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Warning: this post might make you start craving FROYO...

 

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Mills from the PR team at Orange Leaf Yogurt. He's responsible for heading up OL Insider, their thriving intranet community. He spilled his secrets for getting engagement going, measuring success, and communicating across a broad spectrum of corporate and franchisee participants.

 richie-mills-ol

 

1. First, please tell us a bit about your community. Who are your members, and how are they using it? Is it completely private?

Our community is called the OL Insider. I will describe OL Insider as the internal Orange Leaf intranet or community platform that brings everyone affiliated with the brand from an internal perspective together in one location. We have corporate employees on the intranet, franchisees, store managers, some store employees and even Reese Travis- the Orange Leaf CEO. Our community is private in the sense that it is integrated with our marketing portal. Our marketing portal is where we house all materials stores need, and we ensure that we monitor login credentials and reset them often. This means, if you don’t have access to our marketing portal, you cannot access the OL Insider. No one can access it through the URL.

 

2. What made you take the leap to Hoop.la?

About a year ago, we really started looking into ways to improve our communication structure. My goal as the one in charge of corporate communications was to ensure that we weren’t becoming one-dimensional

by just sending out mass emails to store operators. An essential part of brand success for franchises such as Orange Leaf is to establish a system where there is dialogue amongst corporate members and franchisees/managers at the store level.

 

People communicate in different ways, and it’s not okay to send out communication without giving the receivers of the message an opportunity to provide feedback. Hoop.la provided the platform we were looking for. A community page where corporate can communicate and get instant feedback. It also allows store operators to communicate amongst themselves, share ideas and even ask questions and receive answers in real time. For those who love to communicate through visuals, the photo sharing aspect of the site allows them to do so. Need calendar updates? Hoop.la has all of that. It has truly been a great platform for the brand.

 

3. Which modules are you using? (Forums, blogs, chat?)

We currently use the Blog feature for communication coming from headquarters, and the Forum module mainly for store operators to start their own conversations. We also use the Clips and Calendar modules.

 

We haven’t started using the Chat module yet. We plan on using that soon, but we didn’t want to overwhelm community members when we launched the platform.

 

4. Do you have any key success metrics for success for your community? How’s it going so far?

Our goal is to have 100 percent of stores represented on the platform. It is easy to get stores that opened after the launch of OL Insider signed up, but the difficult part is getting all stores opened prior to the launch

of OL Insider to sign on. The good news is that, we have over 80 percent of all stores represented on the platform in less than six months. This is a testament to our willingness to provide a platform that gives store

operators a voice and an opportunity to share ideas and get the assistance they need to make their stores successful. I think another key for measuring success is to ensure that the platform is being utilized and is active. Since launch, we have been able to maintain an average of 10,000 standard page views a month.

 

The engagement on the site has also been great as well. Our goal is to maintain this standard and keep the page active, fun and informative.

 

OL Insider

 

 

5. How did you get the word out to your audience about the new community?

First of all, this is something our franchise system wanted. Our job was to listen to them and to find the best platform to meet their needs. Once the OL Insider launched, we used emails from our CEO, videos, and even hosted multiple webinars to guide store operators on how to use the platform. For the first few months after the launch, I don’t think an email or video was sent to the franchise system without mentioning OL Insider. Once store operators started using the page, they loved it and helped spread the word.

 

Another tactic we used was to post exclusive content on OL Insider that you could only access by signing up.

 

6. How is the community staffed? Do you have a formal community manager and moderators?

We don’t have a formal community manager, but I usually manage the site and stay on top of it. We have HQ members who are moderators and others who are super admins. We distinguish corporate members from store operators by ensuring that everyone has their title, department and contact information on their profile. Headshots also help store operators put faces to names. Store operators have their store and location on their profile to help identify where they are and has even led to new friendships for people in the same state.

 

7. How do you encourage Orange Leaf corporate staff to participate and create content?

The Orange Leaf Corporate staff love the platform because it gives us all great insight into how stores are doing and the great things store operators are doing in the communities. We also ensure that departments are keeping up with the content by placing the responsibility of answering questions directed at corporate on each department.

 

8. What advice would you give to anyone who is just starting out with a franchisee communication strategy?

Communication was never intended to be one-dimensional, and unfortunately, some companies are unsuccessful because they fail to listen to consumers or their key stakeholders. The best part about OL

Insider for me has been wealth of information and feedback coming from store operators. I work at Orange Leaf because I want stores to do well and be successful. Without store operators, I would have no job.

 

I would be making a mistake if I didn’t listen and learn from the people who are actually in stores selling yogurt. In less than six months, OL Insider has helped improve a lot of our systems just because of the ideas being shared on the platform on a daily basis. My advice would be to communicate through different channels, keep it simple and remember that the art of communication is not complete without feedback.

 

9. I always like to ask for funny/unexpected stories...has anything surprised you during the planning and launch of the OL Insider community?

Yes – I have learned that the best way to get people involved is to give them a chance to talk about themselves or share their photos. I was surprised to learn from a recent OL Insider survey that the majority of the franchise system said that the photo sharing feature of OL Insider (Clips) is their favorite part of platform. I really believed the forums would rank higher because of the great ideas we all share on a daily basis. I was wrong. But then I thought about how boring the platform would be without some fun images from stores, and then I agreed with them.

 

 

~Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Richard!

 

Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt is a choose-your-own-topping frozen dessert chain with more than 285 locations across the United States and Australia. Orange Leaf was ranked one of the top new franchises for 2013 by Entrepreneur Magazine. 

 

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