Managing Manuals for Multiple Brands

Every Brand Needs A Single Source of Truth

The biggest threat to consistent messaging is content re-use, and every concept re-uses content. Multiple guides and playbooks (Operations, Training, Store Development, Marketing), multiple brands, multiple location types, multiple audiences – all require you to re-use copy, images, or videos across multiple channels.

How you craft that content from the beginning determines how well you’ll maintain consistency. 

The biggest threat to consistent messaging is content re-use, and every concept re-uses content.

(If you’re a single-brand concept – well-established or just getting started – this post is for you, too. Change and growth will happen, and the earlier you plan for it the less heartache and headache you’ll go through when they do.)

Basic Content Re-use

Cut-and-paste is how most single-brand concepts manage re-usable content. Brand positioning and creative approval processes outlined in the Operations Manual are also used in a Marketing Playbook. Approval for real estate is in the Operations Manual and also in the Store Development Guide. Content re-use is not only necessary it’s preferable, but cut-and-paste is a very limited tool.

The challenge becomes more obvious when you have more than one brand that has the same basic cash-handling, social media, handwashing, or emergency procedures. A change needs to flow through each brand and each guide (training, operations, marketing) that uses it.

Multiple Documents. Let’s say you’ve updated your sanitation policies due to COVID. You update your Operations Manual, but now you need to update the Training Guide. Have you changed the LMS or orientation presentation to be consistent? One change, three places (more, really, if you include in-unit signage).

Multiple Brands. If your sanitation policies are the same across all of your brands, you update Brand A (Ops Man, Training Guide, Orientation slides), then do the same for Brands B and C.  One change, 9 places.

Personalized. Maybe your brands have the same basic sanitation policies, but the procedures differ by concept type. A hair salon might differ from a waxing studio. A wing restaurant has the same core principles as a sandwich shop, but differences based on operations. One change, 9 places, 3 variations.

Localized. The health department in Florida, however, has different standards than either Texas or Virginia. One change, 9 places, 3 variations, multiple states.

You have a web of content, and change becomes exponentially more complicated with multiple brands.

Other Reasons to Re-use

We haven’t even discussed international locations, translations, or unit type (free-standing vs co-brand vs airport), and we’ve only mentioned the basic channels (PDF and web, but not learning management systems, marketing materials, and in-unit posters, checklists, and job aids).

Real World Example

Restaurant Brands International (RBI) recently overhauled the franchisee operations manuals for their three brands – Burger King, Tim Horton’s, and Popeyes. They converted hundreds of pages of PDFs into searchable, personalized content that could be more easily translated and accessed by their teams, and built a portal where more than 100k users do just that.

This was an impressive project – in terms of challenge and scope – with undeniable benefits to the three brands, as well as to their franchise partners who are now able to self-service information much more easily than with individual PDF manuals.

You can catch the webinar, where RBI’s Brand Standards and Restaurant Compliance teams explain it in their own words.

How to Manage Content the Right Way for Multiple Brands

  1. Topic-based – one topic, one page. It facilitates search, and makes it easier to adapt to different audiences.
  2. “Chunked” – introduction paragraphs, bullet points, images – all become assets for re-use.
  3. Connected – write once, publish everywhere is a good practice as soon as you have more than one channel or more than one manual/guide/playbook.
  4. Accessible – not just in terms of ADA compliance, but also to search engines, or to remote teams on mobile devices.
  5. Personal – each brand needs its own content; each role – from manager to maintenance – needs information based on their job function.
  6. Variable – the job description and responsibilities for entry-level team members are pretty much the same as for assistant manager and manager, with additional duties and increased experience. 

A Single Source of Truth

There is a way to bring order to what could become a chaotic network of content.

Good content management looks to control information at the source, then modify for audience and channel.

Managing operations manuals, playbooks, and guides for multiple brands is more challenging than managing the library of one brand. Keeping messages in sync – unifying brand messages, keeping brand-agnostic information consistent – is the real difficulty, and it only gets harder when each brand has multiple channels. 

You need both technology and sound content management processes (governance) to unify, localize, and personalize content across brands and uses.

About White Deer Group

White Deer Group is a content and knowledge management agency with experienced advisors who help guide our clients through the process of documenting their knowledge. We work with emerging and established brands to remove barriers to growth. We love to talk to people about their franchise operations, and consultations are always free.