October 2014 Archives

Imagine this: you have just persuaded your company's top 500 prospects to join a real-life networking group that your company owns. This group meets weekly, and discusses business topics in a very engaged way.

To stack things in your favour, the business topics are ones that you specialise in.

If you were this group's manager, you would build strong relationships with your prospects.  And by demonstrating expertise in the group's business topics, you would probably generate a large number of meetings and sales over time.

The problem is, it would be nearly impossible to create this type of group in real life.  Even if you could somehow persuade your top prospects to join your group, you would also have to cope with the enormous logistics and costs of running a group of this size on a weekly basis.

Enter social networks

With millions of members, and highly scalable platforms, social networks allow companies to create digital versions of real-life groups like the one described above.

The best example of this is a LinkedIn group.

LinkedIn groups allow companies to pool their prospects in one defined forum, and engage them with content and conversation. As a group manager, this gives you an opportunity to interact with your members and exploit the powerful engagement models of LinkedIn groups.

What are these engagement models?

  • Firstly, you can have a one-to-one conversation with any group member, simply by responding to one of their posted articles or existing replies, and
  • Secondly, each conversation you have with a member is broadcast to the entire group, via a group update on the members' LinkedIn news feeds. So the group can view each one-to-one conversation, which means one-to-many exposure for your brand.

Another key benefit is positioning your company and group managers as thought leaders. As group managers consistently demonstrate their experience in the group's theme, they emerge as subject matter experts in their field.

The engagement models of LinkedIn groups, and the ability to position oneself as a subject matter expert, helps to build the group manager's brand awareness and trust among group members. It also creates virtual relationships that resemble those in real life.

Group managers can then leverage these relationships to generate leads, in several ways. For example, by posting content that links back to their own company's website, converting group members into leads, or, by approaching members and asking them to meet in person, generating outbound leads. The latter has an especially high ratio of meeting requested to meeting secured.

The new lead generation paradigm 

Social networks, and LinkedIn groups in particular, have turned lead generation on its head. It used to be that the number of relationships you enjoyed was limited to the number of people you could meet. Now you can build hundreds - even thousands - of relationships with prospects before you even meet them, then leverage that trust by reaching out to prospects you do want to meet.

This new approach to networking is not only scalable; it can also shorten your sales cycles. After all, you are meeting prospects that already know and trust you. The relationship, albeit virtual, is already there. And their membership in your group qualifies their interest in what you offer.

Tips for success

The most important tip for building a successful LinkedIn group is this: define your target audience first. Who are your prospects?  And what are their core problems?

Once you identify these, your second most important task is naming your group. The secret lies in giving it a name that sounds as if it could address your prospect's core problems.

Some more tips:

  • Before you go live, make sure to post interesting articles and conversation starters in the group. This will impress your first batch of members (e.g. staff and business partners) and get the conversation going,
  • once you have built some initial activity, start inviting your business prospects to join the group. You can do this via LinkedIn paid media such as LinkedIn Ads, or Inmails which allow you to send personalised one-to-one invitations,
  • promote regular conversations around the group's topics, to grow discussion threads. For example, if one of your members posts an interesting article, jump in by responding with your own thoughts. Have a conversation with that member for the whole group to see then encourage other group members to jump in,
  • never sell or self-promote in your group. Instead, engage in 'social selling'. That is, provide immense value to your members via expert advice and information, without any expectation of return,
  • and finally, never allow spam or off-topic posts in your group. Members do notice and over time it will damage your group's reputation.

Remember, each of your group's members represents future business for your firm. So love them to death with the very best content, discussion, and friendship, and you will soon experience the business opportunities that LinkedIn groups provide.

This article was originally published at Marketing Magazine, republished with the consent of the author.

6 months ago I met with the Head of Digital at a major movie studio.  

He was recounting a meeting with Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook in which he explained that they didn't need Facebook advertising.  

They had already built such massive audiences around their movie brands and their characters that all they had to do was coordinate posts across these to reach and saturate their audience on Facebook.  

It was an owned media channel so they didn't need for it to be paid.  

That's part of what made Facebook such an appetizing choice, and brands flocked to leverage it to communicate with their customers.

But, Now Facebook Wants It's Piece of Your Pie

News reports have been surfacing that Facebook is testing updates that would make your Fan Page posts seen by even less people, unless of course you pay their advertising fees to boost the reach of sponsored posts.  

Last year, there was a lot of fan fare made out of the algorithm change that reduces it from 12% on average to 6%.  It meant that if you had 100 followers, the average post would be seen by only 6 people instead of 12.     That doesn't seem like a lot.   But it's about to get worse.  A lot worse.

Recent reports are stipulating that a brand page's organic reach is going to drop even further from 6% to 1-2%.   Now you really have to pay to reach your own "Owned" audience.

