Posts Tagged ‘Franchise


Building Social Media Campaigns that Work

Credit Unions tap into Young & Free Franchise

Whether you refer to them as Gen Y or Millennials, it is clear that this generation relies on social networking to engage, communicate and learn. One industry that is achieving tangible results with Gen Y through a robust and effective social networking campaign is Credit Unions.

Spokesperson Larissa's YouTube Video

Yes, Credit Unions.

Even though credit union’s cooperative values are in line with Gen Y values, this demographic (younger than 30) was simply not signing up for membership.  Until the franchise, Young & Free, was launched.  Based on the principle that we all learn from the knowledge and experiences of those who have previously traveled the path, Young & Free was challenged to provide free checking accounts for the younger than 25 year old consumers.  There is only one Young & Free franchise per state, so the Credit Union that buys into the franchise gets the exclusive rights to the entire program in that state.

Tim McAlpine, owner of Currency Marketing in British Columbia, launched the Young & Free franchise. In a 2009 interview, McAlpine said, “Young people want access to products that are relevant to them.” He continued, “The focus of Young & Free is what the credit union is giving away, what useful information it is offering and how the credit union is providing a head start for young people.”

A large part of the success of the Young & Free franchise concept is that the social networking program is real and authentic. The cornerstone of the program is a spokesperson competition.  A contest is held to select Young & Free spokespeople in each state. They win a one-year paid position with the sponsor credit union. Young & Free spokesperson writes daily blogs, produces weekly YouTube videos and connects on Twitter, Facebook.  The first spokesperson was Larissa Walkiw, click on her picture above to go to one of her YouTube videos.

Credit Unions have developed financial services tailored to Gen Y, the Free 2B packag  the e includes: Free checking, free debit card, free direct deposit and an ‘Oops refund’ (once per quarter a customer can waive overdraft charges – all they have to do is ask for the waiver).

In less than two years, there are now more than 40,000 credit union customers with products and services associated with Young & Free.  Additionally, Forrester Research gave Young & Free a Groundswell Award

What do you think? Have you seen social networking campaigns that are reaching their target market and getting results like Young & Free? Please write a comment and let us know. You can find Weise Communications on Facebook and follow Weise_Ideas on Twitter.


Franchise Marketing: Social Media Policies to Avoid Creepy Behavior

An account coordinator in our office experienced a highly questionable encounter with an individual at a franchised barbershop. I am not going to mention the specific name of the company, I think it will be sufficient to say it’s a franchise. It’s a barbershop. There are locations in Denver. That only leaves four or five options. Any of them could be a culprit.

The issue at hand concerns an employee using social media to directly contact customers. Here is how the situation unfolded:

“Yesterday I went to [name deleted] to get a “fresh cut.” Upon entering the store I was asked for my first and last name. I gave it to the girl without objection, but wondered why she needed both. I understand needing a name to call you when they are ready and occasionally people have the same first name, but there were only three other people in the shop and I was the only one waiting. I got my haircut, said goodbye to the receptionist and walked out.

“Last night I received a Facebook message from the receptionist asking if this was the same person that was at the shop. She wanted to connect on Facebook and get to know me.”

Creepy. Stalker-like.

This incident raises a lot of questions about the ethics of employees using social media to connect with customers. How does a Franchisor dictate the appropriate social media behavior of employees in stores that are “individually owned and operated?” Even if social media guidelines are in place, are they available and known by all of the employees in all of the stores nationally and internationally? Are the rules enforceable and do they address this type of behavior?

These are issues for franchisors to consider when developing social media policies. Protection the brand is more than just making sure tweets are appropriate and the right logos are used. The BRAND is seen in every detail of employee interactions with customers. Allowing one employee to go rogue with the use of social media can create a huge issue for any company that could destroy even the most well-established brand.

What do you think? Was this behavior appropriate in a world of blurred social boundaries? What does your franchise system say about social media interactions with customers? Tell us here.

To find out more Weise Communications and how we handle social media, follow us on Twitter or check out our Facebook account.


When Franchise Communications Break Down…Three Steps to Get Back to Basics

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Leanne Deister, president, Supper Solutions Franchising, Inc. We spoke about communication issues between the franchisor and franchisees, especially when challenges arise that effect the entire system, such as when the economy tanked in late 2008. 

“In franchising,” Deister says, “no news is not good news. No news is always bad.”  She learned (the hard way) that if franchisees are not talking to you, they are talking to each other. And when they begin to vent frustrations with each other, the fire of animosity grows hotter and larger. To make matters worse, during a challenging time for the entire system, not only did the franchisees quit communicating with her, she quit communicating with them. “The entire organization went silent out of fear,” Deister said.

