Proof That PR Drives Sales!

This week’s PRWorkbench guest blogger is Thomas Scott, VP of Operations for Showhomes. Thanks to Thomas for these great observations made at last week’s Franchise Update Conference.

Franchise Industry Execs Miss the Opportunity to Leverage Franchise PR to Drive Sales

P1040751300 franchise executives converged on the Drake Hotel in Chicago this week for three days of intense evaluation about the state of franchise sales and dialog about best practices that drive results in today’s market. This much anticipated Franchise Update Conference centers around industry reports on numbers of franchise units sold, lead sources for the year, and cost per franchise sale.

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This year’s theme, Mission Possible, held lots of promise as the previous year has been a wasteland for many companies. This year three big issues converge into a perfect storm that creates lots of choppy waters for franchise sales:

 

  1. Fran Data experts projected that the franchise industry will have some truly choppy waters for the next four or five years due to lack of bank financing and shaky loan underwriting making credit hard to come by
  2. Traditional powerhouses of franchise sales lead generation have trailed off significantly; franchise portals in particular are not delivering the quality leads they once were
  3. The dramatic shift in the way people communicate and build trust and how this impacts the rise of social media left more than a few companies struggling to connect the dots

A big disconnect with franchise sales lead generation centered on an old-school tool: Franchise PR. Here’s a list of lead sources for franchise sales this year:

Lead Sources for Franchise Sales (where leads for franchise sales come from)

  • Internet          34%
  • Referrals          28%
  • Brokers            17%
  • Print                  8%
  • Other               13%
  • Trade Shows      3%
  • PR                    3%

Sources of Closed Franchise Sales (Where the leads that actually closed came from)

  • Internet          50%
  • Brokers           16%
  • Trade Shows   13%
  • PR                 11%
  • Other             10%

Franchise companies only generated 3% of the total leads for franchise sales this year. Only 3%! Those measly 3% of leads resulted in 11% of the total industry unit sales this year. 11%! Making matters worse, almost half of the companies represented at the Franchise Update Conference were not using PR to generate sales leads. HALF!

The Franchise Update report also gave out projected average budgets for franchise development: the average company will spend $162,000 on its total budget to sell franchises this year. PR was way down on the list of expenditures. If PR done poorly and without consistency produced 11% of the franchise sales last year, what should you budget to grow a franchise system?

Franchise companies need to wake up – PR if used correctly by someone that understands the social media shift is a powerful tool for franchise sales lead generation. PR firms need to wake up too. What PR worked 20 years ago and even what worked last year DOES NOT WORK in today’s market.

Here’s the issue: publicity is great. Publicity will get you in the papers and can help with search engine optimization and Google search results. Publicity can generate a binder full of clips. Franchisees love publicity because it’s great for the ego. Publicity does not, however, generate franchise sales. Old-school press releases about store openings, expansion plans and staff changes don’t have the oomph they once did in today’s social media market.

PR can be used to aggressively drive your franchise sales if you focus on telling your story and driving the social media conversation about what you do. We’ve successfully done this at my company, Showhomes, and I listened to Stan Freidman, CEO of Retrotax talk about how he has used it to get his new company off the ground.

Success with PR centers around the story you tell. If you can get people talking about your sales effort in social media arenas like Linkedin and Twitter, you can get reporters to bite and that will lead to lots of online trust and credibility. This is crucial because candidates are at their lowest trust level any of us have seen.

They call this the ‘Great Recession’ for a reason!

For more information from Thomas Scott, please contact him at:

Thomas Scott
VP Operations, Showhomes
615-483-4923
tscott@showhomes.com
www.showhomes.com
Twitter: @showhomesthomas
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/thomscott

Local Media Tips – Guest Blog by Hope Salley

 
This week, my friend Hope Salley of eNR Services is providing a recap local media pitching tips from a PRSA event in Connecticut. The event was hosted by the PRSA -Westchester County and Fairfield County Chapter. The guest speakers were Allan Drury, business reporter/editor with the Journal News (Gannett-Westchester and Rockland Counties), and Jim Zebora, business editor with Hearst CT Newspapers (Connecticut Post, Advocate). Thanks for the tips Hope! – Jack

 

 

First and foremost, Allan Drury said that the most important thing a person pitching to the media should do is – do their homework! As quoted by Drury, “Know your reporter. Look at the past six months to see what kind of articles that reporter likes covering. Don’t look at just the past week.” This solidifies why the MatchPoint application is so important to our clients. Drury said it is very important to target the right media.

 

Below are a few dos and don’ts explained both by Allan Drury and Jim Zebora:

 

Dos

  • Keep headlines short and concise. Reporters want to see what the news is right away.
  • The best time of day to reach a reporter is in the morning or anytime between noon and 2 p.m. The afternoon hours are usually a “sprint to the finish” time for most reporters and editors.
  • The best way to reach most reporters is via email.
  • After sending a press release, follow up with a phone call to the reporter a few days later.