On one hand, we all knew Facebook would become an advertising medium.  

Free services almost always end up charging brands to reach the audiences they aggregate.  

But at the same time, brands and media outlets are fuming.  

They have effectively paid and invested heavily in building an audience that they then have to pay again to send messaging to - effectively they feel Facebook is double dipping.

What Does This Mean For Social Media Advertising?

The question is what is a fair compromise and frankly, I don't have a good model for saying whether 12%, 6%, 2% or 1% is fair.  

In the end, Facebook will determine what's fair by maximizing revenue - making sure there is enough return for people to keep investing en masse and then making the paid rates manageable enough that there is a positive ROI.

In the meantime, what it means for brands is that they should be cautious of audiences they don't control.   Email is still great.  

There is no middle man and it's still the number one rated marketing channel in terms of ROI, returning $38 for every $1 spent.  

Organic search and your content footprint continue to deliver incremental value over time.  

That's why content marketing is so crucial.   You should continue to build your Facebook audience organically, but it is time to reconsider the value of a Like.  Is it worth the cost-per-acquisition plus the cost in reaching them?   Time to update that marketing ROI spreadsheet.

I do believe Facebook advertising does provide better audience targeting (geographic, demographic, retargeting, etc.) and in many cases is extremely cost-effective.

A Monetization Guide for Other Social Media Channels

A fellow marketer said to me, that's why Instagram and Twitter is great.   You can still message for free.   To that I respond, it's only a matter of time.  

Facebook bought Instagram and will run the same playbook, and Twitter's Dick Costolo and Adam Bain inevitably will as well.   They are running the same playbook.

So think about what you own in marketing.  What you really own.   Otherwise, you might be betrothed to a third party who owns your audience.

The post Your Facebook Reach Is About to Drop Considerably. Now What? appeared first on LocalVox.

Ad agency review time is always an adventure and a great deal of fun. It happens at most companies at 18 month intervals and sometimes the incumbent agency retains the account and sometimes not.

The decision to change ad agencies has less to do with agency competency and more to do with investor sentiment, franchisee rancor and leadership personalities. You gotta blame somebody for marketing and operational failures and why not the ad agency?

The big win is...get a new agency.

Ad Agency review is an invigorating diversion for the executive leadership team not to mention all the beneficial and reckless wining and dining. And I'm talking the best Cabernets and Kobe or Wagu Beef you'd could never afford.  (How does that Ad Agency afford it?)

What you hear at pitch time is very predictable in terms of creative, media buying, local store marketing - LSM and the ever popular Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, G+, and all sorts of other exciting ideas!

Ok, you really want to know how will the ad agency make franchise sales happen instantly. Short answer- that they won't.

Sure there will be a change.  But, any change will result in what is known as the Hawthorne effect - a change with only short term value.

At agency pitch time you'll hear the CEO, CMO or CDO ask how can you help us with new franchise recruitment?

You will get this answer. "We can do that in spades with all our resources in copywriting, competitive intelligence, targeting and breakthrough marketing it's just not a problem."

Well it is a problem.

After the ad agency agreement is executed and they start by changing your logo, re-describe your brand, redo your menus, make new product recommendations, put together a Facebook contest, get you a gazillion Twitter followers and re-write your consumer facing marketing scripts they will after about 3 months get on with new franchisee lead generation.

New franchisee recruitment recommendations by the ad agency will range from a complete overhaul of your website, new brochures and collateral material, trade show trinkets, increase your web portal spend, work on your SEO and add call this 800 number or visit this website to buy a franchise to your napkins, bags & table toppers.

You will waste the next 18 months buying the ad agency franchisee recruitment malarkey. But you shouldn't since they will bedazzle you with what they are doing for the brand and beg you to wait for the stuff they've done to gain traction.

The next 18 months will expire and it will be time for c-level leadership to decide who'll pitch next, and which agencies will wine and dine the best.

And for those charged with recruiting new franchisees they will be left holding the bag and try to keep their job since as fate would have it they are on an 18 month timeframe career path as well.

Franchise sales problems are solved by better sales processes and specialized marketing that ad agencies are typically ill-equipped to provide.

When you need your franchise sales process to just work better, connect with me on LinkedIn and let's talk franchise sales.

"We can write our own press releases. Why would we pay someone to do it?"

At Ripley PR, we understand why this question is asked, especially with many C-level executives and business owners trying to watch their bottom line.

Here's why you should rethink your strategy and have a public relations professional not only write your press releases, but to speak with the media on your company's behalf.

