Hey, if nothing else, having an offbeat job title helped the Ambassador of Buzz generate enough buzz to be featured in a Q&A at Time.com.
After we ran a post exploring whether quirky job titles like Ninja, Grand Poo-Bah, and Ambassador of Buzz were awesome or silly, unprofessional, and perhaps even harmful to one’s career, the real-life Ambassador of Buzz reached out to us. Taylor Aldredge holds the job title of Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, a Massachusetts-based company that bills itself as “The Entrepreneur’s Phone System” and provides clients with services such as toll-free and local numbers, unlimited extensions, custom automated greetings, and voicemail and faxes via e-mail.
We wanted to find out more about what it’s like having such a wacky job title. As the Q&A with Aldredge below reveals, he mostly loves being known as the Ambassador of Buzz. The job title can lead to some confusion, however. FYI: The job isn’t about getting people drunk—not officially, anyway.
TIME: Tell us about the title. Who came up with it? Why this title and not a more standard one? What does it mean?
Aldredge: Grasshopper’s co-founders, Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser, originally created the Ambassador of Buzz title because they wanted to create a new position that did more than just PR, social media, and marketing. It needed to include everything from acting as a brand ambassador to building relationships, talking to customers, and representing Grasshopper at events. It was a new kind of position that required a new kind of title to represent Grasshopper’s core values and brand promise. A standard title just didn’t accomplish getting all the responsibilities under one roof. As an ambassador, I’m responsible of bringing our brand’s message to the world. “Buzz” reflects all the buzz and marketing that we can generate for Grasshopper and our customers through all sorts of marketing efforts.
Speaking of which, do you often get questions about what the title means?
When I go to networking events and conferences, I always get questions about my job title. Most questions are out of curiosity. People want to know more about the title, what it means, what does it entail, and what I exactly do for Grasshopper. Sometimes they just want to know if that’s really my title or if I made it up. I always have fun explaining what I do because it’s a great position to have. I’m the third person to be the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, and each ambassador has his or her own experiences. At one event we sponsored, at the after-party, the former Ambassador of Buzz Stephanie Bullis was asked by an attendee, “Does the ambassador of ‘buzz’ mean getting people buzzed on alcohol?”
What are the most common reactions to hearing about the job title? Do people think it’s fun? Silly? Unprofessional? Or what? What kinds of people (old, young) tend to love or hate the title?
I’d say the reactions are mostly positive, I can’t really recall somebody getting turned off by my job title. A few people have emailed me back after we’re introduced saying, “Ambassador of Buzz…love it.” I think the positive reactions tend to come from younger generations rather than older generations, but most of the other organizations and companies I engage with are generally younger and more progressive. If people hate the job title, then they’re definitely not saying it to me or anybody else at Grasshopper. I think when people meet me, or any of the previous Ambassadors of Buzz, they understand why we have the title and what we do for Grasshopper.
From a personal and professional standpoint, what are the pros and cons to having such an offbeat job title? Be honest.
The biggest pro is it’s a conversation starter and icebreaker. When I introduce myself, there’s immediately something to talk about. It helps me stand out in a crowd at an event, and I think it’s the best title to describe what I do, which isn’t necessarily only marketing, only social media, only PR, or only partnerships. I’m also not constrained by a traditional title so I’m motivated and encouraged to try new things outside the realm of traditional marketing roles.
The cons are it could inhibit my future career growth because there will always be people out there who may not understand what it means or get turned off by it on my resume. I can’t control what other people think about my job title. In the entrepreneurial community, offbeat titles are almost the norm; however, offbeat titles are definitely harder to have in more traditional companies and industries. I’m not sure how I’d feel if my financial advisor had a title like Senior Money Man. Offbeat titles are a con if they don’t fit the company, and if the customers don’t have faith in its meaning.
Do you think offbeat titles help the company or the individual more, and why?
Offbeat job titles are only good if they are authentic and reflect the company’s DNA, which is a reflection of its founders and its culture. They’re bad for both parties if it’s not in the company’s DNA to have an offbeat title. Grasshopper’s founders wanted the Ambassador of Buzz job title to reflect the culture and DNA of Grasshopper. Likewise, Zappos has a Chief Happiness Officer, Happiness Hustlers, Code Benders, and a Creativity Curator. Zappos’ job titles reflect their work culture, and they benefit the individual as well as the company. Ultimately, interesting titles are only worth what is behind them. People will quickly see through them if they are fake.
What kinds of companies do you think are a good fit for having employees with quirky job titles? And under what circumstances do you think it would be a bad idea for workers to have such titles?
Again, it’s about understanding the company culture. An offbeat title can be great for the individual because it’s fun to talk about, but it could limit your business and be a challenge for the company in the long run. I think each company needs to decide how others view its culture before it decides on offbeat job titles. I definitely think financial services, insurance, and any government or other highly regulated industries are not appropriate for offbeat titles. In a situation when a lot of trust is involved like being a lawyer, you wouldn’t want a Legal Wizard representing you in court. I think startups and tech companies get a much easier break because they get to invent their cultures and sometimes the industries they work in.