Reality is not always as it seems, especially reality television. Just ask FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson, who was recently immersed in the unreal world of reality television. Monson and several FASTSIGNS locations were featured on Undercover Boss, which aired this past Friday, May 4, on CBS.
When hours of raw footage are condensed into about 45 minutes of air time, distortion is inevitable. Surprisingly, however, this particular episode of Undercover Boss was relatively accurate, according to Monson.
“I was disappointed by some of the things they left out, and I felt they overemphasized the emotional aspects, but that’s what makes for compelling television,” says Monson. “When they first approached us about being involved with the show, we weighed the pros and cons and how it could possibly affect the brand. We decided the pros outweighed the cons, and that was certainly the case.”
In case you didn’t catch the show Friday night, Monson disguised herself and went to work in the trenches at four FASTSIGNS locations: St. Louis, Austin, Culver City (Calif.), and Phoenix. Each contact at the location was told that they were filming a reality show called Second Chances, and Monson’s “character” was the subject, so it was kind of a show within a show.
During the episode we learned about the struggles and triumphs of not only Monson, but the people at the four locations at which she worked. Monson says the four locations were chosen after the production company scouted and scoured the FASTSIGNS franchise network for the most interesting stories.
I won’t spoil those stories for you here, in case you didn’t catch it when it aired, since you can see the full episode at http://www.cbs.com/shows/undercover_boss/video/. The show will no longer be available at the CBS website after May 21.
“It is unnerving to have two HD cameras on you ten hours a day. Yes, I was nervous, and people got to see that I can’t make a sign, and I made a bit of a fool of myself at times, but that’s okay, because I think it’s not only a great thing for our company, but also the industry as a whole. Not a lot of people know that a sign shop can do vehicle graphics and all kinds of different signs, all the way up to big outdoor installations,” says Monson. “When we were first allowed to let our franchises know about it, they were very excited. We advertise on FOX, CNN and MSNBC, but we can’t afford advertising time on CBS in prime time on Friday night, so the extra exposure was great for everyone. Our franchise partners did an amazing job putting up all kinds of graphics to promote the show. And because it’s such a unique show, some of our franchisees got a lot of coverage from local media. There were 125 viewing parties around the country where they invited customers to watch the show and do some of the things I did on the show, like weeding vinyl.”
Beyond the personal stories at the locations she visited undercover, Monson was able to identify three areas of improvement for FASTSIGNS corporate: E-mail marketing, training and eCommerce. Monson took the suggestions to heart and FASTSIGNS corporate has begun to implement them.
“We’ve made some good progress. Not only do we have an on-your-behalf email marketing program, we have a do-it-yourself marketing where the individual franchise can completely customize the template,” says Monson. “I really learned that we need to ensure that all of our information about marketing initiatives, programs and training reaches everyone at each franchise. Also, we are almost finished with our training curriculum on big outdoor installations, and we have eight locations using our eCommerce website, and plan to start rolling that out to more locations in the weeks ahead.”