Because of the issues she had to overcome, Deister learned and now offers some great insights into how to solve communication issues for both small and large franchise systems.

Build a Bonfire: Call it a tribal council, a fireside chat, a come to Jesus meeting, it’s time to gather the troops and talk. When things are breaking down, the first step to salvaging the system is figuring out where the issues lie. If things are bad, this needs to happen face-to-face. For larger systems these meetings are going to have to take place in several locations and in smaller groups. For all system sizes determine the format that best fits the style of the organization. The communication needs to happen in a “get it all out on the table” atmosphere. Find out what the franchisees fears and concerns are and let them know what is being done (or will be done) to help. And listen to them. REALLY LISTEN. Make sure they know their voices are heard.

Make the fireside chat as open and transparent as possible. As the franchisor, determine the rules of play and manage the communication process. But do it with honesty. Hiding information or not being truthful will lead to greater animosity and distrust later.

In most franchise systems decisions are not necessarily democratic – everyone doesn’t get a vote and the majority doesn’t necessarily win. But if the franchisees know and honestly believe that the decisions are being made for the whole of the organization and that all opinions were heard and addressed, acceptance and follow-through will be easier.

Look Them In the Eyes: When one physically looks up to someone to speak, the person spoken to maintains a nonverbal position of superiority. The same is true for the franchisor/franchisee relationship.  When a franchisee is spoken down to as an inferior partner in the relationship, they know it and they feel it. So it is necessary, especially during times of fear and struggle, to find ways literally and metaphorically get on the same level as the franchisees and maintain eye contact. Show your franchisees the respect that they deserve as hard working business owners. They often have the same concerns and stress levels as the corporate leadership does, so there is no benefit to purposefully maintaining an air of superiority. For the franchise partnership to prevail, franchisees need to know they are supported, as opposed to looked down upon.

Keep Proving The Point: There is a reason why the line “talk is cheap” gets repeated ad nauseum. Talk is cheap. Saying communication is better and that work is being done to solve issues means nothing if a few months go by and the era of silence begins again. At which point all integrity is lost. To prevent this over communicate (while at the same time respecting everyone’s time constraints), be transparent (to the extent that is truly feasible) and focus on fixing the big issues you learned during your fireside chats (without getting bogged down in the details of individuals).

Fixing a broken system may take months… or even years. But the process can start when you get back to the basics of good communication.

Has your franchise system broken down? What process were taken to repair the damage?


7-Eleven launches digital video network

Brandweek reported today that the 7-Eleven franchise has launched their own digital video network in 60 stores scattered throughout California, Texas and Florida. Full rollout is expected by the end of next year.

Retailers, including Wal-Mart have been implementing digital television networks in their stores for some time now. Brandweek reports that these networks help “leverage [retailers] for in-store merchandising and creating a positive customer experience.”

The content aired on the in-store television will run in four-minute loops, in five different loops throughout the day.

Personally, I think this is a very interesting strategy. This may increase purchases made by “regulars” but I don’t know how effective it will be at targeting people who are swinging through for a pack of gum and a coke. I also believe that 7-Eleven is the first convenience store to launch a program of this nature. However, it reminds me of the really cheesy in-store loop ran by my bank. I feel awful for the employees who have to watch the loop over and over again.


Branding Social Media Programs for Franchises; On the National, Regional and Local Level

We recently studied several franchise groups and their social media programs. These organizations had national, regional and individual business Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. We picked up on one major problem that seems to be a spillover from traditional franchise advertising — not paying attention to or following brand guidelines. Different logos were used, different ID nomenclatures were implemented and different tactics were being employed. And all this “different” leads to an erosion of the brand.Picture 6

It is possible, of course, that social media brand guidelines have not been established for the franchise systems we studied. But as previously mentioned on The Side Note, branding is in the details. There is no excuse for a system to have an absence of guidelines when individual franchise owners or regions are implementing social media campaigns independent of the national campaigns.

If you don’t have social media rules of engagement and branding guidelines, you need to get one established, now.

The following are suggestions for you to include in your guidelines.

1. Pick a version of your logo, or establish a new version of your logo, to be used on all social media sites.  Make sure it is used consistently and appropriately.

2. Establish a basic nomenclature for on-line networking sites. Similar to how you have established your email addresses (, create a specific formula for Twitter IDs and Facebook fan/group pages.

Example: Twitter IDs for a hair salon or donut shop may be called: DenverGoodHair, AuroraGoodHair or VailDonutKing, StCldDonutKing

3. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Just like vanity URLs, consider a vanity online “handle” for your organization’s social media account. Instead of just referring to your company by name, describe it or use your tagline.

