On January 24, 2012, Rick Wion, director of social media for the McDonald’s Corporation (McDonald’s) was challenged by a series of events. A week earlier, McDonald’s had launched a large public relations campaign using the Twitter hash tag “#MeetTheFarmers” to promote connections with family farms and local suppliers. In order to maximize the Twitter Promoted Trends expenditure (a service Twitter offered to display trending hash tags on its homepage), Wion’s team switched the hash tag halfway through the day from “#MeetTheFarmers” to “#McDStories,” creating an opportunity for the public to share their own positive McDonald’s stories online.
However, within the first hour of switching the hash tag, Wion and his team quickly realized that numerous detractors had hijacked it to express negative comments towards McDonald’s. In an attempt to change the course of the campaign, the hash tag was changed back to “#MeetTheFarmers,” thereby successfully reducing the number of negative comments and discussions.
However, a few days later, the media started to run negative coverage of the “#McDStories” hash tag. With mocking headlines and articles providing screenshots of the negative tweets, very few of the media articles contained any statistics that explained or put proper context behind the situation. Moving forward, Wion needed to devise a better strategy for McDonald’s social media campaigns, while also preventing potential fallouts that could occur with the media by encouraging better media relations and ultimately more accurate reporting.
This case is intended to fulfill the following teaching objectives:
- To place students directly into a decision making role in a major organization.
- To recognize the potential for negative consequences when using social media.
- To evaluate how an organization can develop a positive relationship with the media.
- To devise a strategy for McDonald’s to utilize in developing future social media campaign
As you prepare your case study analysis, please adhere to the following guidelines:
- Read the case study through without stopping to analyze it. Do this to get a basic understanding of what happened, who was involved and the general problems.
- Read it a second time to identify the key elements including what happened; the sequence of events; who was involved; any significant relationships; the facts and problems.
- With an understanding of what you have been asked to do (i.e. the assignment question), re-read the case study, this time clarifying the key issues and identifying the problems that need to be solved. Remember, case studies are written so that you can propose solutions. As with real-life situations, there is usually more than one way to solve any problem.
- Integrate the problems using the theories and concepts that you come to understand from your readings. Do not just simply describe the problems or theories. If you need to make assumptions to fill in any gaps that are not provided in the case study, you will need to explain your reasoning.
- Consider a range of possible solutions to the problems. Evaluate the problems by giving your opinion or some expert’s opinions, by considering the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. Justify your choices.
- Your response to the case study does not need to be in the form of a report. It can be numbered, following the numbering sequence used in the questions section.
As you write up a response to a case study, you may like to think about, and try to answer a range of questions:
- What is this case study about in general?
- What specific issues are associated with it?
- What do I already know about these issues?
- How do they link with the theories we have studied?
- What alternative approaches to dealing with the issues would be appropriate?
- If an alternative approach were used, what impact might it have?
Your response should include answering the questions listed below:
- What are the potential advantages and disadvantages for an organization when using social media?
- Who are the different audiences McDonald’s needs to address when using social media campaigns and why?
- How can Wion and his team better design future Twitter campaigns for McDonald’s?
- Using the communication plan template below, devise a strategy for Wion to encourage better media relations and more accurate reporting.
Communication Plan Template
- Timing – What date should be used?
- Audience – Who should receive it?
- Sender – Who will send it?
- Key message – What are the main points and themes?
- Desired outcome – What behaviors are desired?
- Medium – What communication channels will be used?
- Materials – What should we leave behind?
- Frequency – How often should we send messages?