  • Best Practice: The same spelling and grammar rules that you learned from your English teacher in grade school do not usually apply in the media spectrum. A PR pro knows to use best practices for journalistic writing, which means writing within The Associated Press Stylebook guidelines and producing original content. Reusing (or recycling) existing releases can hurt your credibility, rather than help, and not using "journalism grammar" rules can be the sole reason your release doesn't get coverage.
  • Consistency: Public Relations should be viewed as an investment. It's not an effort that will give you results overnight, but with dedication it can be extremely beneficial for developing leads and credibility in your industry. That dedication to garnering "earned media coverage", requires consistency. A public relations agency has the ability to continuously produce content for your company and the expertise on the best ways to pitch it to the media.
  • Relationships: A significant part of a public relations professional's job is to build relationships with key influencers in your market and industry, in order to leverage better coverage for your company. We take the time to nurture those relationships and build authority through content that is relevant and follows best practice.
  • Tools: Most importantly we have the tools to do everything that is needed for great and relevant coverage, plus we are experts in it. We know what it takes to get the best possible coverage for your company in the media.

You can take your public relations efforts a step further by finding an agency that specializes in your industry. This increases your chances of valuable media coverage because the agency professionals know your industry, understand your business challenges and have already developed relationships with key trade media players in your industry.

Are you ready to make the investment in public relations? Ripley PR specializes in B2B public relations and has the experience and knowledge to help secure media coverage that will result in increased lead generation for your growing business.

What to write, what to write, what to write. Think, think, think. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

We've all been there. Complete brain freeze.

The only problem? You need, need, need to get this blog article out. You've already pushed it to the last minute, and you're down to the wire. It simply can't wait.

So you're in a predicament. What do you do?

Truth be told, we often find ourselves in this predicament, and when we're in it, these are some of the things we do...hopefully they can be a starting place for you, too.

Tell a success story - Think of moments big or small that have happened in your business recently that can be a celebration. Did a client give you a pat on the back? Can you give an employee a pat on the back? Did you achieve a new benchmark? Successes come in big and small packages, and your audience always wants to share in them. So let them.

Turn a frustration into a teachable moment - Has something frustrated you recently in your business? Why? How can you use that frustration to educate your audience about your business?

Repurpose a presentation - Look through old presentations you've given. Choose one and put the highlights together in a blog post. It can be bullet points and very high-level. You don't need to give it all away. Just an overview will do.

Make it personal - Share your story. Talk about you. After all, people do business with people, not businesses. Whether you write about yourself or your boss or your employee, give an inside glimpse into who you, the people behind the business, really are.

Spread the love - A.K.A. Delegate - Not every blog has to come from you. Ask employees to contribute their stories. This gives your audience even more insights into who you are as a company. Plus, it keeps content and writing styles fresh and new.

Invite a guest - Ask someone you respect from another business that somehow compliments yours to contribute a blog. This will benefit them because it will give their business added exposure and boost their credibility. It will benefit you because you're showing your audience a larger spectrum of content that is beneficial to them. It's a win-win, and you didn't have to write anything. The only downside? You typically have to plan this one a bit in advance.

Ask your audience - Seriously, ask them a question. What's something you want to know. Start a conversation. Create a poll or a survey. Make it fun or make it market research or both.

Make a Top 10 list - Top 10 menu items, top 10 dress styles, top 10 favorite performers, top 10 learning tips, top 10 blogging tips J.... Think of 10 things your audience should know about and put them in a list.

Write a How-To - You know you're the expert at what you do. You have knowledge that your audience needs, so share it. Tell them how to do one thing they need to know how to do. Just one thing. Save the next thing for another blog.

If you still need help with your content marketing and blogging, connect with me on LinkedIn using the business card below and let's talk.

LinkedIn is widely known as the professional social network. So, it would make sense for people to assume that it is largely for B2B companies. While it is true that LinkedIn is one of the most beneficial social networks when it comes to B2B, the Social Equity a brand can garner as a result of having a LinkedIn presence - whether it is B2B or B2C - is quite high.

Today, we aim to explain where the Social Equity of a LinkedIn presence is found, and how you can determine the value added to your business as a result of having both a personal and company page on the social network.

The Benefits of LinkedIn

To understand how we can derive Social Equity from LinkedIn, we first need to understand what the benefits of a LinkedIn presence are to our business.

As we noted above, LinkedIn is often perceived as the professional network. As such, it is an arena in which professionals actively seek out industry influencers, leaders and authority figures.

Therefore, it is one of the easiest niches in which to establish yourself as an industry-leader within your market. Social networks on the more general scale, like Facebook and Twitter, are mediums in which we can establish our brand as an authority with the general public, but for any company, be it B2C or B2B, LinkedIn is the best avenue through which we can build our credibility with members of our own industry.

On the other side of the spectrum, LinkedIn is an excellent network for seeking out the advice and tips of other leaders and professionals, and applying those bits of advice to our own strategies.

Though LinkedIn Answers was a great feature in which to do this before it was removed, LinkedIn Groups are still a powerful tool, and include higher engagement rates than almost any other feature on social media.

