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Allies and Ambassadors | Morag Barrett, Kerry-Ann Stimpson, Jacqueline Jodl and Haylie Wrubel


Cultivating allies and ambassadors to aid in taking ideas to scale.

Cultivating allies and ambassadors to aid in taking ideas to scale.

A compilation of past conversations that centers around expanding the reach and impact of thought leadership by developing allies and ambassadors.

We’ve all heard the saying, “many hands make light work.”
Can collaborating help thought leadership content reach scale and create greater impact?

In today’s episode, we discuss the critical impact of allies and ambassadors in thought leadership. We highlight valuable conversations from past guests that truly understand that collaboration with influencers and others can significantly elevate a brand or idea.

Morag Barrett is the Founder and CEO of Skye Team. She helps us define what allies and ambassadors are and how they can help take ideas to scale or even create a movement that would be unachievable alone.

Kerry-Ann Stimpson, Chief Marketing Officer at The JMMB Group shares how the influence of a corporate brand can be expanded by working in tandem to build personal brands of the employees. We learn how this creates new ways for the audience to interact with the brand while increasing confidence and trust in both brands.

Jacqueline Jodl, Senior Vice President of Global Youth & Education, and Haylie Wrubel, Director of Global Unified Champion Schools discuss the importance of allies and ambassadors to the Special Olympics. They share how they seek out thought leaders that are sharing message which run parallel to their own, then co-create content to reach a larger audience with the message.

Three Key Takeaways:
  • Personal brands can be good for corporate brands. Don’t feel the need to micro-manage employees who are building their own brand. Instead, work with them to align the goals of the individual with the organization.
  • Allies and ambassadors often create a greater level of trust in a brand. People trust individuals faster than organizations.
  • Having brand ambassadors is a great way to be better in tune with what is being said about your brand.

If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.



Bill Sherman You and I have both online and offline, had conversations around the concept of building allies. That is, finding individuals who will help support you or support you. Take your ideas to scale. So how do you define an ally?

Morag Barrett Oh, an ally is your best friend at work, and you can have more than one best friend. Be clear. But for everybody listening to this conversation, I think it’s easiest to sum it up with. Think about the person in your career, a boss, colleague, whatever, who you would jump at the chance to work with again. And that to me is probably the ally for each of us. And for me, what distinguishes them is they’re the ones who are there championing you and celebrating your success when you need it. They’re the ones that will give you the kick in the pants when we all need it, and they’ll hold us accountable for being the best version of ourselves. So that to me is an ally. What about you, Bill?

Bill Sherman So I use a slightly different definition of ally. So I think about allies from the perspective of thought leadership, which is about taking ideas to scale. So when I talk about allies, I’m talking about folks who will help open doors for you and help you take an idea to a place that you couldn’t have taken it on its own. Now, your allies may also to use your kick in the pants metaphor. It may not be you, but they’ll help kick the idea into shape. They may be your intellectual sparring partner. Mm hmm.

Morag Barrett Oh, I agree. And think about it. Whether it’s accelerating my career or accelerating an idea or shaping an idea. Allies are invaluable because they give you that outside perspective. And for me and a true ally, they’re the ones who are championing the idea and saying, Hey, Bill, you need to talk to more. Because here’s what she’s working on versus we’ve had adversaries and rivals who might go the other way, which is, hey, Bill, talk to me more. I gave me this thought, but I’m now running with the idea and they are stealing credit. So you write, allies and advocates amplify, but they don’t just amplify me when I’m with them. They amplify us when we’re not in the room.

Bill Sherman And this is one of the reasons why I was excited about this conversation. So I used the term ambassador in that case. Right. Because the ambassador speaks on your behalf and speaks on the ideas behalf when you’re not in the room, just like an ambassador would in a diplomatic setting. Mm hmm.

Morag Barrett Yeah, I agree. And for me, I think my differentiation there would be two degrees of separation. So the allies are there in the room with you, whether that’s a virtual zoom room or in the meeting room, if you’re actually able to meet in three dimensions. You’re ambassadors are almost like ripple effects. So you’re going to have first degree ambassadors who are championing the idea for you. But also, there are going to be the second degree that, hey, I heard that Bill and Morag were working on this. I not you should talk to them. And that’s where we start to get the ripple effects, where things start to go viral. But also we start to get momentum and curiosity behind the ideas and how they may help us all individually and collectively learn, grow and succeed.

Bill Sherman And if you’re trying to take an idea to scale and create even a movement, having allies and ambassadors. First order and second order is absolutely essential because there’s no amount of work that you can do individually or as a small team if you’re working on a big project that has the potential for significant impact. You need help.

