Control the Message

heather_ripley_headshot.jpgIs all publicity good publicity? No, of course not. The old canard is false.

Just ask franchisors who have grappled with the aftermath of contaminated food, allegations of racism, or credit card fraud. One instance of poor judgment by a franchise owner or his or her employees can have far-reaching effects for the entire franchise brand.

Bad press can sully a brand and sink sales. But there are ways to limit the impacts. Do you or your franchisees know what to do when a reporter comes calling about an incident that can taint your reputation? Even in the realm of positive stories, it helps to have the poise, clarity, body language and presentation skills that only comes with practice. Professional media training is a must for franchisors in today’s 24-hour news and social media cycles. Here are seven ways you can improve your messaging through media training with a professional.

  1. Crisis plan. Do you have a crisis plan in place? If the news media comes calling, you don’t want an unprepared franchise manager hemming and hawing in front of a camera or microphone. You need to have a clear chain of command in place when a crisis strikes. Honesty and immediacy are important, but you want to control the message from the top down whenever possible. A good crisis plan dictates who, how, when and why to respond to a variety of negative scenarios.

  2. Interview skills. Just as it takes skills to be a good interviewer, it takes skills to provide a good interview. Media training can teach even the most seasoned franchise executives ways to better communicate. You want to appear sharp and in command whether speaking about a crisis or softer news story involving your brand. Do your homework, stay positive, on message, and calm and honest. Watch your body language and facial expressions. Media training covers these basics and much more.

  3. Thought leadership. One good way to garner earned media coverage on a regular basis is to present yourself as a thought leader and expert in some aspect of your franchise industry. Good media training covers ways to get your name in front of reporters and other influencers, and how to leverage social media to make you even more of an expert. There’s both an art and science to becoming a thought leader, but you could become the go-to contact for reporters covering your franchise field.

  4. Media relations. Though most business leaders consume news on a regular basis, there’s still a lot to be learned about how the media operates. Good media training, especially when provided by an experienced partner who understands franchise law, can give franchisors a better understanding of what makes a good story, and how that story ultimately reaches an audience. Media training also includes explanations of beat structures, basic story pitching approaches and ways to build rapport with journalists. News media is not a monolith. Despite the decline of legacy media, there are still dozens of outlets offering professionally curated news on a daily basis. But there are differences in how stories are recognized and told in print, broadcast or digital media.

  5. Leveraging media. As mentioned above, the needs and wants of a reporter vary by medium. If you are knowledgeable about multiple ways stories can be told and illustrated, you will be better versed in what kind of content works on various mediums. Broadcasters want B-roll. Radio stations want soundbites. Newspapers and their digital versions want photo galleries and video, too.

  6. Know your audience. Just as the medium affects the message, the audience can affect it, too. Media training can help you determine what demographic you can target with varied media opportunities. Older, educated potential customers read newspapers and their websites. A wider demographic embraces radio and television, and a decidedly younger crowd receives most, if not all, of their news from websites and digital sources. Knowing your audience helps you craft the right message, as does knowing the machinations of how different types of news mediums function.

  7. New media. No overview of the importance of media training should fail to reference the ubiquity of digital social media. Like more traditional mediums, there are demographic considerations with each platform. Facebook users are skewing older; Twitter is so ubiquitous your message may get lost if not crafted correctly; and younger people are turning toward Instagram, Snapchat and other newer platforms. Social media is also its own medium, and there are tips and tricks to getting your message in front of the largest possible audience. Media training can help get you better versed in functions such as boosting or responding to negative or positive reviews. Ask yourself this question: What’s the difference between Instagram and LinkedIn? If you can’t answer immediately, you are a candidate for media training from a professional PR agency.

Some people and companies by nature love the exposure that comes from appearances on television or mentions or quotes in other types of media. Others distrust media and instinctively veer away. Whichever bucket you are in, you need media training. One day you’ll need it to either bolster your brand, or protect it from scandal.

Heather Ripley is CEO of Ripley PR, a global public relations agency specializing in franchise, manufacturing, technology and skilled trades. For additional information, visit www.ripleypr.com.