KEEN footwear in Portland, Oregon, has developed quite a reputation in the world of outdoor lovers. Not just a reputation for excellent gear, most notably shoes, but a commitment to giving back. An ethos of Create, Play, and Care, permeates the company and everything they do. From their dedication to sustainable business practices to their involvement and support of the local community and beyond; it even carries over into their chosen representatives, KEEN ambassadors.
In full disclosure, I am a KEEN ambassador. I have been ever since I hosted a podcast for them a few years ago, touting and promoting something we both saw eye to eye on – a core value of theirs known as the Hybridlife. Centered around caring, community, and the great outdoors, I slid into my role rather comfortably, and when the podcast was over, they let me stick around. (I like to think it’s because much of my outdoor writing promotes getting families into the outdoors, but I haven’t asked them).
One of the things I most get asked about once people find out about my status as an Ambassador is a) How did you get that gig? and b) What do you do?
Great questions. So I interviewed Ben Meuser, events coordinator for KEEN, about the program.
RootsRated: What is a KEEN ambassador?
Meuser: An ambassador is a person who is an advocate for the outdoors, their communities and living a hybrid Life. They communicate with KEEN about product and projects they are passionate about.
RootsRated: What are the criteria for being selected? Are there specific traits you’re looking for?
Meuser: We are a very diverse company with a wide array of products. KEEN supports ambassadors that are able to speak honestly to a specific lifestyle and demographic. The two “Must Haves” are a passion for the outdoors and some type of giveback to their community.
RootsRated: How does someone become an ambassador?
Meuser: The ambassador selection process is ongoing, we receive inquiries and applications every day of the year. When we consider someone to be a good fit for KEEN, we start the relationship slowly with basic support in the form of a couple pairs of shoes. If we like the way things are progressing we will seek out additional ways to connect that individual to the brand.
RootsRated: Are there any expected duties or responsibilities that come with the title?
Meuser: Be humble & respectful, speak well of the brand, wear the product and continue to be a champion of the outdoors. Occasionally I will call on the team to promote a new product launch or Hybrid.Care initiative (such as supporting the victims of Typhoon Haiyan). Any additional interactions or projects are icing on the cake.
RootsRated: What are the privileges or benefits that ambassadors enjoy?
Meuser: Well, no two ambassadors have the same level of involvement so our commitments cover a really wide range. We call on each individual independently when we land on a project or idea that fits their skill set. The common thread is they all get to sport the latest and greatest KEEN product. This year we established the first KEEN Ambassador Summit, where our key Ambassadors spent a week at the KEEN HQ diving deeper into the world of KEEN.
Part of me wishes I could tell you that being an ambassador for KEEN is hard work or that it has its downsides. But that’s just not the case. While I watch other ambassadors carry the KEEN flag in amazing, nearly unbelievable and inspiring ways, I hang out in the Northwest and try to get people to go hiking. I know I’m lucky. Do I get paid? Yes, my compensation comes in the form of shoes. But that’s more than enough for me. I get to go hike and represent KEEN. If you think I’m giving that up anytime soon, you’re crazy.