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Developing a Strong Franchise Public Relations Strategy

After franchising your business, you are going to want to promote your franchise opportunity. Public Relations could be a key component in your franchise marketing mix. Encyclopedia Britannica online offers the following lengthy definition for Public Relations:

“Public Relations—Aspect of communications involving the relations between an entity subject to or seeking public attention and the various people that are or may be interested in it. The entity seeking attention may be a business corporation, an individual politician, a performer or author, a government or government agency, a charitable organization, a religious body, or almost any other person or organization…”

The discipline of Public Relations, typically referred to simply as “PR”, is multi-faceted. Public relations is part art, part science, part psychology and part gut. It demands great thinking, great writing, a great eye for a story, and the ability to get the right information into the right person’s hands at the right time. As illustrated in the definition, a wide variety of individuals and organizations use public relations to promote awareness about your franchise opportunity and shape opinion.

You’ve worked hard to develop your franchise model. Now you’re ready to get the word out there so you can start awarding franchises. While you may know that public relations could help you do this, you may not know what to do or how to do it. Knowing the basic parameters of a good public relations plan helps.

A good franchise public relations plan is based on a few key elements:

While the following information should not replace using one of our public relations professionals to help you build and execute your franchising plan, these are some crucial elements to consider:

Identify What Are You Trying to Achieve

First, figure out what you are trying to achieve and the message you want to convey.

  • Public relations is used for a variety of purposes which typically fall into two areas. 1) Politicians use is to gain public support for themselves and the issues they represent. Businesses use it to create awareness of new products and services. Celebrities use it to keep their names out in the public eye and to keep their public persona intact. 2) PR is also used in crisis management moments, perhaps when there is a product recall or a health scare. (Just think about what you’ve seen on the news recently, either celebrity damage control or some large corporation debacle that causes a public relations frenzy.)

When you begin to offer franchises, your message is likely focused on that specific point. Also, that message should be supported by why your franchise is the best prospect for an entrepreneur looking to invest in a franchise. While these two points may seem simplistic, there are nuances that must be thought about. What about your message is going to get the attention of the media? Often, business owners make the mistake of believing that if it’s big news to them, then it will also be seen as such by the press. Sorry to burst your bubble, but often this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sometimes, stories that at first glance seem to lack “media-worthiness,” can be made more enticing to the media by approaching the subject matter from another angle. Perhaps something about your business can be linked to another piece of news that happens to be a hot topic.

Once your message is clarified, figure out who should receive it. Don’t only think in terms of who you wish to receive it. Think also in terms of who is most likely to get that message in front of your prospect, and who is most likely to get that message in front of the largest audience. Furthermore, realizing that public relations does not guarantee coverage in the same way advertising does, think about how else you will use your press releases to your advantage—whether or not the story is picked up by the media. Press releases can be used for your own promotional purposes regardless of whether they receive media pick-up or not.

Write a Press Release

When franchising, there are always bits of news that constitute a press release. For example, when you award a new franchise, break into a state you have not been in before, new developments or breakthroughs, etc.

Once you know what your goals and message points are, it’s time to write the press release. You’ve probably already looked online and found dozens of press release templates that show you the basic traditional format. You’ve probably also learned to utilize the traditional “who, what, when, where, why and how” points when writing the beginning of any news story, and then expanding upon those points later in the news piece.

However, be sure to pay attention to a couple other things:

  • Make sure you have a very strong headline.Create a headline that the media is likely to use.
  • Make the most of your words. A lot can be said with just a little. Conversely, people often say too much while not conveying much at all.
  • As mentioned previously, if your subject is not directly “media-worthy,” then think of additional story angles that are more likely to get media attention, and then bring your desired topics in as supporting items rather than primary subjects.
  • If you have anything that is truly groundbreaking, new or different—something that’s going to make a cynical, overworked and underpaid journalist get excited; then don’t hold back. USE IT!
  • Do you have any photos to include that would be of interest to the media; for example, a photo of a local celebrity or personality involved in your business in some way (as a client, spokesperson, volunteer, etc.).

Make Contact

Once a press release is written, it’s time to use it. Who are you going to send it to? Put together a list of contacts that you think should receive your story. If you don’t already have one, create a master distribution list with all the necessary information (names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, position titles, media outlets, websites, etc.). If you have an existing distribution list, make sure the information is up to date (journalists changes companies, quit, get fired, move, or get promoted as well, so keep in mind that the reporter or editor you spoke to six months ago may no longer be the appropriate contact).

Make sure you have a good distribution list. Take some time to think strategically about who should receive your press release. You may be surprised by some of the left-field ideas that may come which actually end up being fantastic choices for receiving and using your press release.

Identify Where to Send It

With your distribution list ready to go, it’s time to send your press release. These days, e-mail is the preferred method of receiving press releases. Create a short e-mail message that briefly outlines the subject matter of your press release. Outline only the most important details, and mention that you have included a full press release. Also, make sure that your e-mail’s subject line is short and designed to immediately grab the recipient’s attention.

Whether you attach your press release to the e-mail as an enclosure, or simply copy and paste it below the brief e-mail message is up to you. However, keep in mind that e-mail enclosures sometimes cause e-mails to go into recipients’ spam folders more readily than plain e-mails do. Likewise, if you have backup photos to accompany the story, simply mention them in the e-mail and state that you can send them if desired.

Repetition is Key

With any good franchise public relations strategy, repetition is key. Public relations should be a part of your marketing plan and to be effective should be practiced as an ongoing discipline. The more times you get your name out there as a franchisor with good stories, the more likely you are to receive media coverage. Continue going through the process of planing, writing, contacting, sending and repeating. Create new stories and send them out on an ongoing basis. Continue to keep you eye out for story angles. Develop a relationship with the contacts on your media distribution list. Whatever you do, keep trying and keep working on it. And if your writing skills needs help, read this article “Writing Yourself into Franchising Success“!

You have spent all of this time to franchise your business and you are ready to start awarding franchises. Rather than sitting on this news, tell it! Start by using one of our public relations professionals as part of your marketing strategy to create and maintain the awareness you desire.

These points offer some basics guidelines for starting a good and actionable plan. Think through these components and see what you come up with. Then, talk to us because we will help you further develop your plan, polish it and execute it for tangible results.

If you have not started the franchise process yet, take a look at the steps to franchise a business.

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