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California Heats up as Franchisors Flock to the West Coast Franchise Expo 

Learn how to ace media interviews on the showroom floor.

 By Sonia Perrone

 The 11th annual West Coast Franchise Expo, scheduled Oct. 23-25 at the Anaheim, California Convention Center, will be the largest Western region industry event of the year, uniting qualified prospective franchise owners with growing brands. The West Coast continues to be an ideal market for franchise growth, and when the doors open this fall, hundreds of franchisors, thousands of prospects, and even many current small-business owners will be much closer to realizing their entrepreneurial dreams.

California, according to research conducted by FRANdata, remains a hot franchise market. The state is headquarters for 569 franchisors and currently enjoys goods and services provided through nearly 40,000 franchisee-operated units.

Those figures complement overall U.S. data from the International Franchise Association which predicts that the franchise industry in 2014 is expected to create approximately 200,000 new jobs and boost franchising’s share of the nation’s gross domestic product to nearly $500 billion.

Hosted by longtime show producer MFV Expositions, the IFA-sponsored WCFE will feature more than 200 exhibitors, 50 free seminars, and five symposia. It will provide a unique experience for both franchisors and show visitors. In addition to its educational value and offering exhibitors a chance to generate buzz about their concepts, organizers say the opportunity for franchisor representatives and both new and active investors to meet face-to-face is invaluable.

As momentum builds for this year’s WCFE, MFV Expositions will be riding the wave of success from the 2014 International Franchise Expo conducted earlier this year in New York City. The extensive press and media coverage played a key role in the show’s roaring success. In the weeks leading up to the event and during the event itself, exhibitors were given opportunities to get their brands in front of consumers and investors beyond the showroom floor. Media interest in the show was at an all-time high with attendance and coverage from top media outlets including “FOX & Friends,” Entrepreneur.com, Bloomberg, Fortune, Yahoo!, and Inc., in addition to vast regional coverage.

With extensive marketing plans in place, franchisors and suppliers have been taking note of the increase in advertising and publicity garnered for each show, and are eager to take advantage of media opportunities that come their way.

“Before we enter a market for an event, our audience knows we’re coming,” said Tom Portesy, MFV Expositions president. “We create impactful campaigns that target the region’s most qualified prospects and place advertising in virtually every major industry magazine and regional newspaper, as well as on local television and radio.”

Unlike advertising, public relations momentum is never guaranteed. However, you never know when a reporter might show up at your booth ready to conduct an interview that could put your brand in the national spotlight. Businesspeople often mistakenly assume that because they know their company and industry so well, they can handle the pressure to extemporaneously answer questions with confidence and authenticity. But even the most confident spokesman can bomb an interview, causing a lot of damage to a company, when he’s not properly prepared.

All executives can benefit from a short course in media training to prepare for the inevitable interview that will occur either under unexpected circumstances or for the occasional sound bite that is carefully crafted for community goodwill. As franchisors gear up for the WCFE, here are a few tips that will help ace media interviews on the showroom floor.

 Think Sound Bites

Journalists often take notes in the form of sound bites. They are looking for short one-liners to use for quotes to enhance their stories. Going into an interview with this mentality will set you up for positive exposure. When conducting your interview, strive to be clear, concise and correct. While you may be an expert on your company and industry, have a few, short, key messages that you aim to include in every media interview. Don’t be afraid to create a “cheat sheet” for yourself that lists each of these key messages for review. When speaking, try to avoid technical answers. Be aware of your audience. When you talk above peoples’ heads, you drive them away. Answer as simply as possible without technical jargon.

 If You Don’t Know the Answer, Just Say So

A journalist may come at you with a “stumper question,” but there is nothing wrong with saying you don’t know. There is no need to ramble on and volunteer additional information outside the realm of the question to make up for your lack of an answer. Rambling can lead to disclosure of unwanted information. Remember, everything you say is on record. If questioned about important decisions that are yet to be made, feel free to let the journalist know that or that you aren’t sure of the answer and will report back.

 Answer What You Want to be Asked

The journalist may not ask you the question that you want to answer. It is your job to segue instead into the topic you want to discuss. For example, use transitions such as, “What really matters is…,” or “The more interesting question is…,” or “The most important issue is….” This goes back to planning what your goals are and knowing what you want to communicate from the start. You want to focus on your key messages as much as possible.

 Have Your Press Materials Readily Available

Whether your interview is conducted at your booth or at the press office, always have your press materials readily available to give to the journalist. Make sure your press materials are up-to-date, clean, have appropriate photos and include a contact number or business card in case the journalist needs to reach you for follow-up details. The better your press materials are, the more likely the journalist will pull from those materials to enhance the story.

 Show Respect

Have and show respect for the journalist regardless of the size or stature of the media outlet. Remember, even a small town newspaper can have a powerful effect  — for better or worse. Your goal should be to establish a relationship with the journalist so you can go back to him or her with different story angles in the future. Be sure to thank the journalist for his time and follow up to make sure he has everything he needs for his stories.

Executives often neglect media training and learn too late that basic training can be extremely beneficial during an interview. Instead, busy executives are often forced to do an interview without the proper preparation. While expos continue to attract the attention of local, national and trade media outlets, executives can benefit from media interview best practices and take their brand to new heights. As franchisors gear up for this year’s WCFE, its best to brush up on those interview skills as reporters and producers navigate the showroom floor in search of their perfect expert source.

The 2014 West Coast Franchise Expo is Oct. 23-25 at the Anaheim Convention Center. For more information, visit www.wcfexpo.com. n

Sonia Perrone is director of marketing for MFV Expositions. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org.

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