Discovering the Power of Public Relations

Twenty years ago I first witnessed the magic of great PR. Dan Dorfman, a renowned investment advisor, wrote an article praising our small business-to-business franchise, which had 100-plus owners at the time. Immediately afterward, our phones were ringing off the hook for three weeks! His syndicated column, which ran in 300 newspapers throughout the U.S., named us one of the "top 10 best franchise investments in America." Eleven sales later, I sat down and realized what had happened - and what can happen for franchisors with excellent PR reaching the right buyer audience at the right time. Simply put, PR sells franchises. Since then, I have discovered these general truths about using public relations as a recruitment tool.

  • Success stories featuring your franchise owners are very powerful in generating buyers. They excite prospects reading about real people like themselves, who through your franchise, are achieving their dreams, making money, and enjoying your business and what it's provided for their family. I once asked an owner of a Once Upon A Child franchise, "How did you hear about this opportunity?" She exclaimed, "What happened was bizarre. I just returned from their competitor's headquarters and was about to their franchise agreement. That day by sheer coincidence, I read a wonderful article about a local Once Upon A Child franchisee close to where I live. I visited the owner and was so impressed by her business, I changed my mind and joined her franchise system instead. I'm thrilled I saw the article!"
  • Top rankings by the press, business publications, research groups, and other organizations certainly boost your credibility and hence your lead flow. Multi-Unit Franchisee magazine's Top 50 Multi-Unit Franchisees, Entrepreneur's Franchise 500, the Wall Street Journal's 25 Franchise High Performers, the Franchise Times Top 200, The Inc. 500|5000 list of fastest-growing companies, Nation's Restaurant News awards, Franchise Business Review's Top 50 Franchise Satisfaction Awards, and other industry rankings present great PR opportunities to enhance your marketing efforts.
  • Franchise events that attract media attention can create significant payoffs. It's A Grind Coffee cashed in on a press invitation to reporters inviting them to learn the secrets of becoming a "coffee barista." Sure enough, a major St. Louis news channel filmed its excited reporter making lattes at a new franchisee's coffeehouse. The impressive five-minute broadcast was posted on the company's franchise website and shown at Discovery Days to prospective owners. Watching them watch the video on a 50-inch plasma screen, you could see prospects' eyes widen and smiles grow as they immersed themselves in the business. You could read their thoughts: "Wow, this is a newsworthy, fast-growing national brand I can be part of!" The power of PR strikes again.
  • Franchisor features at times have produced extraordinary buying interest, depending on the franchise concept and story line developed by the reporter. Krispy Kreme, Chuck E. Cheese's, and Boston Chicken catapulted into multi-media blitzes that triggered tremendous franchising interest. The press fell in love with the story of California Closets, which ignited the company's growth. It had all the right angles: from the Oprah Winfrey Show to numerous national magazines, founder Neil Balter became a prime-time celebrity as the college kid who transformed his school project of fixing up messy closets into a major industry.
  • Industry speeches and participation sometimes prompt buying interest from attendees. I was on a speaker panel with the founder of a men's franchise who was seeking a business for his son. Three months later, his family bought our franchise. Another franchisor met the chairman of an international multi-franchise company at a prayer during an IFA conference. Several months later the firm purchased the master rights to develop his U.S. franchise in their country.
  • Charitable and community campaigns often bring press attention and local appreciation. The Franchise Emergency Action Team (FEAT), started by Dick Rennick, CEO of American Leak Detection, was a national franchise support group that provided on-site assistance to families and businesses victimized by natural disasters. Participating in concert with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Dick and other participating franchise networks have been recognized for their tremendous efforts in helping ravaged communities in need. Molly Maid has sponsored counseling programs for battered women. SuperCoups (owned by ADVO), sponsored its corporate owner's America's Looking for Its Missing Children program for years.
  • Advertorials or sponsored content are paid advertisements that some media publishers provide. They include editorial and interviews designed to look similar to feature articles. Keep in mind these are not the same as a PR story, since many buyers recognize them as an advertisement, not a third-party endorsement.

Next time: Hiring a PR agency.

This is an excerpt from my best-selling book, "Grow to Greatness: How to build a world-class franchise system faster." To order copies, click here.

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