Contrary to many social networks, LinkedIn is a place where professionals are seeking out the opinions and inputs of others, and the element of self-promotion (not in its purest form, but close to it) is not only accepted, but in many cases encouraged.

So, how does this all add value to your business?

Social Equity Derived from LinkedIn

Having both a personal account and an active company page on LinkedIn can generate quite a bit of Social Equity for your brand. With a well-orchestrated strategy in place, we can quickly build our authority in a given field and begin driving referrals to both our personal pages and our websites. This holds true for both types of businesses.

Even as a B2C entity, we are still looking to build market authority, and LinkedIn is one way of doing that.

You have a retail store. You create a profile on LinkedIn, and begin sharing what you really know about running a successful retail location, or a successful e-commerce website.

By sharing your authentic expertise with your network, you will see your influence, as measured by your LinkedIn referral traffic begin to increase.

It is important to understand that in any industry, people want to associate themselves with the best. Whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or a retail-savvy basement blogger, industry leaders and influencers receive the most attention on a network like LinkedIn, and that translates to Social Equity.

The value added of a large professional and referral network is highly coveted.

Consider not only the calculated value of your business assets, but the value added of an extended network, an established industry leader at the helm of your company and your industry influence. All of this is capable through the strategic use of LinkedIn.

How are you using LinkedIn to generate Social Equity for your business? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

I was raised by a very tough man.  He never praised us for doing things well. That was expected of us.  However, if we did something wrong, oh we heard about that ASAP!

So I grew up and became an employer and wondered why I was so sensitive to criticism; and while I hand out lots of praise (I am sure I wanted to give what I didn't get), I let people know when something was wrong.  I started out approaching things from what's wrong instead of what's right.  I learned to try very hard to do the opposite when I saw reactions from younger people.  I also noticed that I felt the same way about clients.  Many clients never let you know what you have done that's been great and what you've done that has really worked for them.  Too much leverage? Worried we'll raise our fees?   

Cut to being in the PR business for 32 years.  I have had lots of employees and lots of clients.  Firstly, an employee's favorite word is "respect".  I never really understood the exact meaning of that. I always was taught that you respect your elders, those who have been through life's hard knocks already.  I give respect to those who give it to me. If a 24 year old speaks to me in a certain manner, they are gone, baby gone.

Having said all this I can't tell you what it means to get an email from a client who says, "Thanks Samantha and everyone at SandersonPR for what you do for us every day".  What??  

No, thank YOU Chuck Schwalbe, Marketing Maven from Erbert & Gerbert's Sandwich Shops for being a prince to work with.  Other clients who only show us what your competitors just got in the news? Umm, focus on your own companies, franchisees, employees and vendors and you'll end up successful enough to be in the news too!   

On another note, when is praise too necessary?  I saw a Facebook post today about being patient with kids on Halloween. "Don't be upset if a child takes too long to choose, maybe he has a focus issue, don't tell a child they took two pieces and that it's wrong, maybe he has a need to be special."

WHAT?  How about, "Don't rescue your kids from every possible obstacle that gets in their way because there are a lot more where that Halloween one came from!"

Constant coddling, praise and "motivation" is what I am always seeing in "how to motivate your employees" type articles. Guess what? I was motivated because Mom and Dad were not paying any of my bills. Try that for motivation.  Also, teach your kids that they need to respect and listen to what their employers say, or go get a paycheck somewhere else.  Life IS hard work and unless you are an heiress, get used to it and go into a job giving all you can and proving yourself, not acting like you need to be motivated to do anything.

Just a little advice. 

As a franchisor, of course you want to have a brand that is well-recognized and well-respected in the marketplace. Sometimes, however, things are going on behind the scenes that you may not even know about...and they may be causing your online brand damage.

Answer these 10 questions to determine whether your franchise brand is in good shape online or if your franchise needs some help to get its online brand management on track.

Franchise_Online_Brand_Management_Infographic-468x1024.jpg

For each "no", deduct 10%.

If you got 70% or less, your brand needs help. Connect with me and let's talk about how Wired Flare can help.

If you liked this, you should sign up for the LinkedIn Marketing & Advertising Tips from Franchise-Info newsletter.

Or, for more information on the Franchise-Info Business Directory, call Joe at 1-443-502-2636 or email Joe direct [email protected]

The first step to having an optimized Yelp profile is to claim your Yelp listing.

Once it's been claimed, be sure to use accurate categories for your business.

Below are some suggestions on how to set up your profile to expand your online reach.

  • Use photos! Have at least 5 photos, ideally from high resolution images
  • List your business hours
  • Be sure to list your current phone number and address
  • Provide an accurate and detailed business description, with search keywords throughout

1. What To Do Once Your Yelp Profile Has Been Optimized?

Once your Yelp profile has been optimized, businesses need to engage with the people leaving reviews, and that includes negative reviews too! People trust reviews, even online ones. 79% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and 44% of customers base their decision after reading a review. It's key to thank positive reviews and encourage them to come back; while it's equally important to respond to negative reviews. Below are a few tips on how to handle a negative review. If you want to help customers, give them tips on how to avoid the Yelp review filter.