Morag Barrett You do. And I think one of the mistakes I’ve made, certainly in the early part of my career was I valued independence versus interdependence. It was one of the catalysts for writing my first book, Cultivate the Power of Winning Relationships. I’m pretty smart. I’m pretty resourceful. Give me a challenge or a project and I will go do and execute with a minimum of supervision. But the reality is, as soon as you’ve just nailed it, as soon as we start involving others, we get to that exponential and it grows much more quickly. It becomes infectious in a good way. Bear in mind, we’re living through a pandemic and we start to incorporate other ideas. I mean, we talked about my latest book manuscript, again, working with input from editors. Each time, as much as getting your homework graded is stressful. Each iteration just makes it tighter and makes it more robust to help more people in the future.

Bill Sherman So how do you wind up cultivating allies rather than creating adversaries and rivals?

Morag Barrett Well, the first piece is understanding what is it that you’re trying to achieve personally and professionally. So whether you’re working within an organization’s ecosystem or whether you are a thought leader who is sharing with a broader community understanding what is what does success look like for you? And then I suggest to starting with the first five, who are the first five people that come to mind, that have an opinion or have a voice that is being listened to within the company that you’re operating. And those are your potential allies and ambassadors. And so once you know that list, then you can start taking the first steps to cultivate the relationship and getting them on board with the idea and being clear and explicit around how they can best help you to help them to get the word out.

Bill Sherman So let’s explore a little bit about something that I know you’re passionate about, which is that internal communications with employees. How do you help make sure and how do you educate people about the importance of dark social within the organization?

Kerry-Ann Stimpson So from my perspective, I think first of all, we always have to start from a place of understanding what’s in it for me. Right. I always subscribe to the belief that people ultimately work for themselves. They don’t really work for the company. And so whenever it is, you want to educate them or onboard them into something new. You have to start from the place of not only how is this benefiting the company or impacting the company, but is it impacting you? And as co-owners of the brand or ambassadors of the brand, we always want to be super sensitive to the fact that we need to always be in tune to what’s happening in terms of the conversations happening about the brand. What are people saying? I’m hearing about us. And that’s really where it starts from an internal communication perspective. It’s saying, look, there are these conversations happening in these channels that we can’t control. We recognize that you actually exist in those channels because you’ve got your own networks going on. How do we address the fact that we need to be partnering more as, again, cool ambassadors of the brand and owners of your own personal brand? How can we be partnering to leverage what is really an awesome opportunity not only to build a company brand, but also to build your personal brand as well through these channels that are clearly very active, very dynamic and flourishing as we speak.

Bill Sherman And so one of the things that I love is that alignment of an individual as an employee building their brand also reinforces the brand of the organization. And the more that you have stars within the organization, the more people say, Oh, that’s an organization that’s going places and they’ve got their stuff together, if they can attract and retain that quality of people.

Kerry-Ann Stimpson That’s right. Absolutely. And you know, the fact, too, that the company is, I would say, quote unquote, allowing that and I use the word allowing loosely, because we recognize that it’s still an ongoing conversation. There are a lot of companies that are still more so content with kind of clamping down and wanting to control the voices of their employees in the social space and not really permitting them and allowing them to flourish and build their own personal brand. So the fact that you see an organization with employees who are out there having the conversations, building their brands, producing valuable content, and people are saying, Hey, that company is onto something. In much the same way because they’re catching the vision that it’s a win win. It’s not just about picking out company content, but it’s about trust and working with and partnering with employees, recognizing that, hey, they’re going to be out there talking in their social channels anyway. Why not make it a partnership? Why not make it work for everyone?

Bill Sherman Well, and whether it’s happening on publicly seen social or friend text and says, Hey, I’m thinking of a financial services company. What do you think of Jim? And B, you work for them.

Kerry-Ann Stimpson They’re not going to happen.

Bill Sherman By a text message and that answer is going to impact the brand.

Kerry-Ann Stimpson Just like that. Just like that.

Bill Sherman So let’s talk about I think one of the things you have to do is accept as a marketer, there are conversations that you cannot control about your brand. Right. And that’s a hard thing to accept. So you sit in a CMO seat on that. How do you think about that in terms of your organization?

