Buy Local. Shop Local. Eat Local. More and more, consumers are wanting to do business on a local level, to feel like they are supporting small businesses and growing the local economy. So, identifying as local can have significant impact on future growth for any business.
Millennials, most of whom are in their early to mid-30s, are driving the trend, as Chelsea Segal wrote in Inc.:
“Millennials have a strong sense of community and like to feel connected to the products and services they buy. Because of this, they’ll consider spending more at the store down the street than they may with a large corporation or chain.”
Segal goes on to mention that millennials dream of working for or owning local businesses, too.
As a franchisor, you know that franchise businesses are local businesses with local ownership, local employees and local investment in the community, but potential customers might not know that. Are your franchise owners stuck in the limbo between big business and local roots, or are you looking at your franchise as the best of both worlds? With the name of a national brand over the door, how do you get that localized message across?
A great public relations strategy can help you personalize each location by putting a local face and a local narrative alongside the power of your franchise brand, reaching consumers who want to buy local and potential franchisees who want to be local business owners.
When it comes to communication, there is nothing more effective at conveying a message than a human face with a powerful story. Put your franchise business owners’ stories to work and let their unique personalities localize their businesses, growing community support and trust.
Your franchise business owners all have interesting, engaging stories to tell: Stories that will resonate with local consumers. The act of opening a business is dramatic, and the reasons behind franchisees’ choices are almost guaranteed to endear them to audiences. Are they reinventing themselves after a corporate downsizing? Are they veterans finding their way in civilian life? Are they wanting to be their own boss after years at a desk job? Are they stay-at-home moms re-entering the workforce?
Find and tell these stories across all channels available to you, and let franchisees add their own flair within your franchise model. For example, gaining interviews and feature stories in local media outlets can let a franchisee tell his or her own tale through a trusted news channel. A great PR strategy will also promote grand openings, events, local awards and other achievements in local media.
Securing speaking engagements for franchise business owners with local civic clubs or schools can also help establish them as trusted, local businesspeople. Encourage your franchisees to become members of these groups themselves and support local causes like sports teams and charities. Encourage them to participate in local festivals and parades, or host seasonal events at their offices. These opportunities let the community get to know the business owner and their employees face to face.
Consider a mixture of home office and local blogging and other website content that puts the franchisee front and center. Many franchises provide franchisees with their own web pages to personalize and localize their businesses.
Social media is another place to let local personalities shine. If your franchise includes social media presences for each location, those presences should publish a mixture of branded content provided by the home office and local, franchisee-provided content. Especially on platforms like Instagram, slice-of-life and behind-the-scenes content fosters an emotional connection for local consumers.
These touches will help assure consumers that dollars spent with your franchisees are local dollars, making them feel great about their purchases.
You can also put franchisee stories to work in your recruitment efforts. When potential franchise business owners are looking for business opportunities, they want to know it’s possible to succeed. They want to see stories from people who have been where they are now. They want to know their dreams of business ownership can be realized with your franchise.
That’s why franchisee testimonials should be front and center in your website content. Video testimonials, blogs, and short quotes are all great ways to share your franchise business owners’ backstories and successes with the world and build trust in potential franchisees. Statistics are important, but a human face with an inspiring story will make your message even more effective.
While you’re at it, don’t forget that great PR will tell your story, too. If you are the franchise founder or a leader within the organization, your personal story and your expertise in the field are valuable assets for growing trust and credibility for your entire franchise network. Share these stories in trade magazines, national publications, podcasts and more.
These are strategies you and your franchisees can put to work on your own, but contacting and pitching the media and creating engaging content can be time-consuming. A professional public relations agency can help you and your franchise business owners refine your message, create effective content, and get the word out about your story. If you go this route, be sure to select an agency with a proven track record representing franchises. They will understand the unique challenges the industry faces and put that knowledge to work for you.
Heather Ripley is CEO of Ripley PR, a global public relations agency specializing in franchising. Orange Orchard, a division of Ripley PR, champions franchisors that cater to environmentally-conscious consumers. For additional information, visit www.ripleypr.com or www.orangeorchardpr.com.