2. How to Respond to Yelp Reviews (Even Negative Ones)

Yelp Court Ruling Consumers33% of negative reviews turn positive when you respond to them, so your social reputation is within your control as long as you have a social reputation monitoring tool so you know what people are saying about you.

It's critical to remember that the people leaving reviews are real people and often vocal and opinionated. Acknowledge the negative post and the issue they describe and ask the person to contact you offline. Be very polite and be sure to use proper grammar. If the person has a legitimate gripe, address the comment and provide a path to resolution offline. The last thing you want to do is go back and forth in front of the entire online world.

The absolute worst thing to do is to respond and defend your business online, while you're still angry; this can lead to bad press and even make national news. Remember, ignoring a negative review is the second worst thing a business can do.

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

Connecting potential customers with your brand is key to driving the success of your business. Humanizing a brand can establish trust and create commonality between a business entity and its customers. So how can you be relatable as a company? How can you genuinely convey to your customers that you understand?

Start by telling your story.

With the emerging concept of brand journalism, storytelling is more relevant now than ever before in marketing and B2B public relations efforts.  The tradition of storytelling is often rooted in history, and telling your brand's story is no different. Revealing history can establish a brand personality and invite your audience to share in the business journey of your company.

How yesterday became today matters, and telling that story shows your drive for success and growth as a company. When you share where your company came from, the challenges along the way, as well as the successes, you create a spirit of authenticity for your brand. Your story becomes honest and engaging, which cultivates trust and leaves customers coming back for more.

How can you share pieces of your company's history with your audience? Here are three ways to easily connect customers to your history:

1. Share on social media. We've all seen an Instagram or Twitter Throwback Thursday post from a friend. Reminiscing is not just for baby pictures and high school prom photos. Your company can join in on the trend. Posting a #tbt, as it is known on social media, can give customers relatable insight into your business. You can post a picture of a former office building, your first logo draft, or group shots from previous years' holiday parties. Don't forget to add #tbt and tag anyone included in the post to boost engagement.
2. Write a blog. A throwback picture can easily be turned into a blog post. The great thing about posting a story of company history is that it is not in your face or promotional. Your audience can read the blog as they would any story without realizing the author is a business entity. Make it a genuine narrative providing understanding into your brand's past.
3. Involve your audience. When you tell a story about the past, ask your audience to do the same. If you post about your CEO's first job, leave your audience with the question, "What was your first job?" Do they have a memory of your business from years past? Ask them to share with a comment or picture. Engaging your audience by asking questions evokes emotion and, again, humanizes your brand.

Nostalgia is warm and inviting. If your business has thrived throughout the years, let your customers know. A business with history means a business with success. If you know you need to connect with your customers more effectively, but don't know where to start, Ripley PR can help. We have experts on hand who can develop social media strategies and create blog content so that your story can be heard.

A tale of a man, a woman, their plumbing, two countries and Google.
by Frances Leary

I'll be the first to admit that dishing out Google compliments is not something I endeavor to do on a regular basis. In fact, to the contrary, I am typically so perturbed with Google's latest algorithm change that I'm rather on the quick side to voice my disdain for the organization.

Well, this time I'll have to eat my words.

It all began with a late-night kiss goodbye as I bid my husband farewell and he set off on his business trip to Athens, Greece. A few days later, the kiss was followed-up by a well run dry, an overworked water pump and a malfunctioning valve shut-off device.

I'll spare you the plumbing details. Suffice to say that we had no water.

Now, I want to preface this all by saying that I had been well-prepared for every issue that we had anticipated might happen. And I tried everything I knew to try. Obviously we hadn't been prepared for this specific problem.

By process of elimination, it seemed the culprit was likely the snazzy electronic valve control that always seems to cause problems when my husband is away. Go figure.

So, instead of calling a plumber, I Google Hangout-ed (is that a verb?) my husband. Yes, while he was in Greece. And he Google Phoned me back...from Greece...to my cell phone in Canada.

We took care of the first part over the Google phone...only to be interrupted by his trip to the Temple of Poseidon. Poor thing, I know. On his return, we spent nearly an hour on Google Hangout so I could use the camera to show him valves, etc. and so he could listen to the variety of whirring sounds the pump was or wasn't making at any given time.

With the help of a variety of wrenches large and small, we got the water running again. Whew! Thanks to my husband, my coordinated use of hand tools and Google...we had running water again. And at NO cost to us.

