Managing The Message When The Media Won’t
“Good news about someone never gets past the door, but bad news will travel a thousand leagues away.” (author unknown)
First, I want to say what needs to be said and hasn’t been said in the past few weeks: Thank you and good work to all franchisees and field team members who toil away in support and execution of the 7-Eleven system, whether it is by being in the store or behind a desk at OAP in Dallas.
Lately, all we’ve been hearing are negative stories and reports about the actions of a tiny group of store operators. This ragtag group of rogue reprobates has caused damage to all franchisees, the 7-Eleven brand, and the system from which each of us earns our living. The old saying, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation and only a few hours to destroy it,” rings true—the long-term damage to our brand image caused by this scandal may be incalculable.
Even more disturbing is the deafening silence from Dallas. Except for a buried quote or two, I have not heard one murmured syllable about the hard-working, honest franchisees who are supported by their field consultants, market managers and Zone teams. This is troubling. I think it is long past due that the good news regarding who 7-Eleven franchisees are and what we do—day in and day out—be proclaimed, highlighted and heralded.
A good opportunity to spread this message would have been on 7-Eleven Day, with a quote from SEI to the media saying: “7-Eleven, Inc. thanks our franchisees, area licensees, vendor partners and all of our employees for working so hard each and every day to satisfy the needs of our guests and especially today in celebrating 7-Eleven Day. And a very big thank you to you, our Guests, for your loyalty by shopping at your neighborhood 7-Eleven stores.” I strongly believe a message like this would go a very long way in re-establishing our good reputation as an honest brand, as honest business people, and as valuable members of the communities we serve.
Our business, by its very nature, is often portrayed as “dangerous” and “high crime,” and there is truth to this. When an employee is senselessly injured or killed in a store, we all suffer, our industry suffers, and our families worry for our own safety. That is why franchisees so often respond proactively—donating to and recognizing families who suffer in these tragedies.
Is it now time to go further, to take a more proactive approach to tragic news in our system and our industry? As responsible retailers, we already regulate smoking and alcohol sales, and we have already proven we can affect public opinion when we publicize through our stores. An anti-crime and anti-violence message is most appropriate coming from those affected by violent acts.
All throughout the United States on a daily basis, individual franchisees and franchise groups are engaged and involved in community efforts. Of the 40 NCASEF FOA members, most have charity events and donate some time and effort to positive causes. MDA, St. Judes, Hire Heroes, and numerous other local charities have benefitted from franchisee fundraising. Just recently, the Chicagoland FOA was honored with a ribbon cutting for their donations and work at a local hospital. In August, the Rocky Mountain FOA raised $40,000 for MDA, and the Southern California FOA donated $20,711 to the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. At the July 2013 Las Vegas convention, local FOAs, vendors and individual franchisees banded together and raised over $60,000 for Susan G. Koman For The Cure.
The National Coalition has started to capture these stories and publicize with news releases the selfless and dedicated actions of franchisees on a national stage. I guarantee that there are many more “positive” stories about franchisees than negative ones, but it is up to us to bring attention to these acts and highlight the contributions we make in our local communities.
I extend my sincerest gratitude and thanks to all of our franchisees and our field teams for everything they do each and every day.