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PR Strategy + Social Media – Do They Generate Leads?

Don’t wait for media placements to generate leads on their own.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of public relations and social media is the proven ability to influence audiences to take action. That’s why both public relations and social media − executed separately or integrated − are wildly popular tools in franchising to help generate qualified franchisee and customer leads.

Public relations can be utilized in so many different ways by franchise organizations, including reputation and image management, promoting products or services, attracting franchisee candidates, or simply as a way to build positive morale in their franchise systems. At the center of most PR programs is media relations.

Potential prospects take notice when a client’s service, product or leadership team is featured in the media, such as on TV (news broadcasts, reality shows, consumer morning telecasts), business or consumer magazines, newspapers, radio programs or prominent news websites or influential blogs.

These placements, which traditionally come as the result of a carefully thought-out media relations plan, can immediately raise traffic on franchise brand’s website, contribute to search engine optimization and provide the third-party endorsement that franchise organizations need to stand out from their competitors.

Securing the Right Kind of Coverage

Despite conventional wisdom, not all coverage is good coverage, and not all media coverage is effective in generating the right kind of franchise or customer leads. The following have proved most effective for franchise brands over the years.

  • Profiles. Securing a profile of a successful franchisee with a compelling story is perhaps the most powerful type of PR for generating franchise leads. The profile serves to inspire like-minded prospects who strive to reach the career level of the owner. Prospects might want to work for, or with, the franchisee who was profiled because they share the same beliefs or passion for the industry.
  • TV/Radio Segments. Getting a TV or radio placement can be tremendously valuable for a franchise. While franchises gain the interest of consumers when featured on a segment of a national morning show, for example, there will typically be a significant increase in traffic on their websites from people looking for franchise opportunities. After all, prospects are consumers, too.
  • Bylined Expert Articles. News publications are struggling to stay alive. Their staff levels are the lowest they’ve been in decades, and the people still employed there have limited time. But the demand for content has increased. This means that news outlets are desperate for quality content from outside sources. Bylined articles from outside experts on a variety of sources help publications fill that void. When written about relevant industry news and topics, these articles can establish the business as being at the forefront of their industry.
  • Self-published Blogs and Blog Hits. Creating blogs for a target audience is an important way to establish a franchisor as an expert in its field, provide a steady stream of relevant content and establish the company as a trusted expert. While some businesses might consider blogging too time intensive, if done properly, it can become a lead-generating machine. Blogging provides a continuous flow of content that gets the company name out there while demonstrating a company’s expertise and thought leadership. When this compelling content is shared and accepted as a guest post on an influential blog, it is as powerful as a trusted third-party endorsement of the company.

Get Results From the Results

While media placements can and often do generate leads in and of themselves upon appearance in a media outlet, the majority of the time that attention is short lived. That’s why it’s critical for franchisors to understand how to sustain the momentum of the placement, and use it in creative ways to get the most out the opportunity.

Social Media

Public relations specialists have been given a valuable tool, social media, and not everyone understands how to use it for lead generation.

While it’s extremely important to post coverage on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s also important to know how to do it effectively. The timing of posts can be crucial. A franchisor may be excited that they received coverage on the 11 p.m. news, so they post the video on Facebook as soon as it’s available. However, how many people are going to see it around midnight? Posting it a second time in the morning will probably bring more eyes to the story than the original post.

How you post is equally important. Knowing the audience can go a long way when writing anything, and social media isn’t any different. If a franchise brand is promoting its opportunity where the main focus is potential investors, using cute language more suited for a teenager will turn off a lot of your target audience.

LinkedIn and Google+ will provide additional exposure to target audiences for a franchise opportunity. Posting doesn’t take long. The more people who see the stories, blogs and videos, the more people will share that content, which will go out to their connections. This great pool of viewers equals more opportunities for leads.

Another often overlooked value of social media for lead generation is the validation factor. Social media is ideal for interacting with consumers and building brand loyalty. While this can have an obvious impact on the sales of products and services, many businesses disregard the fact that having a strong consumer-facing social media presence effectively validates a business opportunity and encourages lead generation. When a company has a large, engaged fan base, prospects will see that there is demand for the company and affinity for the brand.

Links

Google’s algorithms are impossible to break down, but it is widely known that they put significant emphasis on backlinks from the top authoritative publications. Those profiles, TV segments, bylined articles and blog posts published on the top sites, with links back to a business’s website, will ultimately help rank the business higher on search engines. In addition to the SEO benefits, when people are interested in a franchise brand’s industry, product, service or business opportunity, they will inevitably search online. When they find expert articles and segments on authoritative sites, credibility and trust in the company is established − key factors in generating leads.

Sales/Marketing

Many franchise systems don’t take full advantage of the coverage they receive from their PR firms. They watch and hope that a feature story in the newspaper or a TV segment on the morning news puts them over the top before the fourth quarter ends. But it’s not magic. Most of the lead generation occurs as a result of how the placements are used by their franchise sales teams.

For example, a feature story on a franchisee in a high-level publication can be utilized in advertisements and promotions by mentioning or linking back to the article or video. Marketing teams can also utilize the placements by including links in online marketing collateral, client newsletters or when sponsoring events.

Franchisors should also utilize coverage from PR in their in-house materials. Linking to stories and videos in company newsletters can result in employees sending out that link to their network of people.

The bottom line: Don’t wait around for media placements to generate leads on their own. Media relations firms work hard to secure these highly coveted placements. Franchisors should make the most of them by using them strategically to promote their brands to prospects. In doing so, the leads franchisors will see as combined PR and social media effort will be amplified.

Sherri Fishman, CFE, is president of Fishman Public Relations. Fishman is a member of the IFA Marketing and Technology Committee. Find her at http://fransocial.franchise.org/Home/ via the directory.

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