Choosing a public relations agency to represent your franchise brand is such an important decision. The agency becomes your voice, speaking to the audiences you want to reach.
This is not a one-size-fits-all choice. To get the message right and move forwards instead of backwards, you have to make sure the agency really gets your industry. If you make the wrong decision, you may spend months educating the agency about the ins-and-outs of both franchising and your particular market space.
For example, the home service industry faces challenges that no other industry faces. Plumbing, HVAC, home security, garage door installation and more types of home service franchises are going into customers’ homes to do their work. They have to build robust homeowner trust, attract skilled labor when it is at a premium, and weather the seasonal swings of the business.
Home service franchise brands are dealing with all of these, plus the need to attract qualified prospects. Essentially, any franchise is marketing to two audiences, and a public relations agency needs to understand that from the beginning. When choosing an agency, make sure they have experience with both sides of your business so they can find a good balance between the stories you need to tell.
Building Brand Awareness
Outreach to your customers is vital to keep your franchise thriving. But since customer needs and concerns vary between industries, your public relations agency needs to be aware of and sensitive to those needs, preferably before they begin work for you.
In the home service industry, homeowners need to know that a franchise brand is trustworthy and skilled. Because bringing technicians, repairmen or skilled trades professionals into their homes is such a huge leap of faith for a homeowner, trust and quality of work should be foremost in the message.
In addition, home service customers aren’t calling for service every day, but only when they have a specific need or emergency. The public relations message should build long-term top-of-mind brand awareness for a home service franchise. It should also include the importance of maintenance so locations can weather the slow seasons.
The right public relations agency will understand the issues that uniquely affect your industry, and they will know to carry those messages both nationally and locally with tactics like earned media, blogging and social media campaigns.
Building the Funnel
An experienced public relations agency will know that your lead generation funnel is equally as important as direct-to-consumer marketing. While consumer brand awareness can help with this effort, attracting qualified prospects needs special attention and tailored messaging.
Prospects want to know that your brand is successful. They want to know they have a good chance of success as a franchise location owner. And they want to know that they can thrive within your company culture.
National earned media is a good tactic here, but for different reasons than consumer-focused marketing. In the home service industry, consumer-focused earned media builds trust in the franchise’s work, whereas prospect-focused earned media builds trust in the franchise leaders’ business and leadership skills.
Building the Workforce
An experienced public relations agency will also understand the importance of establishing you as an employer of choice. In the home service industry particularly, this is a key challenge. The skilled labor shortage is a continual struggle for home service businesses, but all industries want and need to attract the best employees.
Getting the best talent on board helps with all other marketing efforts because your employees will have the skills and work ethic to deliver great service, contributing to trust and word-of-mouth recommendations. For the home service industry, a key tactic is to enhance the professional image of the brand.
Clean trucks and pressed uniforms with corporate branding, stellar website content, and excellent social media campaigns are key for home service franchises to attract great talent. The right public relations agency will know what tactics work best to grow your workforce, too.
Building a Partnership
Any business partnership should be built on mutual respect and trust. Don’t put yourself in the position of having to train your public relations agency in the unique challenges of franchising in your industry. You’ll lose trust in their abilities and lose precious time getting your message out to the world.
Instead, look for an agency with the dual skillset to hit the ground running and promote all the messages your franchise needs to grow and thrive. This kind of partnership is a win-win, one that will last for years and show amazing return on investment.
Heather Ripley is CEO of Ripley PR, a global public relations agency specializing in B2B, home services and franchising. For additional information, visit www.ripleypr.com.