"Pressing" Your Case: Using Public Relations To Sell More Franchises

What sales can great PR generate? Plenty!

Early in my career I first witnessed the magic of great PR. Dan Dorfman, a renowned investment advisor and syndicated columnist, labeled our business-to-business franchise one of the "top ten best franchises in America." His story generated 11 new franchisees for us. At no cost!

Don't despair if you can't yet afford a PR firm. There's plenty you can do now to get press for your franchise opportunity. Here are some tricks of the trade.

  • Wait until you are ready--Sometimes opportunities come faster than expected, before you really have your act together. It's tough to resist the exposure, but your wisest decision may be to pass at the time. If you are a young franchisor and don't yet have a successful franchisee, readers won't get that excited about your opportunity. It's still just a concept without any franchisees who can rave about your business. You must have testimonials to profit from press. It's critical to wait until you have an inspiring message to deliver. Once that city paper or TV station runs your first story, it will probably be a year or two before you can get their attention again.
  • Develop a newsworthy angle--It's not what you think is a great story, it's what the media considers newsworthy! What is it that they want? What kinds of stories do they like to run? What regular sections and columns may be the best opportunities for approaches you can develop? You may have a franchisee who's an avid hang glider and you discover the local Business Journal features business owners with unusual interests. Maybe your franchisee of the year was a U.S. Army general and a franchise magazine is seeking military vets who made it big in franchising. Or perhaps your industry publication is spotlighting innovative start-ups and your company is the first to franchise a segment of the business.
  • Never say another publication is running your story--Old news is no news, and editors are easily irritated by that comment. Be careful. "Just because another media outlet picked up on your press release, how does that have any relevance for us?" What you may think will get you into the news, in this case may do the reverse. Remember, writers and reporters love to "scoop" a story before their competition does.
  • Order editorial calendars--Get a schedule of feature stories planned for the next year. The media publishes them 6 to 12 months in advance, so get the lineups now and you'll increase your press potential by 30 to 50 percent. How often have you read an article or watched a local news broadcast that was a perfect fit for your franchise? Most franchisors miss out on these great press opportunities because they don't prepare. Knowing what's coming down the media road is like securing sites in new shopping centers... the prime-time locations are locked up long before the "For lease" is planted in the ground.
  • Follow their rules--Ask each media source for tips on how they prefer your press releases, who to send them to, and in what format they would like to receive them. Sometimes these instructions are published on their website, with their editorial calendar, or provided through recorded instructions for you to follow.

    During the 1970s, I was a press aide for Joe Garrubo, a New Jersey Assemblyman. He hired an Associated Press reporter to teach me how to prepare press releases to get greater coverage in the statewide paper, The Star-Ledger. It worked. His valuable tips also included: "You need to submit releases to Trenton on Wednesdays because it's their slowest day, so you get the most attention. Also, never send anything again to the Newark offices: too much red tape, too much competition for space."
  • Burn those "grip it and grin" shots--As a lead generation there is nothing less imaginative or boring than amateur flash photos of franchisors and franchisees receiving awards. They are great for in-house newsletters, post-conference publications, and local hometown papers. But for catching the attention of business editors of larger publications, magazines, and TV, these shots of handshakes are just another pile for their "round file." Give them something that will engage their readers!
  • Submit powerful photos--Invest money to create powerful visuals and you can blow away the stack of other press releases. Here's one franchise that did:
    • An industry publication was planning a story about successful owners of The editor had not yet selected a cover photo for that issue. American Advertising Distributors, a direct marketing franchise, seized the opportunity and shot professional photos that showcased the successful lifestyle of their top franchisee. Mission accomplished: the magazine published a four-color cover featuring their franchisee, Dan Rosen, fishing on his private lake with his beautiful lodge towering in the background. This included an inside photo spread of Dan in his chateau. What about the other franchisees in the article? The amateur snapshots of their owners were dwarfed by Dan's presence. Reprints of the story were a powerful addition to the company's recruitment packages, and Dan was most grateful for the recognition.

This article is an excerpt from "Grow to Greatness: How to Build a World-Class Franchise System Faster." For more information, go to www.franchiseupdate.com/gtg.

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