Rhonda Sanderson, founder & principal of Sanderson PR, shares her view of the line between public relations and advertising, and between ethical PR practices and unethical PR practices. According to Sanderson, Nick Powills, No Limit Agency and 1851 Magazine cross that line… and then some.
Rhonda Sanderson founded franchise public relations firm Sanderson & Associates, Ltd. in 1984. Sanderson has also served as chair of the Supplier Forum, an arm of the International Franchise Association (IFA), and hosted numerous IFA development seminars over the years. Rhonda’s been active on several committees of the IFA including the PR and Marketing Committee.
Anyone who knows Rhonda Sanderson can tell you that she is not one to mince words or be shy in expressing her opinion (as UnhappyFranchisee.Com can attest, having been on the receiving end of those opinions a time or two).
When we asked Ms. Sanderson what she thought of the controversial quasi-public relations approach taken by Nick Powill’s No Limit Agency and their pseudo-industry magazine at 1851franchise.com, Rhonda was characteristically direct:
Yeah I’ll talk about this. As the oldest person in the industry at the moment I have plenty of experience and opinions on this.
Powill’s whole gig is a scam. There is no doubt. But most of us could see that from the get-go. On the inside anyway. The danger is for those on the outside.
Rhonda’s referring to the Nick Powill’s practice of publishing press-release type stories written by his No Limit Agency PR staffers and publishing them directly in a magazine format designed to look like a genuine, industry publication. No Limit PR and its franchise clients then flood Facebook and social media pages overwhelmingly positive reviews, rankings and awards to give the impression that its clients have received accolades from unbiased media.
We’ve documented No Limit PR and 1851 tactics and promotions in two recent blog posts ( NO LIMIT AGENCY & 1851 Magazine: Beyond Ethical Limits?, Nick Powills, 1851 Franchise & No Limit Agency: An Investigation ) and shared the opinions of other franchise communications professionals as well (Fishman post link)
Sanderson: Entrepreneur, Franchise Times Rankings Sell Ads, But Are Legit
Rhonda’s view is that the rankings from more traditional publications aren’t objectionable. While the publications use them to both attract readers and to sell advertising to the companies named in the rankings, the rankings are are fact-based and not purely pay-for-play:
Many of the rankings like Franchise 500 are legit. They use FDDs and base the “winners” on real criteria.
Now that doesn’t mean they are perfect investments filled with great people- but based on certain numbers their ROIs etc make sense.
Same goes for most rankings like Franchise Times 200 and QSR. Of course they then target advertisers but buying an ad doesn’t buy you a place on the list. That’s the line.
Other Franchise Publications Operate in the Grey Areas
According to Rhonda Sanderson, there are other franchise publications (Franchising Today, Franchising USA) that operate in a grey area where the line between advertising and editorial content gets a bit hazy:
Publications who tell you they want to do a story and then ask for your list of vendors such as Franchising Today or charge for their covers and stories like Franchising USA are not necessarily fraudulent if they disclose their model, but certainly are not taken seriously in the industry and border on unethical because they blur lines.
“The Real Frauds Are PR Firm Based and Owned Magazines like 1851” – Sanderson
In Sanderson’s opinion, there’s nothing wrong with a PR firm writing about its own clients – as long as the relationship is transparent and clearly disclosed.
She understands that the market for soft news, which clients still want to communicate, has virtually disappeared.
Sanderson started her firm’s DailyFranchiseNews.com blog 15 years ago. There was never any doubt that the content and opinions were those of a PR firm writing about its clients. Today, the blog is integrated into the Sanderson PR website, and most of the posts are still in press release format.
It’s ok to market your clients by providing a story with a link.
We were the first to do this 15 years ago with DailyFranchiseNews.com.
The difference is we didn’t pretend we were anything else but a great place to share franchise stories with a shareable link.
No dollars were taken to appear on the blog and no duplicity was involved.
“The real frauds,” says Sanderson, “are PR firm based and owned magazines like 1851.”
Meaningful Dialogue IS Still Possible in the Franchise Industry
Neither Fishman Public Relations nor Sanderson PR have been big fans of UnhappyFranchisee.Com over the years.
And that’s understandable: They get paid to create positive images for their clients and our site publishes comments and content that sometimes challenges those positive images.
They have a hard job and our site can make it harder.
Over the years, we have been attacked by hired hackers, sleazy reputation management firms, nasty attorneys (yes, Craig Tractenberg, that includes you) and some disreputable franchise sellers themselves.
However, we’ve never been aware of Fishman Public Relations, Sanderson PR, All Points PR, Greg Pitikoff’s GriP PR, Malloy PR, or other more traditional public relations firms being behind any of these attacks or any of the bullying we’ve faced.
While they may have advised clients not to engage with us or respond, I never got the sense that they would be afraid to engage in an open and honest dialogue about an important topic, nor would they remain silent if the integrity of their firms were publicly questioned.
I appreciate their willingness to comment openly on Powills, No Limit Agency and 1851 Magazine despite leaving themselves open to the misguided criticism that they are simply bashing a competitor.
However, despite numerous attempts via email and open invitations to provide corrections, clarifications or rebuttals to our posts, neither Nick Powills, No Limit Agency, Dr. John Hayes, or BizCom Associates have responded.
We once again invite the communications professionals to do what they have never hesitated to do when it came to self-promotion: Communicate.
The truth is that franchising only will work – and continue to work – as a legitimate growth strategy as long as those in the industry remember that “leads” and “prospects” are more than numbers to be converted into the “franchise agreements signed” columns. And franchisors who see franchise marketing as a hunt for suckers will, eventually, be exposed for what they are.
If legitimate franchisors and legitimate franchise service providers look the other way at the increasingly deceptive marketing tactics, including fraudulent award, rankings and magazines, we will soon find ourselves in an industry with a reputation akin to that of multilevel marketing, penny stocks and deposed Nigerian dictators willing to share their millions if you’ll only wire them some cab fare.
Please share your thoughts with a comment below or by emailing us in confidence at UnhappyFranchisee[at]gmail.com
NOTE: All companies and individuals discussed on Unhappy Franchisee are invited to submit corrections, clarifications, rebuttals or opinions by commenting on individual pages and/or by emailing us at UnhappyFranchisee[at]Gmail.com. Thank you in advance for engaging in open and honest debate, as is the American way.
READ The Series “Dr. John Hayes’ Franchise Fraud School & Pay-For-Praise Emporium!”:
Series Index & Overview: Dr. John Hayes’ Franchise Fraud School
Part 13: A PR Firm Should Pitch, Not Impersonate, The Media – Fishman PR
Part 14: Nick Powill’s “Whole Gig is a Scam” – Rhonda Sanderson, Sanderson PR
OTHER FRANCHISE DECEPTION-FOR-DOLLARS POSTS:
Dr. John Hayes Named Dickey’s Barbecue Pit one of the 12 Amazing Franchises for 2015. Here’s how things turned out:
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH NICK POWILLS, NO LIMIT AGENCY, & 1851 FRANCHISE MAGAZINE
PLEASE SHARE A COMMENT BELOW OR EMAIL US IN CONFIDENCE (UnhappyFranchisee@Gmail.Com).
TAGS: Nick Powills, 1851 Magazine, 1851 franchise, franchise public relations, Rhonda Sanderson, Sanderson PR, franchise PR, Franchise marketing