Franchisors: In times of panic, get control of your internal crisis communication and support

In times of panic and crisis, you the Franchisor and your team will be a main supplier of the most important commodity for your entire network: Information – accurate, relevant and fast information.

When franchisees are balancing their businesses on the edge, your support, guidance and experience is what they need more than ever. You and your management team must be their well of information, a safe haven to share concerns and get advice on whatever best practice can be given in such off-the-charts situations.

But the fast paced information flow needed when the world is in such a fluid state requires a plan, structure and smart tools to work with. Those who are centrally positioned must be given the best possible situation to keep things constantly updated and available.

As we all are painfully aware of now, a crisis has the potential to hit at any time. When you need to confirm staff safety, execute emergency protocols and distribute information to remote sites, email and general chat apps will be blunt and ineffective tools. It’s your intranet that will carry the load and provide access to network wide essential information and knowledge.

If there is one thing that a calamitous event like the coronavirus has taught us, it is to have a communication safety net like an intranet implemented: both for ordinary business, and the extraordinary.

Empowered franchisees and employees who understand their roles, responsibilities and the necessary escalation procedures or individuals to defer to will support a more effective response to any crisis.

Here’s our insights on how a franchise specific intranet can help with that.

Share crisis or emergency protocols, procedures, policies and documentation

Your franchise intranet has a key role to play as a centralized repository for essential information. Utilizing your cloud based intranet you can provide fast, easily searchable and centralized access to critical information your franchisees and their employees need.

A franchise intranet offers a single point of access, contrary to mass e-mailings, disparate apps and social media channels where you have no control whatsoever on who has access or if important information is actually read.

Use functions such as Tagging and keywords to ensure the right information is found efficiently in an emergency. The use of Mandatory Read functionality and Read Tracking to confirm read of critical information supports compliance and ensures staff are reading what you need them to. Compose messages on-the-fly within the intranet and broadcast to staff via the mobile app and push notifications.

Increase engagement to drive and test employee knowledge

There’s one major headache for any internal comms professional when it comes to policies and procedures – no matter how we dress them, they’re mostly perceived as “dry”. Ensuring they’re properly digested and understood by the workforce across all sites is an uphill battle, but it’s also a necessary one.

One way forward is to use integrated online Forms to create quizzes and share surveys into your franchise intranet to check knowledge retention against policies, and pulse polls or on-the-spot questions to keep the information front-of-mind. Again, access through the Intranet App on mobile devices and push notifications is an absolute must to reach your work force at speed.

Dedicate a crisis area for your crisis experts

Creating a dedicated Crisis Content area on your intranet can serve a number of purposes. Firstly, it creates a centralized area for the team to coordinate information and efforts, brainstorm potential crisis scenarios, and employees to ask questions.

With super fast drag-and-drop design tools you create dedicated information areas in minutes. Using Role specific and topic-dedicated Forum/Chat Groups, you can tap into front-line knowledge of employees to identify risks, vulnerabilities, or potential emergency situations, helping to minimize or even mitigate these events. If a crisis situation emerges, push notifications across multiple devices and multiple locations will support grass-root employees. Identify and find those responsible during a crisis quickly and effectively, escalating issues to the right individuals.

Give top-down information from “those in the know”

Once a crisis hits, the rumor mill gets going alongside. Avoid speculation or incorrect information taking hold by giving all stakeholders all the information you can in a single, centralized area.

While face-to-face communication from senior representatives provides valuable reassurance, having a written backup to refer back to is valuable.
Provide an overview of the situation, offer guidance or ‘next steps’ for management of the crisis if applicable, and link to any relevant policies, procedures, or individuals.
Having all the information on your franchise intranet will ensure your franchisees can feel calm, informed, and engaged. Senior managers can also quickly record, embed and share short videos, giving messages a more “human” touch.

With Role based permissions, your intranet will help targeting the right information to the right audience, avoiding overload of information. If you are an international network, this is even more important due to national differences and language preferences.

Provide shorter, frequent updates and delegate down the chain of command

Depending on the nature of the crisis, we often don’t have all the necessary information upfront: there are many moving parts, situations develop and evolve, often quickly.

Ensure relevant individuals get real-time information and alerts with quick links to further information if required. You can do this by using targeted sharing to individuals, teams, or locations – or to relevant policies, pages, or areas on your intranet. Using roles and access levels, you could delegate to country/area managers, franchisees, access to features for them to communicate local updates with those under their management. With notification settings, individuals will receive alerts via email and mobile push notification to keep them informed.

Create a franchisee social media toolkit during a crisis

Every individual with a social media account has the potential to become a spokesperson for your organization, particularly if issues escalate and all eyes turn to the company response. Rather than try to silence franchisees and employees, why not empower them?

A ’franchisee crisis toolkit’ is a relatively new concept, and many franchisors are understandably wary of giving franchisees and staff information with the sole purpose of encouraging them to go public. However, if we get our heads around the idea that they are going to anyway (which you very well know), it makes sense to be the ones guiding the message if possible. Having pre-set templates on the intranet allows for easy copying to other channels.

Coordinate assistance, support or response efforts

In a crisis or disaster situation that has an emotional, physical, financial or situational impact on individuals – whether colleagues or the general public – we find that most have a desire to help.

Utilizing a content area within your intranet to create an online ‘volunteer center’ can prove useful to facilitate or answer this need. Forums can be used for franchisees to request or offer support and be used to post information about how they tackle the situation. Cross network sharing is powerful and will strengthen the feeling to “belong”, not being alone in a tough situation. The essence of franchising.

Your intranet at the heart of a crisis

A communication hub like a franchise intranet is a powerful communications tool that brings your people together when it matters. Utilizing it effectively and thinking outside the box – both prior and during a crisis situation, no matter what the nature – can encourage a calm, informed and supported workforce.

Features like digital, interactive checklists helps you secure that relevant procedures or routines are adequately performed according to Standard Operating Procedures across all sites and stores. Real time reports, notifications and feedback on deviations will keep both local and central management on top of any issue arising.

When staff are empowered and in the know, that translates into more effective management of a crisis, beit internally or externally. Not only will they be able to provide the necessary customer service and support, but they will also reflect well on your organization and its ability to respond; protecting your brand reputation and reducing long-lasting negative impact.

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