Early this year while listening to Mark Kermode's excellent radio documentary The Business of Film, I was introduced to the term Digital Ambassador. When I had finished laughing and making crass jokes about Wolf Kahler and Ferrero Rocher, I actually pondered the phrase and spent some time researching it online. Like most contemporary buzzwords despite being nauseatingly hyperbolic and overwrought, it did have a functional definition. Furthermore it soon became apparent that I and many of my podcasting and blogging colleagues are indeed examples of this very group.
This label is of course "marketing speak", however it is not without merit. What it does is demonstrate the significance of bloggers and other content creators and the role they play in promoting products. Most modern marketing campaigns across many leisure industries appreciate the value of fans and the contribution they make in getting "the message" across. The phrase "going viral" may well have become a bit clichéd but it is ultimately what most PR companies want. It is both far reaching and cheap.
It is interesting the way the whole citizen journalism concept has gone from being a threat to the mainstream to an integral tool. If you have a genre specific product to pitch these days, you don't necessarily go straight to the regular press. A targeted promotion at an event such as ComicCon can be far more effective. Albums from established musicians are sometimes given away free to the fan base. Even the small niche market fan blog can receive marketing material and access to advance previews. Things are not what they use to be and promotion is no longer a closed shop. The so-called Digital Ambassadors provide a convenient fast path to the communities that need to be reached.
In many respects this practise has already existed within certain communities. Games developers have frequently courted popular fan sites and podcasts to ensure that their message is heard. A Casual Stroll to Mordor was virtually an unofficial member of the Turbine community team during LOTROs heyday. Dulfy.net makes an invaluable contribution to the Guild Wars 2 community. So it's hardly surprising that the significance of fan sites has now spread to other markets. I am still not one hundred percent sure of the value of some of the You Tube personalities that are currently popular, but the numbers they command cannot be ignored.
Naturally when commercial entities start courting independent bodies such as blogs and podcasts, there is scope for conflicts of interest and ethical U-turns. Ultimately it is down to each individual to decide how they respond to a request to lobby and promote. Whatever your personal stance, I think that the fact that there's actually a specific term for our online endeavours shows that what we do is of value. Most certainly it proves that blogging and podcasting is not dead. How can it be? After all we're Digital Ambassadors.