At times of crisis, often firms cut marketing altogether but to survive and thrive, now is the time to ‘up the ante’ while your competitors are caught up in their day job, advises Mel Betts, director of Grapevine PR
It’s a tough time for many businesses right now and we are probably in for a bumpy ride for a while yet. At times of crisis, often firms cut marketing altogether but to survive and thrive, now is the time to ‘up the ante’ while your competitors are caught up in their day job.
PR is a great way to showcase your franchise. However, PR has long been seen as a ‘dark art’. It’s frustrating, that an industry which is generally great at promoting its clients is not so great at explaining how and what PR is and how powerful results are easily achieved. Some firms are also reticent about trying PR as ‘they are not quite sure’ what they will get in return for their PR budget and so are put off from hiring a reputable PR firm.
Having worked in franchise PR for 20-plus years, it’s high time I made an effort to debunk some of the myths behind the ‘dark art of PR’ in order to put it back, centre stage as one of the most valuable tools you can add to your marketing mix.
Firstly, PR stands for Public Relations. I have always felt this can be a slightly confusing term as 99 per cent of the work most PR agencies do is press relations rather than stakeholder relations. Perhaps a little rebranding from public relations to press relations might help?
Press relations involves a simple process of identifying news stories relevant to the client, developing a series of press releases and proactively supplying them to the appropriate media outlets (print and online) that target audiences read, in a timely manner. It’s a great way to keep audiences up to date with your company news. In addition to a steady stream of press releases, news should be supported by published by-lined articles about topical, relevant subjects (rather like this one), plus client case studies. In the old days, press interviews were also useful but these are less popular in recent years.
One of the main benefits of PR is that it provides the space for detail which shorter social media posts can’t offer. ‘The more you tell the more you sell’ is a phrase which comes to mind. If you have someone potentially interested in buying a franchise territory, they will want to read case studies and success stories, and media coverage offers the perfect opportunity to create this high-visibility collateral.
Phil Gaffer QFP, franchise sales and business development manager, Papa John’s UK explains: “At Papa John’s, PR has been instrumental in supporting our franchise recruitment process over the years. Regular trade press releases, articles and case studies written and placed by Grapevine demonstrate in detail the franchise opportunity we offer and has certainly helped us attract the right calibre of franchisees.”
The key to PR success is presenting information to the media which is valuable to the readership of a publication or online portal, in a way that a journalist can use it, ideally with as little editing as possible. This requires a schedule of stories; a pipeline of content if you like. It’s that simple! OK, there are a few other elements like the requirement to nurture great relationships with journalists, the need to use clear and careful messaging and to ensure the campaign dovetails into a coherent vision and strategy, but essentially my point is that it’s a straight-forward, logical process. The resulting media content can be repurposed subject to copyright, in other marketing collateral, on your website and on social media.
So clients do know what they will get from their PR budget, for instance at Grapevine, I offer guaranteed deliverables (for example, an agreed number of articles or press releases generated within a specified timeframe). I also encourage clients to go for a ‘trial’ project, particularly if they’ve never undertaken PR before, to see how it all works.
If we’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s that we need to do things differently moving forward, so could now be the right time to up the ante and add PR to your marketing mix?
Mel Betts, director of Grapevine PR, has 20-plus years’ franchise PR and marketing experience. Mel also holds the Advanced CAM Higher Diploma in PR management and strategy as well as a degree in English and has been invited to a guest lecturer in PR at New Bucks University on several occasions. She is also the author of DIY PR.