Tim Ebner is communications director and press secretary at the American Forest & Paper Association in Washington, DC. He is a member of ASAE’s Communication Professionals Advisory Council and a former Associations Now senior editor.
How Subway franchise owners talk and listen online.
What’s the secret ingredient to member engagement? For the North American Association of Subway Franchisees, it’s an online community that lets members talk and listen.
In 2014, NAASF was looking for a way to crowdsource conversations around important issues like minimum wage and overtime pay, but it lacked the technical know-how or experience to develop a technology tool. Instead, they partnered with Higher Logic, a cloud-based community platform, to give members a private space to exchange ideas.
Already, crowdsourcing has become a top membership benefit, says Executive Director Illya Berecz. She has a few tips for organizations thinking about using technology to crowdsource:
1. Educate your board first. You have to dedicate time and resources to train people on how to use your new platform, starting with leadership, she says. NAASF’s board “quickly embraced the technology... then it went viral from there.”
2. Encourage users to share the “little things.” Within about a month, Subway franchise owners started talking and sharing best practices and tips—things like how to set up your kitchen in the morning and how to train and retain staff. “It’s the little things that have a big impact,” Berecz says. In one case, a franchise owner, responding to an S.O.S. message, rescued another restaurant that had lost air conditioning.
3. Inform future activities by listening. Based on conversations in the platform, NAASF develops webinars, legislative briefs, and news updates on specific topics. “We really use this platform to listen,” Berecz says. “And it’s become [the] one-stop shop for our members to voice their ideas and opinions.”