Ask any business owner about the importance of having a robust business plan in place, and they'll tell you that it's essential to the success of every venture. But ask the same entrepreneurs if they have a PR strategy in place as part of their business plan, and not many can say ‘Yes’.
By failing to have a PR strategy in place, you could be missing a trick. PR tends to be much less expensive than marketing but can be just as effective. It can provide your franchise with credibility and help you distinguish your business from the 900-plus franchise brands that are currently operating in the UK.
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After implementing a good PR strategy, successful franchises can build positive awareness of their businesses that goes above and beyond the service they provide and the products they sell. They’ll not only establish the tone for your brand, but also increase their media presence and online customer engagement. You can even compete with some of the biggest franchise names by using PR to grow your business.
But how do you go about improving your PR scheme? Well, here are some areas to focus on:
Telling your story can help deliver consistent brand messaging. Explain why you decided to franchise your business and how you’ve arrived at where you are today. This will enable you to reveal how your company’s vision and values were established, which, in turn, will differentiate you from your competition.
Your company’s story doesn’t have to be the most exciting one in the world; you’ll inspire and attract your target customers with an honest account of your journey. So, whether you started your business in your spare room or decided to become your own boss after being made redundant, it’s a story worth telling.
Let’s take the story of KFC. Harland Sanders – or ‘The Colonel’ as he was known – was 62 years old when he started to make a profit from his chicken recipe. He’d had many different careers but decided to start selling chicken from a roadside stop in Utah in the 1930s and found success. Now, KFC is one of the most famous franchises in the world and is ranked the fifth largest franchise in Europe.
Impressive as the KFC story is, franchise brands don’t need to have a Colonel to appeal to prospective franchisees and potential customers. Telling your story, whatever it may be, will increase your brand recognition and generate more leads, which results in increased sales and projected growth.
Successful franchises make the most of customer testimonials to help boost brand visibility, improve credibility and, if collected online, increase SEO authority from external links. This is the type of marketing that money can't buy, because if your customers are leaving testimonials on their social media accounts and websites, they're effectively doing your PR for you.
Another way of getting others to do PR work on your behalf is to leverage the power of influencers. If there’s an industry expert, celebrity or blogger who has a large number of followers, you could approach them to ask if they would endorse your franchise. If they agree to do so, you’ll gain almost immediate access to their audience, increasing your brand awareness significantly for next to no effort. Many famous brands use this approach, but remember to choose your influencers carefully. If your chosen influencer tells their audience how great your products are and then are on the front page of the tabloids for all the wrong reasons the following day, this negative press could rub off on your business. Before long, you may find that your business has picked up a bad reputation.
Give your marketing campaigns a local feel
As a franchisor, you may choose to charge your franchisees an advertising fee, just as many other franchise brands do. The contribution that your franchisees make to the marketing fund will enable you to produce nationwide campaigns, which should generate a considerable amount of brand awareness to benefit the entire franchise network.
But you should also try to give your franchise a local feel. Encourage your franchisees to complement your national advertising efforts with local marketing activity that is relevant to the area and target audience. It is said that consumers buy from people rather than brands, so make sure your franchisees understand the importance of playing an active part in local communities.
There are a few ways franchisees can give their unit a ‘local’ feel. Urge your franchisees to sponsor a regional sports team, volunteer at charity events and hold regular networking meet-ups at their franchise premises. By doing activities such as these and then promoting them in local newspapers and on radio stations, your franchisees’ visibility within their local markets will improve, increasing visits, sales and income.
However, successful franchises understand that it’s not just the sales and profit made that matter; for the longevity and continued success of franchise brands, relationships must be built. This will result in a loyal customer base that returns again and again. You may even be able to develop a pool of customers who become advocates and promoters of your franchise.
Take advantage of social media
There are many different ways you can promote and market your franchise to raise brand awareness, but perhaps the most relevant and cost-effective method is to use social media. Targeted social media campaigns are an essential consideration when developing your brand authority. The power of social media will enable you to reach new customers and build your brand’s reputation.
You can choose your platforms, depending on what your objectives are. For example, Facebook is great for engaging with customers, whereas Twitter gives you the opportunity to express your brand personality. Instagram is an excellent platform for influencers to endorse your products, while LinkedIn is more suitable for business-related content.
Each piece of shared content should have a purpose and be informative and interesting. Most importantly, your content should always reflect your brand image. Be creative, produce the content that your customers want and don’t be afraid to be different.
Other things to bear in mind
- Understand your target audience. The way in which you go about restructuring your PR effort will depend upon the demographic you hope to attract. Taking our point about social media; this will always be a great way to improve your brand awareness, but the way you present yourself online should be contingent with your target audience. For example, if your brand is aimed at students and young, trendy people, put a lot of focus on your Instagram profile and create the type of content that is regularly digested by those users.
- Set a deadline. You may be tempted to gradually work to improve your PR materials over time, but this can be problematic. By setting a fixed deadline, you’ll put goals in place and have a clear idea of what you need to achieve within a set timeframe. This can help you to focus your efforts and may even stop you putting off work. Not only will you achieve your objective sooner than you originally would have, but you’ll experience a boost in morale from reaching it, which should filter down to your employees and customers.
- Set a budget. Like fixing a deadline, you should also be sensible when it comes to money. No business should significantly exceed its PR budget, as this can lead to failure. Once you’ve worked out what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about where you want to invest your money.
- Work out what you want to say. Most successful business owners have identified their company’s purpose and key values. These should be reflected in every piece of content you create, whether it’s aimed at your employees or your customers. If others can perceive a consistency in the way you manage your business, you’ll probably improve your reputation. What’s more, if customers identify with your messaging, you may even boost your revenue.
- Measure your success. Your PR campaign may seem like a long-term project, but it’s vital you look at the bigger picture. Your company will – hopefully – continue to operate successfully far beyond the point when you reach your PR goals, so you need to put measures in place to make sure you’re in the best position to move forward when you reach that point. This means monitoring the impact your PR campaign has. Carry out research and conduct surveys to find out how your company is performing and how employees feel about working within it before you restructure your PR. Then, continue to monitor it during your scheme and work out the impact it has had once it’s completed. By doing this, you can find out what worked well and what could be tweaked, which will put you in a great position to carry out an even more successful PR campaign in the future.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©