Kerry-Ann Stimpson So the first response is that I think that it’s potentially scary because it’s always great to want to be in control again, especially coming from a place of managing the official company accounts. You know, you’re putting out the branded messages that you sit and work so hard to create and then recognizing that there is a whole other world of conversations going on again in channels that you can let alone. You can’t even control it. You can’t even see it, so you don’t even know what’s happening. It can be potentially scary, but at the same time, I also see it as a face of potential great opportunity, quite frankly, because when you think about again, how the company brand is seen and perceived, you know, we’re all about talking about ourselves, right? And I think people expect the company message to be positive. But what we recognize is that trust of institutions is at an all time low these days. People tend to trust a more sold the word or the recommendation or referral of a friend or family member or colleague, more so than they would trust the company marketing message. And so there is the opportunity. It’s not about, well, I can’t control it, so I’m just going to take to the bottle on this one. No, it’s recognizing here’s a great opportunity. What can we do to if we can’t control the conversation, what can we do to impact the conversation as best we can? And that’s where I think is a great place to start As a marketer.

Bill Sherman If you’re enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast, please leave a five-star review at and share it with your friends. We’re available on Apple Podcasts and on all major listening apps as well as thought leadership leverage dot com forward slash podcasts.

Bill Sherman And how do you take a good necessary idea so that you create more impact? And one of the things I want to touch on here is the concept of allies and ambassadors. And I think your work becomes very closely related to that. And from the lexicon that I use, an ally will open a door for you. They will get you into a room or a conversation that you might not get to on your own. An ambassador makes a deeper level of commitment. They say, I believe in this idea. I will speak on your behalf. I will join the movement and I am here with you. And so I want to ask both of you. How were you cultivating allies and ambassadors?

Jacqueline Jodl Haylie? Do you want to start?

Haylie Wrubel And I think that was a brilliant way to articulate it. And Bill, we will credit you when we use that language moving forward. But I think you really nailed exactly what we’re trying to do with our thought leadership campaign. Something that we’ve constantly talked about within Special Olympics. And a lot of this is credited to our chairman, Dr. Tim Shriver, is for 53 years, Special Olympics has been a nice to do. Oh, that’s so sweet.

Jacqueline Jodl Oh, you work for Special Olympics.

Haylie Wrubel So sweet. Oh, those kids. That’s the terminology used pretty frequently. Those kids are so sweet. We need to take Special Olympics from a nice to do to a need to do to an urgent, life changing, life altering message. And we need to do that through Masters and through our enablers and through this thought leadership campaign. Our idea and our goal and our strategy is to work alongside, he thought, leaders within the education, within the inclusion space, and not only thought leaders that are individuals, but organizations that act as thought leaders and to sell them essentially on our message of inclusion, say this is what we’re trying to do. We think it aligns with your message and really to use the terminology we were using earlier, invite them, invite them in, invite them to be a part of the message. Once they’re in, once they’ve got their invite to the party, we’re going to co-create deliverables that we can use to open the doors to provide the legitimacy for our work and have those ambassadors, have those key individuals, a part of our team that continues to push this message forward. And through having those code joint deliverables as well as having some key speaking opportunities, key additional opportunities, that is what we’re going to here to leverage us moving forward. Jackie.

Jacqueline Jodl What are that’s I think that’s I think that’s great. And I love the language of allies and ambassadors. So the way we think about that is we think about it in terms of a continuum. So let’s say that allies are on the left and let’s say ambassadors on the right. I think that what we recognize the first key is that when you’re starting to identify allies and I think this is the mistake that many of some of the other thought leadership campaigns, you know, where they’ve gone wrong is they’re identifying allies very narrowly, narrowly. We need to identify allies broadly, like where do we have a shared agenda? You know, does this resonate with you? Can this, can we find some resonance, you know, in your agenda to support our work? And then you began the process of, you know, through our work, through sharing our impact, by shifting those allies down the continuum, too, to move into the ambassador line. And that is we have a whole you know, we have a whole collection of social, political and cultural ambassadors that are actually called Special Olympics ambassadors. And those are the ones that are willing to go on the front lines and really storytell for us, going back to the storytelling thing, but understanding that the connection that allies and ambassadors are there different strategies to, you know, to recruit them? But ultimately, we want those strategies to come together and to in that we want many of our allies to shift into becoming ambassadors for the for the movement. We call it the Special Olympics movement. If you’re sitting in any Special Olympics room, whether it’s in any part of the world, you’ll hear everyone referring to it as a movement. And I think that it’s absolutely captures what we’re attempting to do on a on on a broad scale. You know, scale for us is a movement. I think that that really reflects all the passion that we all have for the work that we’re doing.

Bill Sherman If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL newsletter. Each month we talk about the people who create, curate and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website and choose ‘join our newsletter’. I’ll leave a link to the website as well as my LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thanks for listening and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.


Bill Sherman works with thought leaders to launch big ideas within well-known brands. He is the COO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Bill on Twitter

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