Top tips for Franchises to Manage their Reputation in 2022

 

We are racing towards two years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

Every facet of life has changed in that time, including the experience of running a franchise business with all of its inherent rewards and challenges. 

 

 

 

We are racing towards two years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

Every facet of life has changed in that time, including the experience of running a franchise business with all of its inherent rewards and challenges. 

 

The next phase of the pandemic in Australia will be reflective of the strength of our vaccine booster shot program before we head into the depths of winter.

 

That doesn’t mean franchisors shouldn’t celebrate the good times and make hay while the summer sun shines, but they should be prepared for worst-case virus scenarios such as newer variants making their way into the country while borders are open. 

 

And there may be further epidemics that occur with increasing frequency in our globally connected and urbanised world.

 

Add to that the very real threat posed by climate change — your franchise in travel and tourism has had a tough time of it already, but there will be longer-term challenges and risks to think about. 

 

You should also consider the political instability growing out of the above factors, not to mention the instability that comes from new powers like China and India rising while American power wanes. That can lead to disruption to global trade and political instability.

 

And finally, the deepening of the digital age that is creating 24/7 and 360 degree interrogation of organisations by activists, competitors, citizen journalists, and malevolent actors.

 

In my seventh year of reputation management after ten years in broadcast journalism for the ABC, SBS and Network Ten, I am finding the pandemic has provided a major wake-up call to businesses — there is no such thing as ‘business as usual’ any more, especially if you own a franchise in a covid-hit industry such as aged care, retail or primary food production. 

 

As a consequence I project that organisational capacity to deal with crisis will be one of the major defining features of survival in the new crisis-ridden world.

 

Crisis media preparation will be the new insurance for franchises. It’s an essential service now and trying to run an organisation without it will be like a transport company sending their fleet onto the streets without coverage.

 

Crisis media enquiries are spiking right now off the back of a disastrous two years but if people think we’re going to be living with any sort of repose or certainty in the next five decades and beyond, they’re sticking their head in the sand.

 

I don’t want to sound like the prophet of doom. I’m someone who’s optimistic by nature, but I’m also a realist. Crisis media is about understanding where the traps are so that you can go about your core business with confidence.

 

An organisation can take decades to build but on the back of, say, a campaign to boycott certain products, to end trade relations with a nation, or a faux-pas by a senior figure, it can come crumbling down overnight.

I have trained hundreds of businesses and organisations in crisis media management, helping them to identify potential threats, establish a crisis media team, introduce pre-emptive protocols, business continuity plans, find allies, prepare holding statements, care for victims, and how to manage the media in the event of a crisis.

 

Using all of this experience, here are five essential brand reputation decisions you need to take right now to protect your franchise’s reputation.

 

  1. Understand the risks to your industry and broader risks that could impact you. If you’re looking after highly vulnerable people in aged care, some obvious risks there are worker screening, worker safety, client safety, contractor induction, service delivery under COVID conditions, use of PPE, COVID cases, and cluster protocols. The list should be extensive.

    Understanding what the threats are will help you to identify blind spots in your operation and put in place correctives and set the standards you want to reach as (hopefully) an industry leader.
  2. Should a crisis arrive on your doorstep, you don’t want to be spending valuable minutes and hours cobbling a team together, designating a spokesperson with no media training to face a press pack, and creating messaging on the fly during a highly stressful time.

    Ideally you do this in advance and everyone understands their role should a crisis be triggered. You will ideally have: a CEO or Board member appointed as spokesperson and media trained; a media manager; an operational manager; and a people and culture manager. If you don’t have those resources you can contract the services of a crisis media consultant on a retainer to act as the media liaison which is not only affordable, it can be extremely helpful when the pressure is high and there’s lots to be done by the crisis media team in the heat of the moment.
  3. Having done a 360 degree audit of risks and identified them, you’ll need to produce preparatory statements in the form of holding statements to go live on your website once a crisis is initiated, or media releases to be sent proactively to a preferred media partner who you believe will give you the best media treatment.

    Remember, if you don’t engage the media in a breaking story, someone else will, and often that is the victim or victims. It’s not a good look to be evasive during a crisis, which can make you look inept, disorganised, or uncaring and exacerbate the situation. It also means you’re not helping frame the story, someone else is who does not have your interests in mind and possibly quite the opposite.
  4. If you’re fronting your organisation in a media interview, either set up by you or in the context of a media pack descending on you, you want to understand and have rehearsed your key messages so you don’t get taken down a messy rabbit hole.

A media trainer will help you craft two simple and clear messages for each scenario, and show you how to pivot or bridge to your message when you get a question that’s off what you want to emphasise. Statements like, ‘That’s not something I can speak to, but what I can say is…’ or ‘Look, the facts are…’ are useful.

  1. For those that have a crisis media plan, you need to exercise it periodically to make sure it’s still relevant and everyone is prepared to enact it. In the same way organisations do regular fire drills, you should periodically simulate an emergency and evaluate the weak spots and fine tune your responses accordingly.

You should also review it regularly to make sure all scenarios are ticked off. A crisis media plan from two years ago for example will not have had any COVID content.

Celebrate the good times that summer has brought. But, as we head into the depths of winter this year, how prepared is your franchise for a crisis?

 

 

 

 

Founder of Good Talent Media, Tony Nicholls is an accomplished journalist with more than ten years’ experience with the ABC, SBS and Network Ten; covering thousands of news stories across Victoria, Australia, and the international media.