how to run successful senior spokesmodel teams

Senior spokesmodel teams are one of my favorite things to talk about and teach my students about because I truly believe it’s one of the best things I could have done for my photography business! This time of year is the best for recruiting the next year’s models, so I thought it was the perfect time to share 6 mistakes to avoid with your senior spokesmodel team. Over my 13 years of running spokesmodel teams, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and I hope these tips help you avoid some of the same pitfalls!

What is a spokesmodel team?

A spokesmodel team or program is a group of high school seniors that represent your photography business during their senior year. They help spread the word about your business and help you grow by sharing your name with their community. A team works well for this age group because seniors love sharing about their photos and their experiences! When a senior tells their friends about it, that means more than any marketing we could do on our own. It’s a great source of word of mouth referrals and social proof.

The basic structure of a spokesmodel team is that seniors join the team through an application process, interview and in person meeting. You have a set of incentives such as photoshoots in exchange for their time, photos from the shoots that they can share to help market your business, fun events and group activities to create a bond within the team and more! There are a list of requirements that you give your team or a list of things you want them to do in exchange for the perks or incentives. You and your team work together so everyone gets something out of this program and so that it is a great experience for all!! The exact details will be specific to you and your business.

So now that we know what a spokesmodel team is… let’s dive into some mistakes to avoid!

Mistake #1 – Assuming that models do all the work!

This was a huge mistake I made in the beginning. I truly thought that I would do very little and my models would do the rest. But it’s not true. Model programs are work, I am not going to lie to you about that! You have to be willing to put in more work than the models because its our business not theirs. The team will absolutely help you market and create buzz, but we do all the behind the scenes work.

Mistake #2 – Over promising and underdelivering!

We want so much for our program to work and for the models to love every minute of it! So we promise everything: lots of shoots, activities, photos, and more. But if we do too much (or offer to do too much!), we may wind up resenting the programs we’ve built. Take the time to only promise what you know you can deliver – and then blow them all away instead of overpromising and not being able to actually do something you said you would. Trust me, they’ll remember that! By underpromising a little bit, you’ll have the capacity to blow them away with something extra later on!

Mistake #3 – Thinking more is better!

Here’s the thing: you don’t need a massive spokesmodel team for it to help you out. Instead of getting overwhelmed with a big team that you really don’t need, remember that small can be just as powerful. When I started out in 2011 with my first team, I only had 4 girls and it was amazing! As you grow, future models will hear about the opportunity and become interested! Give those few an amazing experience, have them share that experience with their friends while you share your love of your team and excitement for your program and others will see it!!

Mistake #4 – Just winging it!

Going into a spokesmodel program without a plan is a huge mistake! I can attest to that because that is exactly what I did my first year! I had no idea what I was doing, didn’t fully understand the program strategy and just jumped in with both feet and no plan. But it got me started and I learned from that mistake! Now, I make sure there’s always a plan for each group. This makes it so much easier to recruit your models (and get their parents on board). Take the time to plan out incentives, referral rewards, shoots, events, and exceptions from the start.

Mistake #5 – Thinking referrals are automatic!

Back in 2011, when I first started my program, I was under the impression that I would automatically get referrals and that referrals was the only way to measure the success of my program. But, the reality is that this isn’t the only goal of a spokesmodel team. For me, one of the biggest rewards is having a creative outlet each year. I can design shoots I might not otherwise have time or energy for. It also means I almost always have models to capture for my outlets – like social media, websites, and blogs. So while a full calendar is definitely a perk – it shouldn’t be the only reason you’re doing this!

Mistake #6 – Not charging enough!

When I started my spokesmodel team, I didn’t make anyone pay to be a part of it. And that was a huge mistake! Running a model team can be expensive. When you think about the cost to join, determine (at the very least) the amount it would take to cover your time involved. Remember that your involvement includes planning, editing, shooting, and everything in between. Remember a model team only works if you too are getting something out of it! You do not want to resent the team because you spent all this money and time and got nothing in return for your hard work!

By avoiding these common mistakes you can start a senior spokesmodel program off on the right foot and be successful!! Even with all the mistakes I made in the beginning, I still believe that having a model program is one of the best things I have ever done and continue to do for my business. It has helped establish me as the go-to senior photographer in my area and continues to bring in tons of referrals and book my calendar each year! And I know it can do that for you too!!

6 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Senior Spokesmodel Team: tips from senior portrait photography educator and Seniorologie podcast host Leslie Kerrigan

Spokesmodel Resources

If you are interested in even more help with senior spokesmodel teams, you can sign up and join me for my FREE masterclass! I’m going to be sharing my 3 secrets to recruiting models for your spokesmodel team. There is more to it than simply posting on social and this class will help you learn how to find the best applicants out there! Join me HERE.

Don’t forget my FREE download about Senior Model Programs, too!

Stay in touch!

Are you a member of the free Seniorologie Community on Facebook?  If not, I would love to have you join to continue this conversation and many more!  The Seniorologie Community is a great place to get to know other senior photographers, share your wins, ask advice and much more!  To join, click HERE!

Have we connected on Instagram?  If not, I would love to get to know you!  Come say hello and send me a DM so I can thank you for listening to The Seniorologie Podcast!

Seniorologie’s Instagram & Leslie’s Instagram

Need help with your senior photography business?  I’ve put together lots of FREE resources to help you in your business!  You can have access to these awesome free resources HERE!

6 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Senior Spokesmodel Team: tips from senior portrait photography educator and Seniorologie podcast host Leslie Kerrigan

Ep. 62: Mistakes to Avoid with Your Senior Spokesmodel Team


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