Example: Facebook fan pages for an automotive franchise may be called:

San Diego, You can’t get better car care anywhere else

Manassas, You can’t get better car care anywhere else

4. Take advantage of the Twitter background to make it creative, and include your business information. Make sure this background or elements of it are used consistently by all of the franchises.

5. Make sure the company reference is consistent throughout all media posts. For example, either use your acronym or your full company name – pick one reference and stick to it.

6. Make sure the language used to refer to your services is used consistently. Is it a “blow-out” or a “wash and style”?

Don’t forget, when it comes to maintaining the integrity of a brand, all the details matter. With the explosive growth in social media, it’s important that you develop not only rules of engagement for all franchisees to follow, but that specific branding guidelines are developed as well.

Does your franchise system have a social media branding guideline? What tips can you provide to others? Share them here.


Franchise Marketing and Public Relations: Local Programs Should Drive Profits

Executing national franchise public relations and marketing is important to drive brand awareness and promote national campaigns. It also helps increase awareness in order to sell franchises. But as franchisors, regional franchise associations and local franchise owners begin to plan and budget for 2010, I encourage you to include a focus on local programs in order to drive business to individual stores.

Start by thinking about what gets people to buy your product or service. Is it offering a food or drink sample and getting consumers hooked? Is it your ease of scheduling?  Is it through word of mouth recommendations? Is it because of your well-known quality of service? All of these things should be considered when planning and implementing local campaigns.

Here are some marketing ideas to drive local business:

Have ambassadors talk about you where and when it counts. For example, if you are a salon franchise, ask your clientele to post referrals on local blogs, in their twitter posts and on their Facebook pages. Ask for testimonials that you can post on your social media accounts. Monitor what is being said about you on local social network sites, and be sure to respond.

Plan events tied to someone else’s promotion. Is there an ongoing farmers market or one-time festival that takes place near your business? Maybe your business is not “part” of the event, but it’s “close-enough.” If it is, leverage this proximity to market your own event that day. Communicate to your current clientele the specials you are offering on event days and how easy it will be to access your business from the event.

Partner with a local nonprofit to increase awareness and exposure in the media. Even if your franchisor has a dedicated nonprofit tie-in, try to do something locally like a fundraiser. How can you make an impact in your community that will help increase customer loyalty?
Many local franchise owners tend to rely to heavily on their national franchisor when it comes to marketing and public relations. This may be detrimental to the local franchises, as it doesn’t always enable them to get to know their community. And, as we all know, being an integral part of a community can significantly drive brand awareness and sales. If you’re a local franchise owner, I strongly recommend that you get out and start meeting and partnering with your community members. It can only be a win-win on all levels.


A crisis communications plan using social media networks? Better get started now.

Franchises, hospitals, healthcare organizations, service or consumer companies, at some point you may have a crisis for the business to deal with. Some crises are harder to manage than others, and some organizations are better prepared to deal with a crisis as it arises. For all companies, knowing your plan of attack in advance is important.

Picture 10When I started my career, my first job was managing media relations for a large hospital. My boss had an orange laminated poster that said “MEDIA HERE.” That was our crisis communications plan – hook, line and sinker.

My, my, my how things have changed.

A recent Wall Street Journal article, “Entrepreneurs ‘Tweet’ Their Way Through Crises”, highlights the benefits of online communications, specifically for a crisis. From beverage companies to laundry delivery services, the article highlights communication issues that were managed effectively because of the use of online media, which enabled quick and immediate communication with their key audiences. What could have been a debacle for small businesses, ended up generating the two most important ROI measurements – good will and continued sales.

The key to their success started long before the crises. It started because the companies were already involved in an online conversation.

To quote the article:

“Entrepreneurs should bear in mind that Twitter is unlikely to be of help in dealing with a problem if it isn’t used regularly otherwise, says Shel Israel, …’If you just go to Twitter when you have a crisis, you will have no followers and no credibility’, he says. ‘The key to using Twitter effectively is to build trust with people who are relevant to your business’.”

Regardless of the type of crisis you may need to handle, get online now so you can build your communities, which will be necessary when you need to communicate the good and the bad.

If your crisis communications plan does not include a social media component, it needs to. Here are some things to consider while tweaking your plan:

  1. Do your online communication networks already exist? If not, what is the plan to get them in place?
  2. Do you know how to find your key audience segments? For example, if you are a community based-hospital, you don’t need to broadcast your information to everyone in the community, just to the appropriate new aggregates in your community.
  3. Do your employees know how to find you online? Do you have online portals dedicated to communicating with your employees?
  4. Do your customers know how to find you online, somewhere besides your Web site or e-commerce platform?
  5. Do you have your online spokesperson identified? Who is in charge of disseminating online communication?

What type of online vehicles are you using to help manage crisis communications programs? Tell us about them!

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