So, I'll give Google its due. Google Phone's call reception was clear and had only a bit of a delay, and my husband was able to call my direct phone number. The video quality of Google Hangout was also excellent, and only slightly delayed. What a truly fantastic service...no cost to connect from one side of the world to the other.

And that, my friends, is how Google fixed my plumbing.

The End.

Any great business idea is just that without proper execution. If word fails to spread, idle progression, slow growth, and reversion can plague any business model, including franchises. Implementing a company's vision requires a certain flare that tends to ignore bashfulness and goes straight for glory in order to get the message out in the open. One surefire way to extinguish any slow growth is to carry out a well-established franchise public relations plan.

While the franchise model as a whole is an excellent business idea for growth, it isn't without its failures. Just two years ago, the Small Business Administration reported it repurchased 3.4 percent of franchise loans that could no longer maintain their loan payments. This could be a result of numerous factors but the simple truth is, these businesses failed to gain new franchise leads. Ensuring your franchise model actually captivates potential owners should be conducted in a different manner than say appealing to consumers because at the end of the day, even though consumers maintain revenue, it's entrepreneurs that build growth.

What PR does for a franchise is take the company's model and markets it to business people the way they want to take in information.  Prospective franchisees are savvy beyond belief and not just any advertisement will capture their attention enough to buy in. They yearn for third party endorsements from seasoned advisors and experts such as dedicated business analysts and journalists - people who specialist agencies such as Ripley PR know how to reach. By securing these endorsements, entrepreneurs who engage with specialized publications become aware and intrigued by a franchise model and begin to research on their own.

This is where PR can benefit a franchise even more. Public relations professionals are expertly trained in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and will create a strategy to make sure your company comes up first and foremost in any search engine. The modern world is driven by the internet and social media and having a presence is paramount for business success. This is something PR can do for your franchise and it does it with specialized language that specifically appeals to the people that matter most - leads.

For many franchisors, juggling a million things at once is not uncommon and conducting a well-planned PR plan is often times simply too much to handle. For these companies, there are agency professionals like us at Ripley PR. What separates us from the rest is how we mix our varied experiences into one concentrated focus to benefit your unique business. If your franchise development is struggling, contact us to find how our specialized PR plans can get your name out there to the right people.

Content management system? Check. Blog design and title? A bunch of words written on a page? Check?

Here at LocalVox we know how daunting running a quality blog for your business can be. But just because it seems overwhelming, that doesn't mean you should give up. The truth is that having and maintaining (don't forget that second part!) a blog is one of the most important things you can do for your business.

Our mission is to help you be successful in all your marketing endeavors, which is why we started our blogging tips series in the first place. But with so much literature on the subject, it can be easy to get lost in all the things you need to do.

So you've taken all the steps to make a good blog, yet your content seems like it's only being read by your grandma and spambots. Well, you're probably making these seven mistakes.

1. You're a Follower, Not a Leader

There are times when it's a good thing to be a follower, like when you're playing a team sport or becoming a synchronized swimmer. But when it comes to your company's blog, copying a popular blog's writing style and topics is a guaranteed way to usher your blog to a quick death. Why should your readers go for the copy when they have an all access pass to the original?

It's easier to be a leader if, from the get go, you occupy a niche space that no one has covered yet. If that's not possible, try using the blue ocean strategy to help differentiate your blog from the others. It's a handy guide for being unique.

2. You're Too Complex

And we don't mean in a misunderstood artist way. Want to hear a secret? Having a complicated and detailed content strategy will not ensure success. Not even the most convoluted plan can predict the twists, turns and drop offs that are all a part of the content roller coaster ride.

Let's call all this planning what it is-fear. And it's eating away at the time that you could be spending by actually creating the content. In the wise words of Yoda, "Do or do not. There is no try."

3. Content Is an Afterthought

Behind every amazing local blog is a dedicated person or group of people who care about its performance. In the same manner, behind every crappy blog is a person or group of people who treat it as an afterthought.

There are the telltale signs of an afterthought blog: inconsistent posts, rife with grammar mistakes and topics that are as stale as day old bread. Just making your blog a priority will improve your posts. It will also help if you have difficulty coming up with post ideas. Because you're making the blog a priority, you mind will constantly be churning about possible blog posts. And trust us, the best ideas can come in the weirdest places and the most unexpected times.

4. You're Afraid to Be Dennis Rodman

Now we're not saying that you should dye your hair and start playing basketball in drag. But too many business blogs are so consumed with playing it safe that their blogs are boring to read. The problem? They don't have a unique point of view.

Embrace your and your company's quirks and eccentricities and use them to liven your content. Show your readers what life is like behind the scenes through funny videos (It's also a great way to boost morale at the office). Let them know about your worst failures. It won't tarnish your reputation, instead it will make you look more human and relatable.  At the very least, insert some personal anecdotes into your posts. Not only are they more fun to read, but they help readers remember your content more.