 

Don’ts

  • Don’t harass reporters. Continuing to call them or emailing them is a sure turn-off.
  • Don’t send irrelevant stories. Only pitch stories that have merit and offer legitimate news.  

Drury said it is important to include statistical information and research in press releases that offer substantiality to the story. This data backs up the focus of the release, and makes it a lot easier for the journalist (less work they have to do). Drury said press releases without data tend to be “fluffy features.” When it comes to business stories, Zebora conveyed that the reporters at the Hearst CT Newspapers look at mom-and-pop businesses the same as national businesses, meaning small businesses have pertinent, legitimate news just as much as larger corporations. In fact, it is the local businesses – affecting the local community – that journalists are more interested in covering.

 

 

Fundamental Change at Media Outlets

  

Here is a very interesting trend pointed out by the development team at MatchPoint:

 

 

PR pros should be aware of a fundamental change in the media. In the current economic debacle, fewer and fewer journalists are employed be a specific media outlet.
 
It appears that the media have responded to the current business conditions, in part, by outsourcing editorial functions. The overwhelming minority of bylined journalists in MatchPoint are staff journalists. Most content is now produced by freelancers and syndicators.
 
For example, an analysis of MatchPoint’s Benton Evening News content, circulation approximately 4,000, produced the following results during a recent sample month:
 

  • 301 bylined articles.
  • 171 unique bylined journalists
  • 30 journalists produced > 5 articles

 
However, the Benton Evening News maintains a staff of only 2!
 
“Contributors,” including both freelancers and syndicators, are rapidly becoming the new mainstream.

 

 

For more information on MatchPoint, visit: MatchPoint

 

Or check out MatchPoint’s Facebook page

 

 

Tips for Driving Business via Local PR from Webinar

 

On Tuesday, February 10th, I had the pleasure of moderating a webinar discussing “How to Drive Business Though Local PR.”

 

Our participants, Nicole Rivard, Editor of the Norwalk Citizen-News and Matt Gentile, Director of PR and Brand Communications at Century 21, offered tips from both sides of the news release for successfully reaching targeted audiences in community publications.

 

Nicole Rivard first discussed the types of stories of most interest to an editor at a weekly community newspaper. These included news about local companies (or more likely, national brands with local branches, outlets, or franchisees) with the following content:

 

  • Giving back to the community
  • Participating with local schools
  • Opening a new business, location
  • Reaching a milestone
  • Growing the business

 

Matt Gentile spoke about Century 21’s efforts in reaching consumers and potential franchisees via news on the local level. Some of the most successful releases have positioned local agents and brokers as industry experts to whom the local media can turn for trend-related stories.

 

Century 21 not only targets various local markets from corporate headquarters, but also empowers regional offices and up to 4,000 brokers with a tool to easily and quickly send press releases to their own local media. The application they use, PR Studio, was developed by Grassroots PR.

 

Here is an overview of things to remember when pitching local media:

 

ü ONLY pitch stories that have a true local connection, such as a physical presence in the market, connection to a local businessperson, or event taking place

    

ü READ content from the publication prior to engaging to see if your story is a good fit for what is happening locally
 

ü BE AWARE of deadlines and printing schedules for weekly publications

 

ü EMAIL releases directly to journalists as opposed to relying on wires, social media, or other methods better suited toward national outreach

 

 

 

Local Media Is Alive and Being Read

 

The media is dying! Wait, not so fast…

 

Changing? Yes.

Evolving? Certainly.

But dying? Not even close.

I haven’t gone one day in the past three months without seeing numerous blog postings from those who are lined up to be the next person to point out that many media outlets are in trouble. There is a frenzy of public relations pro’s, media “experts”, and marketers who can’t wait to Tweet and re-Tweet about the latest layoffs at various newspapers or TV stations.

 

It amazes me that many in Public Relations want to promote the collapse of the industry vital to their own work.

 

Of course The NY Times is broke. The LA Times and the Chicago Tribune are under water. Most major papers are feeling similar pain. But the story that no one seems to be following is the stability of smaller local media outlets.

 

PRWeek recently reported on a survey by the University of Missouri School of Journalism that shows 86% of adults read a local community newspaper each week.

http://www.prweekus.com/Local-outlets-remain-stable-in-downturn/article/122662/

As small papers continue to put more of their content online, this number will surely grow.

 

Instead of PR and marketing professionals panicking because major outlets are downsizing, perhaps they should reexamine their target audiences and tactics. They should counsel their clients about the value of local media impressions in the markets where a client has a presence. Reaching out to local community outlets may not have the same sizzle as getting a placement in The Times or on a national evening news program, but the impact of these combined local impressions may be more beneficial in reaching the client’s goals.