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Franchise Sector’s Growth Also Small Business’s PR Challenge

This article was originally published by BizCom's Monica Feid on LinkedIn. Please click the link to view the original article.

Last week, FRANdata and the International Franchise Association released the 2023 Franchising Economic Outlook. The research indicates a year of highly anticipated growth with a whopping 254,000 more jobs and 15,000 new independent businesses. Franchises will number more than 805,000 units across the U.S. generating some $860.1 billion in total economic activity.

“After an historic year of growth during the post-pandemic recovery, the size of the franchise economy in 2023 will exceed pre-pandemic levels...” said Matthew Haller, president and CEO of the IFA.

Leave it to the small business sector with franchising as a powerful engine to continue moving the economy and the country forward. I love big numbers too. In 2022, BizCom clients awarded more than 1,000 franchise agreements.

But here’s the rub.

Big Franchise Growth Needs to Include Small Business Messaging

As franchise networks expand, rapid growth will turn small brands into big brands and big brands into household names. That’s what is great about franchising. That’s also why PR and marketing professionals cannot sit back and relax. Because the bigger a franchise brand gets, the bigger our jobs get to overcome the mindset of a giant corporation instead of a collection of small businesses.

It starts with the almighty media. Social media. Broadcast media. Print. You name it. We follow it. We share headlines from it. Legislators are swayed by it. But in a recent study (part of my master’s degree thesis, to be exact), franchise leaders with almost 340 years of industry experience across national and international franchise networks overwhelmingly shared their belief that mass media doesn’t understand franchising.

“They see a big company, and they don’t realize they are small businesses,” said Craig Sherwood, senior vice president of U.S. franchise development for Wingstop.

“It’s hard to describe the franchisor/franchisee relationship in a media soundbite,” said Tom Gissler, president of Restoration 1.

“They [the media] see big brands, and they equate McDonald’s to McDonald’s [HQ] in Chicago and not the guy in Peoria, Illinois, who opens his own location,” said Mark Jameson , CFE, chief development officer of Propelled Brands.

So how do we solve that disconnect?

“We’re not telling enough human stories,” said Mary Thompson - CFE, COO of Neighborly.

The answer rests in putting a small business face with franchising. Many, in fact.

We Must Put a Bigger Spotlight on Franchisees

For every founder, CEO, or CDO being quoted, interviewed or profiled, twice the effort should be made to tell franchisees' stories. And not just when the ink is dry on the franchise agreement or when they win the franchisee of the year award, but in the throws of running a small business.

Beautifully-packaged video testimonials for social media posts, paid search, and corporate websites are great. But newsrooms and lawmakers — two of the most important audiences driving perceptions and public policy — put greater value in two-way conversations than pre-packaged marketing materials when deciding what to say to voters and the general public.

We must encourage more franchisees to share their personal journeys in their own words with members of the press and policymakers in the legislature. Franchisees can communicate with a candor that is widely needed to explain the franchise business model as a small business model by those who are living it daily. That has a much different impact than what comes from the corner office at headquarters.

Here are some first-person stories that BizCom has booked as examples:

Karrie Brock of FASTSIGNS.

Mark Sheffield of School of Rock.

Vicki Dunn-Marshall of Little Caesars.

Sara and Sean Bess of Mosquito Joe.

The IFA understands this storytelling objective too. That’s why the Open For Opportunity program, now in its second year with roadshow stops in cities and states across the country, is growing that dialogue. The roundtables with franchisors, franchisees and their government officials and members of the press are expanding the narrative for franchisees to discuss 'how I got into business for myself,’ jobs they are creating, and local communities they are serving. [Watch the New Jersey recap HERE.]

Kudos to big brands with small stories and the real-world examples where the rubber meets the road. While broad economic outlook studies are important for big data, small business stories must be told too. Put the human with the interest.

Way more of that, please.

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