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5 Pointers for Content Marketing at the Franchise Level

franchise-moneyQuestions revolving around content creation and promotion always seem to come back to one: Who’s in charge? You have copywriters, copy editors, writers and bloggers, CEOs, and content chiefs… the list goes on and on. The answer often depends upon the company and what works best for the industry, company size, even location, but things get a bit more complicated when you’re working with several franchises. You have the same top question, and you have the same people, but your efforts may increase 10-, 20-, or even 100-fold. In this situation, you have to ask yourself, “How is content marketing management different when working with franchises?,” as well as, “Is there really any easy way to manage it all?

How content marketing works with franchises

There are three major considerations when it comes to content and franchises:

1. Determine whether or not each of your branches will have its own website: In most cases, small companies with just one or two franchises can allow each location to have its own website — if there are things that differ significantly among each of the branches. For example, if one location is very rural and another is urban, each website may need content that offers different deals and incentives, or your content may need to cover different events happening in each community.

2. Determine what type of content you need to produce for each branch: Whether your franchise branches have their own websites or not, make sure the management team at each one understands the types of content you’re looking to publish, and why you’ve made these choices. If each franchise has its own site, more content will need to be produced, but the content strategy behind each piece will likely be more or less the same. You need guest posting, and you need content for the website or websites, and so your franchises need to know your expectations (more about this later).

3. Determine who will do the writing, the promoting, and the optimizing: This is where some organizational confusion occurs, so it’s important to have a plan set in advance, and to stick to it long enough to determine what’s working and what isn’t.

Top 5 content considerations for working with franchises

So once you know the questions you need to ask and the plan you need to follow, you must consider some of the answers to these questions (and some of the best ways to make it all happen). A few tips I’ve learned from working on the content team of a large, franchise business in the past include:

1. Have a master sheet to track content for all your branches: If your company is large, split these documents into different areas and have several different spreadsheets. This is the best way to stay organized when you’re working with so many different pieces of content. Give your franchises access to the document (I recommend Google docs because it updates in real time) so that it can continually be updated by all members of your team — after all, your franchise owners will know better than anyone what content their branch is putting out.

Below is an example of a master sheet:

In this particular example, I have different tabs related to my company and the content I’ve created for it. As a larger organization working with many different franchises, it might be best to just create a separate tab in the document for each branch.

franchise-spreadsheet(Click to enlarge)

The columns that I recommend you label include:

  • The PR contact for the website where the article was sent (or if it was posted to your company blog, or the blog for your franchise)
  • Notes regarding the article that you may need to have on hand, such as the call-to-action you used, the author who is credited for the post, or the post’s status if it is undergoing review.
  • The name of the website or blog where the article was submitted
  • The date the article was submitted, and the date it was published
  • The URL of the published article

2. Allow your franchise managers to hire writers: While your national branch should certainly be in charge of hiring its franchise owners, and even its managers, hiring writers is something that your franchise owners can handle on their own. To prepare them for success, make sure that they know your company’s editorial guidelines and what you recommend looking for in a writer, and then let them handle the hiring — the franchisees will be working very closely with the content creators they choose, so you should let them decide the skills and personality that they will work well with. If you’re worried about maintaining a consistent quality, have your managers run some of the new writer’s first few articles by you before publication, so that you can make sure it meets your company’s standards and that is aligned with your company voice and content marketing goals.

3. Ask franchise owners to optimize the searchability of content for their websites, or for the individual pieces of content they are producing, but make sure you have an SEO team working to find you the right keywords and complete data analysis on a company-wide basis (e.g., Google Analytics).

4. If possible, have a social media expert at the national branch level who can manage content promotion for all branches. This will help ensure that your brand remains protected and that there are standards in place for interaction with zero confusion or contradiction. Social media spreads information quickly, so you really can’t afford to have any miscommunication between your branches, or misunderstanding of what they should or shouldn’t say to consumers and others who are participating in the conversations your team creates.

5. Urge all your franchises to produce their own content (in addition to the content created by writers they may hire): When it comes to guest posting in order to build links and reputation, get all of your franchises involved. Teach your franchise owners how to pitch your site content and to find authoritative blogs that they can distribute your content on (the franchise owners might then teach the writers, if that works best for that branch).

Do you manage several franchise branches and have a great content management strategy? Have any of the above tips worked or not worked for you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

For more tips on managing the content marketing process across any organization, read “Managing Content Marketing” by Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi.

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