Top Crisis Management Tips for Franchises
“Get fit or get coronavirus.” That’s the campaign a fitness franchise had come up with to drive membership—and it’s a campaign that COO Deb Vilchis at Fishman PR said her team quickly talked them out of.
“Really think ahead to what this will look like in the end, and do you want to be on the naughty list or nice list,” said Vilchis, speaking today about crisis and reputation management amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The wrong thing to do, she continued, “would be shameless promotion … or using distasteful content to get attention.” Instead, brands need to focus on providing content that is tasteful, comforting and helpful, advised Vilchis, who along other industry professionals in PR and brand marketing offered tips for franchises as they navigate what all acknowledged has been a constantly changing situation.
• Businesses are—or should be—in the third wave of crisis communication, said Lorne Fisher, CEO of Fish Consulting. “It’s how do we re-engage with customers” and keep the brand relevant “even if you’re not open,” he said. Brands first must make sure their advertising messaging is appropriate, looking not just at the copy but also images. Are you showing people congregating in big groups? “You need to find a balance between engaging your audience and being respectful,” Fisher continued. “Someone who is overly solicitous to their audience isn’t going to win in the end.”
• Every communication piece coming from the brand must be “purposeful.” “It should have a clear purpose and call to action,” said Fisher. That includes not just communication aimed at a brand’s customer base, but also what’s being put out to franchisees and prospects. “You need to be pushing information to franchisees about how the stimulus and other relief bills relate to them” and how can they take advantage of these new resources, he noted. “And don’t forget about those prospects that are in your pipeline. How are you communicating with them?”
• Communications should also motivate. “Understanding the role that motivating your team and motivating your franchisees plays in this” is hugely important, said Mark Montini, chief marketing officer at Tropical Smoothie Café. “Don’t underestimate that franchisees may feel like they’re on an island, so you have to keep them engaged and motivated.” Tropical Smoothie, for example, launched a campaign challenging its franchisees to give away 100,000 smoothies to hospital workers, first responders and other frontline workers. It’s an effort that’s getting operators involved and will also position the brand well within the market over the long term, Montini said.
• Think about what’s next. Franchises that have closed or limited their operations must have a reopening plan in place, said Kelly McNamara, Fishman PR’s vice president. “This will pass, franchising will bounce back, but the question is will you be ready and how big will your bounce back be?”