5. You're in It for the Sale

Excuse our French, but people's BS meter go up when they know your blog post is a product or service sales pitch cloaked in a blog post. And when you consider that 571 new websites are created every minute, you really can't waste any time. Create your posts with the goal of providing value for the reader, instead of a sales pitch. There's a reason why content marketing is a long term strategy.

6. You Publish the Same Thing Every Week

Vary the types of content you publish. Mix it up (and save yourself time) by curating posts. For example, if you run a childcare business, you can share lists of weekend events that are tailored to kids. And if you are a plumber, share an article about copper vs pac pipes. Curating posts not only invigorates your blog, but it's an easy non-spammy way to promote someone's article or event. You get new content and their site gets traffic. And in the future they can return the favor.

Another way you can vary your posts is by changing their lengths. If most of your posts are under 500 words, start publishing 1000-2000 word posts once in a while and vice versa. Use bullet points, numbers, and images to break up blocks of text. Include puff posts and researched longform post. Variety is the spice of life and it's also what makes a blog interesting. A simple way to break up the monotony is by hiring a guest writer. Because they're not apart of your content team, they'll bring a fresh perspective.

7. You Don't Build on Existing Content

Don't be afraid to show off your knowledge about a specific topic. When you write about all angles of a subject, you build trust with your reader by positioning yourself as a thought leader. For example, the most popular post on real-estate.com was "3 Trees Never to Plant in Your Backyard". From there they could publish a post titled "Remodeling That Hurts the Value of Your Home" and another post titled "How to Select a Real Estate Broker". Building on existing content is also a very helpful tactic for when you run out of content ideas.

What are other ways to make a local blog better? Let us know in the comments. 

The post 7 Mistakes Preventing Your Local Blog Content from Being Great appeared first on LocalVox.

Often times, many companies consider public relations as a service used only during times of crisis.

Working with the media and managing a company's reputation during an emergency is all part of public relations; however, there is much more to PR than just crisis communications.

In its entirety, public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relations between organizations and their publics. Public relations can not only manage a company's reputation during a crisis, it can also help brand and establish a company within an industry and/or geographic location.

At Ripley PR, we work with businesses to not only manage crises, but to develop a strong B2B public relations and marketing strategy that will impact a brand's profitability.

Here are four (4) ways we can use public relations to impact your business:

1. Content Is King
Creating strong content can help a business communicate their services and products more effectively. Content is a vital element of public relations, and it can be used in a variety of platforms, including social media, blogs, press releases, white papers, newsletters, case studies, website, bylined articles, and much more.

Companies that sell a product or service to other companies (B2B) especially need quality content. Buyers of B2B products are looking for a solution to a problem. Unlike business-to-consumer, you're usually marketing to more than one individual, and the sales cycle is much longer. Sometimes the person needing the solution isn't the actual decision maker, but they can sway the purchasing decision. It's important to turn technical, sophisticated jargon into clear messaging that resonates with multiple audiences.

By taking time to develop strong content, it can help customers make informed decisions about a company's services and products.

2. Recognition
The more well known a company's name is, the more influential they are in shaping opinions of their customers. Developing a B2B public relations strategy can help increase a company's presence with mentions in trade magazines, local newspapers, and other industry publications. Also, nominating a company for local and industry awards can also help promote a company's name.

This third-party credibility can help with lead generation and even shorten the sales cycle.

3. Social Media
Social media makes communicating with the public much easier, and taking time to incorporate social media into a public relations strategy is crucial. Utilizing social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram can help a business not only engage with their target audience, but can also improve a business' image and overall brand.

4. Improve SEO
When a business incorporates quality writing, secures ongoing editorial coverage and industry recognition, and establishes a strong social media presence with well-written blogs and social updates, it will positively impact a company's SEO. Improving SEO can help with brand recognition, as well as, help increase awareness of products and services too.

Incorporating a public relations strategy into a business will not only improve a company's brand, but it can also impact the bottom line. Taking time to build a positive brand before any negative news or crisis becomes a possibility, will help a company maintain their reputation in the event of a mistake or accident. To learn more about how to incorporate public relations into your businesses or company, contact the experts at Ripley PR.

A couple of years ago, on the ABA Forum on Franchising Listserv, a well known Canadian franchisor attorney posed this question to the group:

"A large franchisor has asked me to obtain recommendations of software used with success by other large franchisors to electronically manage franchise agreements and other documents, and to keep track of renewal dates, notice dates, lease dates, etc...", 

My response to this questions needs to be longer and may offend the promotional rules that the ABA enforces, so I will publish it here and not as a response on the ABA Forum on Franchising Listserv.

And no offense to franchise attorneys, as some of my closest friends are attorneys who practice franchise law, however I've found few that can answer this question - as it is largely an operational one.

