McDonald's opens its doors to quell fears

CHICAGO: McDonald's is pursuing a campaign of transparency and

nutritional information outreach to bolster flagging European sales

caused by consumer concerns about mad-cow disease.



In an initiative led from France, the fast-food giant has opened its

supply chain to unprecedented public scrutiny in order to calm

fears.



At a conference of McDonald's European communicators in Chicago last

week, France's strategy was showcased, as early indications are that it

may be working and therefore copied in other countries.



Although McDonald's last week reported a 16% drop in first-quarter

earnings and a 6% decline in European sales, due in part to European

beef worries, beef product sales in France actually increased as a

percentage of total menu items.



In an exclusive interview, Etienne Aussedat, the fast-food chain's

communications director in France, told PRWeek he believed the company

has taken the lead in food-safety assurance after BSE-infected cattle

were discovered for the first time in France last November. 'We were the

brand that invested in the quality of the meat,' he said.



Aussedat, speaking from the Chicago conference, said the campaign was

designed to tackle French concerns about the composition of minced

beef.



'We had to explain that when they come to McDonald's, they have 100%

pure beef,' he said.



The campaign, which in English is called 'Meeting Together,' was devised

in conjunction with French PR firm Euro RSCG. It culminated last month

when the public was allowed to tour 400 of France's 861 restaurants and

external suppliers. An average of 20 people per restaurant

participated.



'We had people who are in a position to cascade the information around,

such as teachers, elected officials and so on - good quality people,'

Aussedat said.



He said the most difficult part of the current PR crisis has been

educating France about the company. 'I was amazed to see that people

knew very little about McDonald's and its products,' he said.



McDonald's also retains TBWA for commercial PR.



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