True to their roots, home service franchise brands definitely know their marketing. The same skills that keep the calls coming in can certainly be put to use for franchise development as well. But not everyone understands the usefulness of public relations for boosting a brand’s visibility and reputation.
Let’s start with the basics. People used to think about the difference between marketing and PR this way: marketing is sales, and advertising and PR is about developing the brand image and dealing with the media. However, the truth is that public relations is just as much about selling as marketing is. In this case, it’s about selling something less tangible but very powerful — your brand’s story.
Selling Your Brand
As a home service franchise, your company has a simple goal: sell more franchises. But to convince home service contractors about the strength of your value proposition you have to reach them. Often, this means pouring money into franchising events or advertising, which will only take you so far.
Public relations is just as much about making the sale as marketing, but the approach is different. While marketing focuses on the hard ROI of dollars spent vs. the number of leads generated, a public relations strategy focuses on telling your brand’s corporate story or the story of an individual franchisee’s success in ways that attract media attention.
Getting a third-party to talk about your franchise brand is far more effective than paying for an advertisement. People can be skeptical about ads, but a third-party story about your franchise brand can seem more legitimate than a paid advertisement.
For example, what is going to make more of an impression on a potential franchisee? A 30-second TV commercial? A quarter page ad in a magazine? Or how about an in-depth interview about your brand in a prominent franchise or business publication? Earned media opportunities, like features in respected outlets, carry much more weight. Helping your franchisees secure appearances as subject matter experts on TV news segments or being featured in the newspaper promotes their visibility (and your brand’s) in the marketplace.
To be most effective, though, public relations does require a long-term investment. It’s about building awareness of your brand, story by story, because the more coverage your franchise brand gets, the more coverage it can earn. Increased visibility generates even greater visibility.
But it’s not just journalists interested in your brand’s stories, though. PR is good for selling your value proposition to potential franchisees. So, what kind of stories do you need to tell them? Before investing in a franchise license, potential franchisees want to know stories about how your processes and support systems have made life easier for other business owners, how you’ve helped home service contractors ensure a great exit strategy, why other people decided to join your franchise brand. A solid public relations strategy works by pushing these stories out to the right trade and franchise publications, as well as local and regional newspapers and television stations, that will reach the audience you desire.
Word of Mouth
These days, it’s not just media attention that matters. Word of mouth plays a very important role in determining the impression that people hold of your franchise brand. And, in 2021, word of mouth has gone digital. Don’t ever think that online reviews and commentary about your brand don’t matter.
Reputation management has to be part of any effective public relations strategy. How people will see your business will be colored by its most recent reviews. It’s important to keep an eye out for what people are saying about your franchise brand in reviews, online forums, and comment sections of online publications. Only then can you respond, address concerns, and set the record straight if needed.
Finding a Partner
These are some of the ways that public relations can benefit home service franchises. But when you’ve exclusively focused on marketing for years or decades, it’s not always easy to grow in-house public relations capacity. That’s why it can be useful to partner with an outside PR agency with experience in both the home service and franchising industries.
In the end, the most effective way to promote your home service franchise brand is by investing in both public relations and marketing. This requires close coordination and clear communication to make sure messaging is consistent and that strategies don’t conflict. But, working together, these two disciplines can take your brand to new heights.