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The Secret to Member Engagement is…Developing Brand Ambassadors

When the phrase “member engagement” is typed into Google, about 219,000,000 results are returned. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. Over 200 MILLION results. Among those results reside all types of LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter group discussions, as well as blog posts, webinars and case studies on the subject. Needless to say, we can all agree that member engagement is a hot topic and is crucial to an association’s sustainability and growth.

As an employee/team member of a company who works directly with over 2,000 trade associations every single day, I have seen many ways our successful association partners have worked to actively engage their members. But when it came time for me to write this post on “The Secret of Member Engagement,” I initially drew a blank. After all, what IS the secret to member engagement I really want to convey to my readers? Is there really one secret to success? No, of course there isn’t! But for the sake of my sanity (as well as the sanity of my readers), I’m giving you the one secret to member engagement I think is incredibly important: Developing Brand Ambassadors.

Brand Ambassadors are members who are loyal, true champions of an association’s overall brand and mission. Their main purpose is to embody the values, character and overall image of an organizations brand. They are the members who will attend every conference and networking event possible; and they will go above and beyond to help ensure member retention and growth.

So how do you go about developing brand ambassadors? Here are a couple of steps in doing so:

  1. Choose your ambassadors wisely.  When looking to cultivate your association’s brand ambassadors, it’s important to choose the members who will be most effective. A good brand ambassador is one who can actively engage members year-round and really make them feel as though they are an integral part of the organization. They ask key questions, listen and act as mediators between members and the association’s executive board. 
  2. Know your audience. This goes hand-in-hand with the first step mentioned above. Most likely, you have multiple audiences- each one with different communication preferences. If this is the case, you don’t want to develop cookie cutter brand ambassadors. Instead, be sure you are including both men and women from each age group. After all, you want your ambassadors to be people your other members can relate to and feel comfortable approaching. 
  3. Value your ambassador’s thoughts. You chose your brand ambassadors to build trust with your members. Therefore, you need to trust your brand ambassadors. If they come to you with suggestions or concerns, make their ideas a priority. Their input can be invaluable in understanding what your members really want.
  4. Create a brand ambassador program. Whether you develop online modules and/or host meetings, creating a brand ambassador program will really encourage the members who want to go above and beyond to better your association by showing them you are willing to invest time into them. This will boost their confidence in your brand even more, which will empower them to go out and engage the rest of your members.

If you have any other suggestions on increasing member engagement, I would love to see them in the comments below. Happy Engaging!

About the author: Callie Cady works for Dallas-based Multiview, the #1 digital media publisher for trade associations. You can read more of her thoughts at and on Twitter @CallieCady.