In 2011 Annual Conference, Tuesday

Dillin Keynote Address (14)

Be Relevant, – Be Bold – Be First! I’m Lovin’ It!

Few companies are as pervasive in American culture as McDonald’s. The company serves 100 million meals annually in Florida alone. With great presence comes great challenge and Danya Proud, Director of Media Relations for McDonald’s USA reviewed their public relations strategy in the Dillin Keynote presentation.

Proud began by addressing the overarching company strategy developed post 2002 that is firmly focused on longterm results. The company is using the same overall plan developed in 2003 but most importantly a plan that is flexible enough to address the changing marketplace.

She related her remarks to the passion we all share for telling our story. She described McDonald’s in one word, “innovation.”

The company’s five key elements of a winning strategy.

  • Product or menu
  • Place – restaurants
  • Price – good value
  • Promotion – menu and new items
  • People of McDonald’s

What has changed in the PR landscape for the Golden Arches:

  • Most challenging regulatory environment in their history (obesity, menu labeling, etc.)
  • Many members of the NGO comunity have grown in power and scope
  • Competition is growing with growing options for casual dining
  • Growth of the internet and an increasingly fragmented media environment has created a more empowered and demanding consumer. It is increasingly difficult to reach them through traditional media.

Many great American brands are under stress. Consumers are driving the challenge. Not just a McDonald’s challenge but a “brand” challenge.

Not long ago, McDonald’s faced relevance, loyalty, profitability and image problems. Some referred to the company as “the fallen arches.” A hard look at the corporation found the company was a great system going in too many directions.

Through refocusing on their core strengths and “acting as a system” the ompany developed a solid message to improve quality, pride and capitalize on the resources inherent the inherent strength of their system.

The company has experienced a tremendous turnaround in the past seven years including:

  • One hundred consecutive months of sales growth
  • Serving 2.1 million more customers per day than in 2002
  • Since 2002 the stock price has tripled and dividends have quadrupled

The company still faces challenges from the 21 to 34 age group that views their menu as unhealthy.

Proud noted the role public relations is playing at McDonald’s is the challenge of storytelling. Every brand has a story. Those that tell it often and best- win. A consistent narrative is important. Key messages are paramount.

McDonald’s messages:

  • Since 1955 values established by founder Ray Kroc are uncompromise
  • While values are timeless we must evolve to reflect customer’s changing tastes and society’s changing times
  • We do the right thing … not the easy thing

The London School of Business found people retain 65-75 percent of information shared via story.

Seven reasons story telling is important for a brand:

  1. Stories produce an experience
  2. Stories reveal what makes your brand unique
  3. Stories are the emotional glue that connects you to your employees, customers
  4. Stories reshape information into meaning
  5. Stories can motivate an audience torwards your goal
  6. Stories are more likely to be shared
  7. Stories are less likely to be resisted that other traditional forms of communications

Community Support

Founder Ray Kroc set the tone, “We have an obligation to give back to the community that gives us so much.” But it’s more that supporting PTA and little league, McDonald’s strives to engage in the community’s dialogue.

She shared that today, to earn the community’s trust McDonald’s must make “bold moves.” Proud pointed to the recent McDonald’s announcement of a comprehensive multi-year nutrition awareness effort and improved nutritional content of Happy Meals as two examples of bold innovation on the part of the company.

Another bold, disruptive move by the company was the National Day of Hiring designed to change the perception of a “McJob.” Franchises set a goal of hiring 50,000 people and they exceed that goal by 12,000.

The company continues to search for new ways to engage in two-way dialogue with their communities. Consumers are generating their own content about McDonald’s and our brands too. “If you’re not in the conversation, they’re still talking about you.” Especially among young adults.

One key audience: Moms. Their influence is key.  They are the decision makers. It is important that they see McDonald’s as a place to keep their kids happy as well as a place that meets “mom’s nutritional needs as well.”

McDonald’s is aggresively engaging their consumers and potential consumers in their “storytelling” with major initiatives to address nutritional concerns in the marketplace

People believe people. The more people telling your story, the more it will be believed.

We want people to like us and we want people to come back.

Proud noted the most important take aways from her presentation:

  • Be Relevant
  • Be Bold
  • BE FIRST!
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