As a franchise brand executive, having a reputation as an industry thought leader can catapult your brand to levels you never imagined, however, you will be visible to the world and what you say and do are fodder for followers and detractors alike. In today’s highly-charged climate, it’s worth thinking about. So, it’s important to ask yourself if you really want to be a public figure and thought leader before you decide to pursue this strategy.
How can thought leadership help my franchise brand?
Once you are sure a thought leadership role is for you, you might be surprised to find you are probably already on your way. Many franchise CEOs or owners have worked in the trenches on their way to the C-Suite, and possess tremendous skills and knowledge. You might have started your franchise brand with very little in the way of finances or support, but through hard work and grit, you successfully launched and promoted your franchise brand.
The next step for franchise executives is to take the driver’s seat and create a new path to increase your personal brand and the visibility of your franchise brand. Thought leadership is not for everyone, but if you are passionate and motivated, you can become a major force in building your franchise brand.
Being an industry thought leader helps your franchise:
- Achieve increased visibility
Thought leadership takes time, but as an expert, you are in the best position to talk about your industry with passion and excitement. If you have a point of view that will resonate with your audiences and might help people connect with you and the franchise, find the platform that most suits you: publish blogs on your website, share articles on LinkedIn or start a YouTube channel. Follow influencers and create dialogue to increase communication.
- Attract like-minded influencers
Thought leaders these days use social media as a platform to reach a varied audience — but especially people who have similar views or ideas. This is great for franchise brands, because through social media you can build a presence pretty quickly. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are useful, because you and potential influencers can share posts and use search functions to find one another. Influencers who love your franchise brand can bring you more visibility in your industry.
- Build a base of trusted content
The overused saying goes, “Content is King,” but it’s still true. The more reliable and genuine content you post, the more trustworthy your brand will appear. Building a trusting relationship with your audience is one of the most important bonds you have. According to a recent study on brand trust, 70 percent of 20,000 respondents said “trusting a brand is more important today than in the past” – a shared belief among age groups, gender and income. So, once you have established yourself as a trusted expert by delivering interesting, non-promotional content, the more likely you will gain brand advocates.
- Draw media and franchise industry attention
Media and industry trade publications often monitor social media for great story ideas.So, if you post true, interesting, or heartfelt stories, use appropriate hashtags, and even comment and follow respected reporters, you have a much better chance at gaining their attention … in a good way.
Right now, franchise brands need to show they have a point of view, that they care, and that they can be trusted to do the right thing. Some franchises have been caught in difficult circumstances and having a strong, forward-thinking thought leader to offer genuine and thoughtful communication will make a difference in prospects investing in your franchise system in the future.
Heather Ripley is CEO of Ripley PR, a global public relations agency specializing in B2B and 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.
The term “thought leadership” actually dates back to 1887 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary), however, the modern definition is generally credited to Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of Strategy & Business magazine, who said this in 1994, “A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate. They have distinctively original ideas, unique points of view and new insights.”