Fast food giants deal with challenges differently


Two examples of crisis management — one handled well, the other not so much — came to my attention lately from EMA partners Tom Merrick and Rick Lyke. Gotta love it when colleagues feed you blog subjects.

One fast food giant is McDonald’s, which everyone loves to hate — almost as much as we love the fries. The video from McDonald’s Canada is a terrific example of how to take a potential criticism and, by using facts, turn it into a positive. The chief marketing officer took a question, one that clearly implied malfeasance or at least sleight of hand by the company, and turned it into an explanatory video that ended up helping the company and turning the implied criticism into a positive.

She took a fresh quarter pounder from a store, shown at left in the split screen to a photo shoot for an ad. She narrated the viewer through the process of making a quarter pounder for an advertisement, right, and explained why it appeared more appetizing and larger. It was an effective and low-key way to handle the issue.

The other involves Papa John’s, the pizza maker with the big ad budget. Founder and CEO John Schnatter, whose mansion in Louisville, KY became the subject of social media critics, apparently opposes the Affordable Care Act and suggested that owners of his franchises might have to lay off employees or reduce their hours because of what he said were the costs of meeting the law’s requirements.

This did not sit well with a lot of his minimum-wage employees or fans of his pizza.

For days the criticism raged and for all intents and purposes, Schnatter holed up in his mansion counting his money. As you can read in the link to his Huffington Post blog — at least Papa John’s chose a smart outlet to communicate — he makes some fine distinctions about what he said, and admits that he didn’t know a reporter was present when he spoke at a Florida college until she later identified herself. Sounds a little like Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe.

“Oops, sorry, I did sorta say those things, but I didn’t know they were being recorded or I wouldn’t have been so honest.”

The issue, however, is not really what he said or didn’t say, it was the riot that broke out on social media that accused him of doing the wrong thing. And the issue for our purposes is, why did he wait so long to address what he claims were erroneous impressions and reports about him?

He apparently spoke on Nov. 8, the day after President Obama’s re-election. Here’s an original report on his college talk:

A day after Barack Obama earned a second term in the White House, Papa John’s  founder and CEO John  Schnatter said the president’s signature  health-care reform law would increase his business costs and possibly result in  employees’ hours being cut.

Schnatter, a part-time Naples resident, made the comments Wednesday night  inside a small auditorium at Edison State College’s Collier County campus. In  August, he made national headlines after telling shareholders the Affordable  Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — would result in a 10- to 14-cent  increase for customers buying a pizza.

“I got in a bunch of trouble for this,” he told the students. “That’s what you  do, is you pass on costs. Unfortunately, I don’t think people know what they’re  going to pay for this.”

Unless the reporter wasn’t paying attention, he did say pretty much what he was accused of saying. Nonetheless, why wait almost two weeks, endure multiple skewerings in the media and in social media, and not correct what you feel is incorrect reports that damaged your reputation and invaded your privacy?

We have always taught getting out the facts fast and that’s especially true now that crises move at the speed of social media. McDonald’s did; Papa John’s didn’t.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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