Even fast food can sometimes get it right

When McDonalds announced its first ever home delivery service in Australia a few weeks ago there was a predictable reaction.  One nutritionist called it “another blow to healthy eating” and wondered aloud why the launch would be in an over-weight, low-income suburb of Sydney.

A rather over-excited commentator even described a home-delivered McDonalds family-pack as a “heart attack in a box.”

However, the company’s response was muted and brief.  They simply said the home delivery offered in just one suburb, for four hours each night, was modelled on their home delivery in some Asian markets, and that it had so far been “well received.”  They said they chose the store in Sydney’s North Parramatta based on the population density and accessibility of the area.

While some of the public commentary was overblown and agenda-driven, McDonalds just stated the facts and let the more extreme reactions pass unchallenged.

Now, I’m no fan of McDonalds’ food, and they have done some pretty unsmart issue management stuff recently (like threatening legal action against individual protesters objecting to a proposed store in the picturesque Dandedongs).  Yet their strategy here was very disciplined.

They didn’t bother to point out the obvious fact that just about every other variety of unhealthy takeaway food has been home-delivered for years.  Plus they didn’t bother to explain that in some other parts of Australia, private contractors already offer a service to home-deliver from the local McDonalds.

The story died fairly quickly, but it has some useful reminders for issue managers
• Issue management always has been about perception, not necessarily reality
• It’s hard to win against political correctness and societal fashion
• When your critics start to overstate their case, think really hard about whether there is any upside in publicly engaging
• Stick to the facts and don’t let your opponents drag you onto their agenda
• Focus on all of your stakeholders – including customers – not just the noisy critics
• Even if you  make your profits from high fat, high sugar, high salt food, never lose sight of why you are in business

Ten years ago PR News reported a prediction: “The common sentiment holds that lawyers who once circled tobacco companies like sharks scenting blood in the water have now turned their attention to fast food companies.”

It’s certainly true that McDonalds has become the food company critics love to hate. Moreover, it will be a long time before we all stop worrying and learn to love the Golden Arches. But in the case of launching home delivery in Sydney, the fast food giant got their issue management strategy just about spot on.

About managingoutcomes

Issue and crisis management expert
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