Creating a policy for the person or people who wear your brand character costume is really no different from any other code of conduct that should be put in place for employees. There is the emphasis on health and safety of the individual as well as acceptable codes of practice, but there should also be specific guidelines when in costume in terms of safeguarding your brand. Here is a good practice guide to creating such a policy.
Keep it structured and in plain English
Make sure this is written down and accessible to staff members either as part of their employee terms and conditions, in the staff room or on the company intranet. This has to be part of the induction for all company mascot performers and they should sign to say they have read and understood it. In order for them to do so it has to be in clear English, no jargon and in a structured format.
The company details should be on the top with a list of contents for ease of accessibility and contact details of the immediate line manager. The policy should also have a date on the front to state when it was approved by the company director and be reviewed every three years. Keep main headings in bold and clear outlines of expected standards of behaviour, dress, communication etc and if this policy links to another (Acceptable use of ICT and Social Media Policy or Staff Disciplinary Policy) it should state this at the end of the policy.
Start with a short introduction stating what the policy is and who it is aimed at, this should include those who are employed as the company mascot, but also those who may step in to cover their absence. This should also include the company ethos and give a short description of values and beliefs linked to the brand. Then consider the context within which the code of conduct sits, for example if your mascot and brand is aimed at an adult audience, then you will be reviewing a different set of prescribed behaviours than a brand and character that is front facing for young children for example.
Code of conduct
What sort of thing are you going to expect your mascot performer to do? If you use them for handing out leaflets at a shopping mall this may not be seen as a high-profile event. However, if they are exposed to larger high-profile crowds such as a sports event or the image is used on social media and filmed events, there should be reference to a good standard of behaviour to suit all relevant settings.
The standard of behaviour will vary but a good policy will include the criteria for a consistent and safe personality for your mascot. Articulate that this includes time spent in costume, and that staff are expected to use the code of conduct as a term of reference. Any verbal or written communication (including digital images and social media) by the character mascot must comply with the relevant marketing and communication code. Once out of costume, staff are still expected to ensure their behaviour and conduct does not bring the company into disrepute.
If you have included the team in articulating what they see as the ethos of the company and get feedback on what should be in the code of conduct, as a business owner, you will get more “buy in” from all staff. This working party should also include those who will be in character costume, if this is a permanent member of the staffing team.
Safety and well being
As an employer, you have a duty of care to employees and this needs to be reiterated as well. Also, the mascot performer should have due regard to any safety instructions given at induction, take relevant care of the costume and report any faults but also pay regard to safety instructions given when at outside venues. Safety of others is important particularly around safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. Therefore, the policy should include guidance on working with these individuals, for example – not picking up young children or ensuring a parent is present with them if posing for photographs etc.
If the mascot is in full costume, visibility may be difficult so you will need to arrange a staff partner who can communicate to the character and support them with refreshment and comfort breaks. Protection of the costume should be clearly stated as to what happens at the end of the event, so storage, cleaning and return will need to be covered.
Alcohol, weapons and drugs misuse
Having clear zero tolerance to misuse of substances (and you can link the code of conduct to the relevant policy) is important. Staff should not be in character costume while under the influence and should not carry illegal weapons. Hangovers and wearing a hot costume are a recipe for dehydration. Not only a safety issue, but also the person could still have alcohol in the system, which would impair their judgement so clearly this is not acceptable. Smoking while in the costume should be prohibited and is a fire hazard if smoking near to it, so outline these points as well.
Conflict of interest
The mascot performer must not bring the brand into disrepute so even if faced with a competitor’s mascot, should always adhere to the code of conduct. Having a fistfight in full view of the public or name calling is not helpful. However, if there is a friendly rivalry (between sports teams for example), you need to be clear on what would be acceptable.
Accepting money or gifts should also be clearly outlined, so for example, if given money, this is handed over to the company’s agreed charity and not kept by the performer.
Reporting structure and code violation
Finally, details of who the mascot performer reports to should be included along with the explanation of what will happen if the code is violated. Following these guidelines will help protect your brand, your character mascot and your staff member.