Crisis Management

Crisis Mgmt

Prepared for a crisis? Be proactive to minimize damage to your entire franchise brand

and franchisees’ standing in their communities.

By Heather Ripley

Even the most sound franchise business is susceptible to a crisis. It could come in the form of a damaging review, poor franchisee behavior or an uncontrollable disaster. It could occur in the corporate office or at an individual franchise.

With the complexity of franchise businesses, it’s almost inevitable. The franchisor has to be properly prepared for any situation. By pre-planning, you minimize damage to your entire franchise brand, its financial stability, its reputation and the franchisees’ standing in their communities. With a proper plan in place and thorough crisis training from top to bottom, your franchise can safeguard itself from potential crises.

Planning for What You Can’t Control

The world is moving too fast and people post online in so many places it can be hard to keep up. Every minor incident has the potential to spiral out of control through social media, and then events take on a life of their own.

A comprehensive communication plan should outline possible scenarios based on relevant factors. Having such a plan, and keeping it up to date, can make the difference between being buffeted by events and the media, and taking control of the situation proactively.

The plan should include franchisor preparation and training, a communication protocol, and having a crisis management team in place to be sure every aspect of the plan is implemented, updated and ready for action.

Your designated spokespeople are all-important. They should represent the highest levels of your company and cover multiple disciplines. Possibilities are the franchisor CEO, trained executives or the director of communications. They should be knowledgeable and well-trained to portray appropriate, key messages to the media.

Managing the Situation

Managing public perception to protect your brand’s reputation is critical, but – depending on the situation – dealing swiftly and correctly with the actual situation could save lives.

Call your team together and quickly get to the bottom of what happened. The most important thing is to tell the truth, tell it all and tell it quickly. Better that the public hear the truth from you than to hear some made-up version from someone else. And if you own the situation and tell how you’re going to fix whatever happened, chances are much greater that it will just go away.

Communicating Your Message

Social media has changed everything. It’s good because you have the power to take charge in a crisis and tell the authentic story behind what happened. It’s bad because any customer, at any time, can say anything they like. All you can do then is damage control.

One person should be in charge of communicating directly with the media, but the media may choose to call anyone in the company. Make sure you have a media policy – and make sure it is known who is allowed to speak to media and who is not. Communicate your message down the line, through the management chain, down to the front lines. At a retail franchise, your cashier on the front line needs to know what to say.  Keep these messages short and simple, so it’s more likely to stay intact as it travels to the front lines.

Practice Makes Perfect

What you say during a crisis can quickly become a defining “make or break” moment. Handling a standard interview with a microphone and a camera in your face is nerve-wracking enough. Add a crisis, and you’re even more likely to stumble. To give yourself and your company the best chance for success, you have to practice. Have drills and exercises, using possible scenarios that your company might face.

Wise franchisors provide professional media training for corporate executives as well as franchisees. Key members of your franchise system should practice remaining composed and confident when being asked difficult questions.

The ultimate safeguard against a crisis is to consistently promote your brand locally, regionally and nationally. Proactive public relations efforts help build a positive brand image that can act as a shield during emergencies. Crises can often be averted, keeping your franchise top-of-mind for all the right reasons.

Your reputation is an invaluable source for generating sales leads for your franchise system. Don’t let a crisis cause a chain reaction throughout your company that will have a negative impact on everything from individual franchise locations to your overall brand message. Be prepared. Be proactive. And protect your brand.

Heather Ripley is the founder and CEO of Tennessee-based Ripley PR, a national public relations agency specializing in franchising. She is also a guest contributor to Entrepreneur.com.

 

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