If you’re a citizen of this great Earth, it is highly likely you’ve sampled the exquisite decadence that is a McDonald’s value meal at one point in your life. And if you’ve watched a documentary on the fast food industry, read a blog, or basically had a conversation with another member of the human race over the last 10 years, I’ll assume you’ve heard the rumors about the ingredients of McDonald’s food.
Now let me first say – I don’t particularly care for McDonald’s. It’s not that I think their food is particularly gross, or I have any qualms regarding its quality (honestly I think everything that is sold in American supermarkets is probably just as questionable as what you get at McDonald’s). I actually just don’t eat red meat. And if I had a choice in a fast food chicken sandwich, I’d pick Wendy’s…and mostly because they have a pretzel bun right now. But I digress…
I read an article recently about McDonald’s that not only made me chuckle, but made me silently high five their public relations team. McDonald’s has hired Grant Imahara, former host of the Discover Channel’s Mythbusters to star in a series of video bits that uncover answers to the tough questions McDonald’s haters are spreading across the Internet. This is seemingly focusing on a particular subset of customers (Millennials, Gen X’ers…and I say this just based on my knowledge of the parallels among social media users, Netflix documentary watchers, and Mythbusters viewers) and it’s actually entertaining. I, for one, am terrified to discover the results of the Mythbusting, but think that it’ll do one of two things: enrage McDonald’s customers who will then boycott the company, or address some serious food quality concerns that McDonald’s will inevitably have to fix in an effort to further scrutiny.
This campaign is obviously something that was created with McDonald’s endless budget. But keep these baseline practices in mind when you’re planning your PR strategy, and perhaps you’ll find yourself in the middle of an exceptional campaign. Here’s what they did well:
They creatively involved pop culture to draw excitement toward even the most disgusting thing. The never-ending rumor that McDonald’s meat is only about 15% real beef and the other 85% “pink slime” (lean beef trimmings, a.k.a. what’s left of the meat after all the choice cuts of beef are taken, cleansed with ammonium) is pretty gruesome. But bringing in the Mythbusters guy to prove this wrong (or right) is not only brave, but downright entertaining. How can you do something like this? Tactfully incorporate members of pop culture or current events (be sure to do your research) into a campaign.This is daring, yes. But if you play your cards right, it might just work.
They’re really beefing (Ha! Pun!) up their social media use. This campaign relies on social media for its success. It assumes that people will gravitate to the sites to ask questions and watch the videos when they’re shared. They’ve actually already got a pretty ingenious “FAQ” section on their site that lets customers use social media to ask questions about specific menu items, food science and ingredients. This is where the Imahara promotional video currently lives.
They’re not going to fail if this campaign fails. While addressing all of these rumors is a pretty serious undertaking, McDonald’s isn’t going to fail if this campaign fails (unless something totally illegal or incredibly gruesome is uncovered, but I wouldn’t fault the campaign for that). So what is McDonald’s desired result? Once viewers see their myth that the chicken used to make chicken nuggets isn’t real busted, they’ll start eating chicken nuggets again. Is this realistic? Probably not so much. But regardless – it’s drawing attention to their brand.
Simple and innovative public relations campaigns, especially in the nonprofit world, offer low-cost means for gaining public attention. Using public relations sparingly will maximize your impact and differentiate you in the industry.