Franchise CEO Branding: The 10-Step Process to Become an Industry Thought Leader

Most successful franchise brands are led by CEOs with a clear and compelling vision for the company. They understand the impact effective brand building and brand nurturing have on employee recruitment and retention, franchise marketing performance, franchise sales, franchisee profitability and growth, and maximizing shareholder value.

Yet the majority of franchise CEOs championing brand development fail to capitalize on a critical component of brand building as we move into the new age of franchising — franchise CEO branding.

Staying silent while competitors become trusted industry thought leaders is not an option. It is time to lead the brand from the front, to become a trusted, relatable, and visible chief brand ambassador who personifiesthe brand values and vision that employees, franchise candidates, franchisees, and the media can buy into.

It has been estimated that 44 percent of a company’s market value is attributable to CEO reputation.* This shows you just how CEO reputation and company reputation converge to maximize market value.

*CEO Branding: Theory and Practice edited by Marc Fetscherin

The 10 Step Process to Become An Industry Thought Leader:

1. What Audience Are You Speaking To? 


 Current and future investors.

 Current and future employees.

 Current and future franchisees.

 Current and future customers of your franchisees.

 Existing influencers and other thought leaders who can help you connect with your audience and expand your reach.

2. What Information Do They Need?

 What are the problems or issues that keep your target audience up at night?

 What are the opportunities for you to help them achieve their goals?

 You need to put yourself in their shoes and understand their needs from their perspective.

 Only then can you hone your message to achieve the utmost engagement.

nineoneninemarketing co.

3. What Topics Can You Dominate: 

 After figuring out the target audience’s needs and objectives, the next task is to figure out your content angle. To do this effectively, you must gain access to content data analytics based on the actual online behaviors of your target audience to make sure you are touching all the right motivational buttons.

 How are you going to provide your target audience with the knowledge and information they need that is different and unique from other sources? Study the competition and map out the content topics and strategies they are using. Make sure your content strategy is ownable, compelling, authentic, and sustainable.

 When it comes to thought leadership, not only does your message have to be remarkable, but so should the way you convey and deliver that message. Here at 919 Marketing, we always strive to take a contrarian position, challenging status quo approaches, and insisting that franchise marketing decisions be based on real buyer intelligence and clear metrics. See the articles below.

4. Come With A Strong Opinion:

As mentioned above, you need a strong opinion on a topic you can legitimately be an expert on. Be bold, contrarian, against the norms, groundbreaking, most of all, be authentic. For example, see below for several articles I have had published in national media outlets:

 Why most franchise brands whiff at organic search

 Why franchisors hate their franchise marketing agency

 Why your franchisees hate you

5. Pick Your “Go-To” Format: 

 Once you have established your branding “voice,” it’s time to determine how to bring it to life.

 Each franchise thought leader has their preferred method of content creation; writing articles, writing blog posts, appearing in videos, podcasting, speaking engagements, etc.

 However, to truly reach and impact your target audience, you need to be able to re-purpose content in the various formats your audience chooses to consume.

 Your target audience may like to read short- or long-form articles, while others prefer to watch videos or listen to

podcasts or watch live/self-paced pre-recorded webinars.

The key is to be able to deliver the type of content your target audience wants, in the format they favor.

 An effective approach is “video-first content creation.” Here at 919 Marketing, we orchestrate TV-style video interviews with former TV reporters on our staff based on a pre-approved roster of topics that our client CEO is comfortable speaking to. When done correctly, this approach pays big dividends — a compelling CEO profile video capturing the CEO’s personality and thought leadership on the interview topics, with the ability to also produce multiple short-form videos, podcasts, webinars, written articles, and blog posts.

6. Pick Your Platforms: 

It is not enough to deliver your content in the format your audience wants, you also need to deliver that content in the channel your audience prefers.

An old client of mine from Nabisco used to always challenge our agency to bring him “fewer, bigger, better” ideas. We have found that most CEOs are comfortable selecting 2–3 of the following platforms to promote thought leadership content:

 LinkedIn

 Facebook

 Regular guest column in a major media outlet (franchising, business, entrepreneurial, trades)

 Personal YouTube channel

 Promoted or “boosted” blog posts

 Speaking (including IFA shows, podcasting, webcasting, conferences, and radio)

 Networking

 Awards/honors

7: Develop The Winning Plan: 

 The key to getting ahead is getting started. Now it’s time put together a franchise content marketing plan with goals, action items, timelines, and measurement.

