does? Or is Greg right, that “no community could build something as gorgeous as the iPhone”?
Both of my partners at New Kind, David Burney and Matt Muñoz, are designers by background. Both of them have significant open source experience (David spent almost 5 years as the VP of Communications at Red Hat, Matt worked on many Red Hat projects, including designing the Fedora logo), so the three of us have talked about this subject many times before.
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
If you’ve ever watched a road bike race like the Tour de France, you know the peloton is the big group of riders that cluster together during the race to reduce drag. It’s a great example of collaboration in action. But let’s face it: the people in the middle of the peloton may go faster than they would otherwise, but they don’t win the race.
When it comes to creating and innovating, most companies (and employees) are in the peloton. They are doing enough to survive, but they are stuck in the pack. And if they stay in the pack too long, they lose.
Escaping the peloton is tough. Often, you see a cyclist break away, sprint for a while, only to get sucked back into the main group over time as the pressures of making a go independently prove too much.
You’ve probably felt this way at work. You come up with an amazing idea, one that will change the company forever. But little by little, people—even the well-meaning ones—chip away at its soul, until the idea goes from being amazing to, well, average. You end up being sucked back into the peloton.
After this happens one too many times, you may feel like you want to stop collaborating and try to make things happen on your own. Don’t do it. Even Lance Armstrong could rarely break away from the peloton without his teammates’ help.
Instead, here are three tips to help you escape the creativity peloton without giving up on collaboration.
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]
At Red Hat, I often get questions about how we name stuff. It is usually not just idle curiosity, mind you, in most cases someone has a new program or product and would like to call it something like Supersexyshinyfoo. Our team has to play the bad guy role and explain that we don’t usually create new brands like that at Red Hat.
The response is typically something like “Let me get this straight… You guys think long, boring names like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, and JBoss Enterprise Application Platform are better than Supersexyshinyfoo?”
My answer? We already have a Supersexyshiny… it’s the Red Hat brand.
We’ve spent years building the Red Hat brand into something that people associate with (according to our surveys) value, trust, openness, choice, collaboration, and a bunch of other neat things. Studies have shown that Red Hat brand karma is pretty positive. And the logo looks great on a t-shirt. Our brand is one of our most valuable assets.
This is why most Red Hat products have very descriptive (some would say boring…) names. The equation probably looks something like this:
(Supersexyshiny + Foo) = (Red Hat + descriptive name)
This brand strategy is often referred to as a “branded house” strategy. Take one strong brand, plow all of your brand meaning into it, while differentiating each product with descriptors instead of brand names.
These days, many automobile manufacturers do things this way. Remember when Acura used to have the Acura Integra and the Acura Legend? Honda simplified the branding strategy by moving to RL, TL, TSX, etc. as descriptors for their cars, pointing all of the brand energy back at the Acura brand. Many other auto manufacturers follow similar principles.
A Twitter friend asked me the other day if I had been doing any more thinking about open brands. Turns out I have. Two weeks ago, she and I had a conversation where we discussed how Red Hat had opened up the Fedora brand and the positives (tons!) and negatives (some) of doing so.
This week, on an plane ride up to Boston, I read the book The Open Brand by Kelly Mooney, which another friend had handed to me a while back.
The book is a eulogy for brands that are not willing to open themselves up, and an instruction manual for those that are considering becoming more open.
It was particularly interesting to read as a Red Hat guy, because the book is based on the idea that today’s single most powerful technology is “a mashup of the World Wide Web and the open source movement.”
The book opens with the question… “are you dangerously CLOSED?”
Whew… passed that one. But the book did make me think some about where the Red Hat brands fall on the spectrum of closed to open.
Great post by Red Hat’s Karsten Wade on the role of failure in Fedora (and in life). One of the key tenets of both the open source and design thinking movements is the idea of “failing fast.” To innovate, we need to overcome the fear of failure, and learn how, as Karsten notes, failure is a sign that we have pushed things to their limits. Because that’s where you have to be if you want to innovate:)
One of the gurus of the failing fast mentality is David Kelley of IDEO— the guy who started the Stanford “d-school” and a leader of the design thinking movement. Here’s a Fast Company article from a couple of years ago where he talks some more about how to suceed by failing fast.