How Franchisors Can Help Franchisees Attract Local Customers
While most franchise brands often think about how they will promote their brand to attract new franchise owners, some don’t place as much importance on leveraging PR to attract local customers to their franchise outlets.
And, this is a huge mistake.
Part of a successful franchising playbook must include the ongoing promotion of the businesses that make up your network and ensuring your franchisees are as successful in their own communities as you are at attracting new owners. They are, after all, the backbone of your business and the reason for your continued success.
It’s also a selling point when you meet with prospective franchisees on discovery day. If you can show new partners that your investment in their success doesn’t just end with the operational development, training and product acquisition, you will have a leg up on any competition that isn’t actively doing national PR for their franchise owners.
Earned Media for Franchisees
Generally speaking, earned media is the media that you don’t pay for or isn’t directly produced by you. Whether it’s an article written by a journalist at your neighborhood newspaper or an interview with a podcaster who concentrates on your industry, the value of earned media is heads and shoulders more influential than any placement you can buy.
Earned media can take several forms and isn’t limited to news and trade publications. Other examples can include:
- Product reviews. Not only is this free publicity from the publication that produces the review, positive reviews can also be used in blog posts and shared on your social media accounts to spread the information further.
- Third-party shares of your content on social media. You may have paid to develop the original content, but having it spread by your social media followers, employees or other stakeholders across several social media channels is free and gets your company in front of new audiences.
- Unpaid search engine traffic. As a result of some of these free social media shares, visits to your website can increase and generate traffic from new users who would not have heard of your company elsewhere.
- Word-of-mouth. This is still one of the most valuable plugs your company can receive. It’s simply human nature to ask a trusted confidant for their recommendations of a certain product or service when we find ourselves in need and, if that confidant touts your company’s bona fides, then it’s almost a guarantee that your sales team will be getting a call.
Not only is the idea of positive and totally free advertising the dream of any business professional, but a small mention is also worth more than the largest advertising budgets.
Not only is the idea of positive and totally free advertising the dream of any business professional, but a small mention in one of the above channels is worth more than the largest advertising budgets.
Take, for example, the recent studies that show that 92% of consumers trust articles or posts that come from unbiased third parties, while 96% of consumers don’t trust a word that comes from a paid advertisement.
So, what’s not to love about earned media? It’s free, it’s trusted, and it produces results.
But it isn’t easy to come by.
Storytelling and Franchise News
Sometimes the hardest decision to make when trying to catch the eye of a reporter is figuring out what is newsworthy and what would be interesting to people who aren’t invested in your company.
While you and your franchisees may be stoked about a new variant of an existing product, unless it’s going to revolutionize your industry or fill a gap in the market that no one else is pursing, it’s probably best left to your website, blogs and social media channels. On the flip side, companies sometimes don’t even realize they have newsworthy events that should be publicized.
One of the best things you can do is talk or email with your franchisees frequently to see what is going on at their locations and have your public relations team help them identify newsworthy events. These can include:
- Expansion. If a franchisee is opening a new location or has had to hire several new employees to keep up with demand, this can be seen as a positive economic development for the community and would be interesting to a local reporter.
- Relation to a current news event. If your company offers a solution to an issue that is currently in the news – like providing indoor air quality solutions that help fend off viruses or offering financial assistance to people struggling with inflation – reach out to a local news team because you might provide an interesting local angle to a national or international story.
- Human interest. If one of your franchisees spends their days off raising money for or helping out a local charity or your company has made a significant hire, that’s news.
- Expertise. Promote your franchisees as the experts in your industry. If your company provides automotive services or tackles cybersecurity issues, a public relations team can help your franchisees write tips on readying your car for summer road trips or offer insight to the latest data security breach, respectively. This also builds good will between your local franchisee and the reporters who cover their industry and means the reporter will come back frequently to ask questions about that market.
Finally, you will need to make sure your franchisees choose the right person from their individual organizations to represent the brand in the media.
In most circumstances, this is often the franchisee, him or herself, but not always. Sometimes the franchise owner might be absent or simply not feel comfortable in front of a camera. That means that the duties of the local company representative could fall on the store manager or even the employee who has the most expertise in the subject matter.
But no matter who is chosen, that person should receive some media training from a PR professional.
In just about an hour or two, a public relations expert can help guide your spokespeople on a few rules they should follow when dealing with the media. Don’t let an easily avoidable slip of the tongue turn what should have been a positive interview into a headline-grabbing crisis.
Just remember that press coverage isn’t reserved for the big brands. As a franchisor, you can help your franchise owners drum up local business by actively encouraging them to engage with your public relations team as a service you offer. Most franchises offer operational direction, employee training and even some marketing tips, but if you want to stand out among your competitors to both potential franchisees and customers, offering a solid public relations strategy may make the difference in their final decision to choose you.
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