By Adam Grant, CEO of Campus Commandos.
Many companies offer internships to college students. While these opportunities are undoubtedly advantageous to students for developing their skill sets, revamping their resume and networking with professionals, internships are equally beneficial for the companies that offer them.
Beyond having extra help around the office or an extra set of hands working on a project, it's important for companies to consider long-term benefits -- that is, turning interns into student ambassadors once their internships have ended. The idea of student ambassador programs is not new. Companies have been working for the loyalty of young consumers on college campuses for decades.
From credit card companies offering a free shirt for an application to more current programs such as "dress for success" seminars in front of student organizations, companies have long been vying for the attention of college students. As someone who has been involved as a student ambassador for companies, including General Motors and Alltel since 2004 during my collegiate years, and has since managed similar programs as a college graduate since 2008, I have noticed an increase in calls from human resource departments on this topic. Why are more and more HR departments creating student ambassador programs?
By having student ambassadors on campus, organizations can build strong brand awareness among the college demographic and ensure their brands don't fall victim to the old idiom, "out of sight, out of mind." Students can function as the eyes and ears of any HR department by identifying top talent across campus, whether it's in the classroom, student organizations or at campus events.
Implementing a student ambassador program also allows companies to stay in touch with interns once their internship has ended instead of losing them to another company with a program that keeps students engaged. Aside from staying engaged with students beyond internships, many companies realize that word of mouth recommendations are valuable. Student love hearing about companies or brands directly from their peers.
For students, seeking recommendations/reviews from their peers who have feedback or experiences to share is authentic and reliable. In fact, Kissmetrics reports that 89% of millennials trust recommendations from their friends and family more than claims from the brand itself. The guide outlined below include the first steps your company can take to keeping students engaged beyond internships and creating a student ambassador program that sticks.
Make Brainstorming Collaborative
For starters, get current interns involved in the brainstorming process. They can offer valuable insight regarding student perception and current trends among their peers, which will allow you to build a program that resonates.
Additionally, students can help identify tasks and highlight which characteristics student ambassadors need to complete each task. For instance, students who are introverts will likely not be tasked with speaking in front of student organizations. Instead, have them press play on a video that highlights the types of careers available at your organization.
Give Them Instant Gratification
Once students complete their activities on campus, pay them as soon as possible. With the rise of companies like Uber that have eliminated waiting on a cab, and Postmates, an on-demand delivery service that delivers lunch, groceries or just about anything else, younger generations demand rapid responses and instant gratification.
Mobilize Your Program
Don't make the mistake of forcing your student ambassadors to engage in ways they don't already use. According to data from comScore, one in five millennials use their smartphones for browsing the internet, email, news and social networking. With Gen Z that has had technology integrated into their lives before they could talk, this number will likely increase.
Despite the mobile trend, many companies still force student ambassadors to engage with them through a dashboard, via a website or through email to communicate and provide proof of work. The reality is that students are mobile-first and your program should be, too. By mobilizing your program, documentation tools can be readily available at their fingertips.
From GPS check-ins to photo/video documentation, students can provide instant proof of work right from their smartphones making managing your program easy, efficient and instantly accessible. Apply this outline for a winning student ambassador program for all -- your brand and the students who represent you.
Adam Grant serves as CEO of Campus Commandos, a top Youth Marketing Agency helping you market products/services to college students.