With over 20 years of franchise operational expertise, I have run across just about every problem a database could solve.

The secret about database software is that many franchisors who have implemented a solution aren't using what they've built.

They may be just using certain modules or features so that the franchisor CEO may proclaim the success of automating his enterprise.  

 A. What does the franchisor really need database software for?

There are two reasons a franchisor uses database software:

a) is to manage new franchise sales, and;

b) to ensure communications are delivered to franchisees.

However, the selling of franchises is the primary objective.  

There are good reasons to automate a franchisor's processes, procedures and information.

Unfortunately, most franchisors are not organized well enough.  They will have serious challenges in figuring out how to implement an database solution.

A database solution can't magically transform a franchisor's sales process, document management, operations support, ongoing training, local and national marketing programming, and social media if the franchisor doesn't already have those functions organized and working smoothly.

A database solution can't make your people smart.  You may not like what you discover about your team and how they perform their work as you implement your database solution.

The processes you think are in place and guiding your business  may be written down or in a work flow chart defining the critical path, but the reality of what actually happens may be different - in a startling way.

And if you choose to not carefully consider and inspect, you will be automating garbage.

B. So what's a franchisor to do?

·         Well first stop asking your franchise attorney for technology advice.

·         Look internally, audit and document top-down your business practices.

·         Do ask your franchise attorney about compliance and your franchising practices.

·         Determine what you want as a franchisor out of database automation.

·         Thoughtfully involve your franchisees in the process.

·         Think about what you can do now with what you have today in preparation for eventual automation.

·         Don't be fooled by the siren call of franchisor nirvana by database providers.

Here is one, of many, simple exercise: how do you document the receipts of your franchise disclosure documents?  Can you instantly find the receipts of all the franchise disclosure documents and match them up with the execution of the franchise contract? Would your franchise attorney be happy with this record?  

If the answer is no, you need to work on your internal audits before thinking about a database solution.  If you passed this simple exercise, then I might be able to assist you in picking the appropriate tasks to automate with a database solution.  

Connect with on Linkedin if you want to discuss more.

Recently, I tweeted out to one of members, Frances Leary, that our main social media goal was to have the most interesting groups about Franchising in LinkedIn.

Franchise-Info is a member supported community, which means although we aggregate our member's articles, we never have any display advertising on the website.

Because Franchise-Info is supported by its members, this gives Joe and I the time to actively moderate all our 30+ Franchise LinkedIn groups.

I want to show the difference active moderation makes - the direct result of your support.

Joe and I think of the LinkedIn groups as networking opportunities for everyone.  A chance to chat, sometimes seriously, about important franchise issues.  

We don't want our groups to become the Craigslist for B2B marketers - who throw their blog into the group hoping that someone will go to their website.  

While we recognize that people market their services on LinkedIn, we also want to promote dialogue & discussion.  Thus, our tag line: Creating Intelligent Conversations in Franchising.

Joe and I can afford to spend the time in our groups doing this precisely because Franchise-Info is member supported.  Joe and I thank-you for that support.

Here is the value of moderation - less pitching and more conversation.

Look at the numbers.

Franchise Owners/Franchisee is our top group right now - with close to 10,000 members.

Here is last week's ratio of comments/discussions & promotions/discussions.

Last week 69 people wanted to post in this group.  

Apart from our member posts, 10, we let in only 5 others.  The 15 posts generated 21 comments.  

And each one of those comments triggers a special LinkedIn action - LinkedIn emails out the thread to everyone in the Group.  

So active posts are seen by the 10,000 members over and over - depending on how many comments the discussion creates.

Owner 1.png

Now consider the 5 groups with more members than the Franchise Owner/Franchisee group.

Other.png

 

1st Group- Franchise Networking

Let's take it from the top and start with Franchise Networking.  

Ok, despite their 25,000+ members, they had 63 people wanting to post a discussion.  

They let 54 in, which generated 2 comments. And you can see that -because the orange dominates the graph- this is usual.  

Franchise Networking is drop-off -people drop off their posts, never to return to talk and engage people.

Networking.png

3rd Group= International Franchise Association

What about the International Franchise Association's LinkedIn group?  Surely that must be much better - they have an entire staff to throw at the problem.  

In fact, they are worse.  Their orange line dominates the blue line - nobody is discussing any of the articles in the group.

Again, it is the Craigslist of B2B marketing.  People throw articles at you and yell: "Read my Stuff!"  But nobody is listening.

IFA 2.png

The numbers for Franchise Professionals, Franchise Executives and the Franchising Industry are similar.  

None of these LinkedIn groups are member-supported.

There may be many reasons other than discussion to join a group.  

But, when you want your discussion to be read, thought about, and commented on there is simply no better groups than the Franchise-Info LinkedIn groups.  And it is all because of your support -which Joe and I thank you for.

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