A graceful exit: How to use PR to position your franchise brand for acquisition.
By Heather Ripley
You built a successful business from the ground up. Then you took that great idea and expanded it into a thriving franchise network. But now you might be looking for the exit, if not to retirement then maybe to a new entrepreneurial adventure.
In the day-to-day effort of keeping your franchise network growing, you may have overlooked an important factor: your exit strategy. What is your plan for transitioning your franchise brand to new ownership, realizing profits from the sale, and reaping the rewards of your hard work for yourself and your family? Are you planning to sell to a competitor or another franchisor in a similar industry?
There are many factors at play in the eventual sale of your franchise brand, but perhaps the most important is this: Your brand is only worth what a potential buyer thinks it is worth. Value is based on perception. The higher the perceived value, the more likely you are to see your years of investment pay off.
Now is a good time to start planning for your exit. Franchise systems are showing amazing growth, and the franchise model is gaining in popularity and acceptance. Public relations is a powerful tool for making the most out of this trend. Growing awareness of your brand helps establish its value as a viable investment, making it easier and more profitable to sell and easing the transition of ownership.
Writing for Forbes, PR leader Suki Mulberg Altamirano noted, “Public relations can help play a role in driving greater valuations with investors. Looking for a return on investment, investors want to place their money in brands that are credible and expansive and have a positive image. For brands, it is vital that they constantly engage with the interested party, demonstrating the core values of their company and projections for future performance.”
Here are a few of the ways a great PR strategy can get you the best possible exit from your franchise.
Establish Brand Identity
A well-defined brand identity is key to driving valuation of your franchise network because it differentiates your franchise from the competition in the minds of consumers and potential buyers. Brand identity clarifies your company’s mission and target audience, along with the strengths and selling points of your product or service.
PR can hone your brand identity to appeal directly to your target audience and supplement that appeal by finding the perfect media outlets to reach that audience.
Positioning your franchise executives as thought leaders and trusted experts in your field is another way to build valuation. Expert, forward-thinking leaders demonstrate that your franchise network is well-run and is built on a solid foundation for future growth. Demonstrate and showcase this expertise with appearances in media outlets that appeal to your target audience and potential buyers.
Whether it’s a cover story in an industry magazine, an interview on a popular podcast or a regular column in a respected publication, media appearances put your brand in the spotlight and in the minds of potential buyers. A successful PR strategy will get you regular media appearances to keep your credibility fresh and relevant.
You can also grow your brand’s credibility by winning industry awards and earning placements on Top 50 and Top 100 lists. Awards build trust in your brand, and respected lists like Forbes’ America’s Best Franchises, Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 and Franchise Gator’s Top 100 are a one-stop shop for potential franchisees and those who might be interested in acquiring your brand. Award application processes can be complex and confusing, but an experienced public relations agency can craft your application and take the load off your shoulders.
When you are ready to sell your franchise, it will help the overall valuation if your business is already on potential buyers’ radars. A good, and maybe surprising, place to start reaching buyers is social media. Key industry players are on social media, and surveys show that, of senior executives who use social media for business purposes, 92 percent say social media has influenced a purchasing decision.
Strategic use of the right social media platforms can let you and your franchise take part in the industry conversation, bringing potential buyers’ attention to you. Public relations professionals know what social media platforms are best and can help craft your message there, as well.
Public relations can help with more than outward-facing communications. Good PR is also valuable for internal issues, including leadership transitions. When you decide to sell your franchise, it will be a delicate time for you, your home office staff, your franchisees and their customers. Worry over job security and the future of the company might run high. Well before the transition, a public relations agency can help you craft a plan that will frame your exit strategy in a positive light and help stem the tide of worry for everyone involved.
Another aspect of a transition plan is solid crisis management. If public or internal criticism emerges, a well-crafted crisis management plan will help you respond calmly and effectively.
Having both these elements in place before the transition takes place will also help your potential buyer feel more confident about the acquisition, showing them that you have given their purchase the attention and forethought it deserves.
A Smart Exit
If you leverage the power of public relations before you make plans to sell your brand, it is possible to significantly boost your franchise network’s valuation and make the transition easier and more profitable. Partnering with a public relations agency, particularly one with plenty of franchise experience, is a smart move anytime, but it’s even smarter when you’re considering a transition to new ownership. Put their expertise to work for you, and make your exit phenomenal.
Heather Ripley is CEO of Ripley PR, a global public relations agency specializing in franchising. Orange Orchard, a division of Ripley PR, champions franchisors that cater to environmentally-conscious consumers. For additional information, visit www.ripleypr.com or www.orangeorchardpr.com.