by Pete Burdon
last updated 14/11/2023
Splat! When Media Hits The Fan
by Pete Burdon
last updated 14/11/2023
News stories show need for franchises to be ready to handle hostile social and professional media
A number of New Zealand media stories over recent months show the need for franchise leaders to understand how to prevent negative press – and how to deal with it properly when it does rear its ugly head.
We saw what can happen in Australia a few years ago, when some big name franchises suffered major media criticism over a long period. Share prices tumbled and the bottom lines of innocent franchisees suffered massive damage. The reputation of franchising itself was harmed, leading to further government intervention and more compliance costs all round. Without commenting on individual examples, the way some leaders reacted to the news media multiplied the negative impacts.
While those examples were at the extreme end of bad press, what about less serious negative stories about franchises? These also affect revenues and reputations, and not just of a franchisee at the centre of an issue. Here are some recent examples.
Starting on social
Three of the recent scenarios in New Zealand had a strong social media link, as so many do these days. Negative stories either begin in traditional media and move to social, or go the other way from social to traditional. That’s what happened in the following cases, and that’s why it’s vital that a franchise has simple media and social media guidelines that are known to everyone.
1. When two heads aren’t better than one
The first example was when a franchisee of a major international brand posted on social media that he was looking for an employee aged between 16 and 60, which is a clear breach of the Human Rights Act – as commenters on social media quickly pointed out. The ‘outrage’ was quickly reported by The New Zealand Herald, and gained far wider coverage as a result.
If franchisees have their own social media platforms, it’s obviously difficult to police every move they make. However, there should be guidelines about what is acceptable and what must be avoided.
Worse than the social media backlash here was the lack of understanding around who can talk to professional reporters. A social media post that generates controversy will soon attract the attention of traditional media and they will want to talk to those at the centre of it. That’s what happened here: the problem is that they managed to talk to a store manager as well as a qualified company spokesperson trained to deal with such interviews.
In these situations, there should be a clear policy about who can talk to reporters and who must not. Not only can the untrained spokesperson fall into major interview traps without knowing it, but having more than one person talking to media often leads to two separate versions of what happened. In this scenario, the store manager and the company spokesperson were conflicted about who decided to place the advertisement. This wouldn’t have happened if ...
Pete Burdon is running a half-day seminar on Dealing with Franchise Media Threats on Thursday October 2023 - see more details
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