 The plan should go deep into the audience, their needs and objectives, your theme, your content, and how we are going to deliver your content.

 A great way to start on your plan is to put an editorial calendar together. This calendar will enable you to map out your monthly content strategy throughout the year and ensure that you stay committed to the plan you develop. Again, online data on the topics your target audience is searching for should inform your strategy.

 Audit and refine your current social platforms, making sure that each social platform communicates the same personality and uses the right brand symbols to stay on the brand strategy you define in the content marketing plan.

8. Make Real Connections With The Right Influencers: 

 Once the plan is developed, the next step should be to

identify influencers and other thought leaders that can help you attain your goal.

 It is a lot easier to be seen as an expert if you are connected to recognized thought leaders.

 Influencers may include reporters, other non-competitive franchise CEOs, franchise brokers, portals, category thought leaders (e.g. in-home care experts with large followings), and others that can give you the credibility you need to start your thought leadership journey.

 This is not a transactional relationship — you must give to get. Study their body of work, reach out, and be informed about who they are and who they are talking to. Ask for help and advice. Become a trusted connection.

 Host a podcast, a Q&A series on your company blog, hold a virtual roundtable event and serve as the moderator, and invite other industry leaders to be guests.

 Securing a simple backlink from an industry thought leader, media outlet, or other high traffic websites to content placed on your company or personal website can pay big dividends.nineoneninemarketing co.

9. Enjoy the Journey. Never Stop Learning.

 A true thought leader never stops learning. In order to become a true authority, you must continue to enhance your knowledge and learn from others.

 Watch and learn from other thought leaders, do research, and read voraciously within your area of interest.

 Keep up with the latest trends and explore new ideas and new methods.

 Track and analyze the performance of the content you create over time — learn from it.

 Use data analytics to validate your content calendar.

 Stay on top of your game.

 Make it fun!

10. Play For The Long Haul.

 You need to make a commitment to be relentless in your pursuit of greatness. It’s like a health club membership — you must consistently put in the time it takes to see real results.

 Create an electronic library of on-going ideas and insights where you can store potential story ideas and be able to create great content over time.

 Never stop building your eco-system of influencers — it is the difference between running a marathon by yourself or building a track team to run sprints together.

 Thought leadership is not something you can buy or take shortcuts with. It is not easy, and it will not happen overnight. But it works!

Investing in an integrated CEO thought leadership and franchise brand building strategy ensures a clear company mission is consistently communicated throughout the organization — including investors, current and future employees and franchisees, and serves as the touchstone for all future sales and marketing programs.

Like how movie stars influence public opinion about an upcoming movie they are in,

CEOs play a similar role in shaping the perceptions of employees, franchisees, and investors.


your personal brand transcends the current CEO role you are in. When you are ready to move on to the next challenge — your brand travels with you. Whether it’s serving on a Board of Directors, starting a new company, consulting, becoming a national speaker, etc.

And you leave the franchise with a solid brand foundation for the next ownership team to expand upon.

Are you ready to create, manage, and accelerate the growth of your personal brand? Done correctly, your franchise’s brand and your personal brand work in tandem to increase brand equity, boost stock prices, and add multiples to future transactions.

Let’s get started. Ready to be included in my next article?

More About 919 Marketing Company

Serving the franchising industry for more than a decade, 919 is ranked by INC. as the fastest-growing franchise content marketing and PR agency in the country. 919 Insights, the franchise industry’s exclusive AI-powered data analytics platform, uncovers and tracks actual buyer engagement and conversion on your brand website and social media platforms, and the platforms of your major competitors.

The resulting buyer intelligence powers 919’s in-house franchise content marketing services; brand strategy and messaging, LINK® strategic planning and research, CEO branding, crisis communications, national and local market PR, social media marketing, organic and paid search, creative services, and full-scale video production.

Every successful relationship starts with a conversation.

Start exploring a new approach to your Franchise Development Marketing efforts today.