Social media is clearly a crucial part of any PR strategy, but it's also a vast and sprawling world comprised of various platforms and countless users and content creators. Establishing a presence can seem like an outsize task, especially if you have limited staff and hours to spend there. Many organizations are turning to volunteer spokespeople to meet this challenge—not only to cover more ground, but also because of the authentic passion that a fan of the brand can bring to the conversation.
One such organization is the American Heart Association. In PR News' Media Training Guidebook Vol. 6, Rosalyn Mandola (regional communications director, American Heart Association SouthWest Affiliate) and Whitney Presley (senior director of digital communications and new media, American Heart Association SouthWest Affiliate) lay out their strategy for how to utilize and instruct volunteers, what kind of relationship the brand should have with them and other important considerations. Excerpted here is their quick list of do's and don'ts to get you started with creating a volunteer spokesperson program:
DO – Provide guidelines with “must know” info for your industry or company.
DON’T – Make it a 40-page document with too many rules and regulations.
DO – Take the time to vet your potential volunteer spokespeople. Are they engaging, well-spoken, well-versed in your field, or have a compelling personal story?
DON’T – “Voluntell” someone that he or she is now your new spokesperson.
DO – Host a well-thought-out training session. Make sure your volunteer is equipped with materials, support and expectations.
DON’T – Just tell them to “Get right to it!” This is just setting you both up to fail.
DO – Run a beta test. Find a single event or opportunity to “audition the process” with a great potential volunteer. See how it goes. Learn from it.
DON’T – Bite off more than you can chew, unleashing multiple volunteers at multiple opportunities.
DO – Allow your volunteer the chance to add their own input. Providing them with a chance to “buy in” to the opportunity will empower you both.
DON’T – Just tell your volunteers what to do. They’ll either “underperform” by just completing tasks, or feel left out of the process.
DO – Support the effort with pre- and post-project communication with the volunteer and with internal stakeholders. Set yourself and your volunteer up for success.
DON’T – Let the volunteer take the fall if something isn’t a raging success. Take 100% responsibility for your project.
DO – Thank your volunteer! Invite them to participate again as soon as possible or develop an ongoing or cyclical opportunity.
DON’T – Date and ditch. Using a volunteer’s personal story to further your corporate goal and then walking away from them is bad karma and could poison the well for future opportunities from your volunteer pool.
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