OAK BROOK, IL: McDonald's plans to increase US PR spending 20% to 25% this year as it steps up recent efforts to promote its food as part of an active, balanced lifestyle.
The fast-food chain began emphasizing health and nutrition in its messaging last year as debate intensified over obesity issues in America. PR plans for the coming year suggest such messaging will not be changing anytime soon.
Bob Greene, the fitness expert who came to prominence as Oprah Winfrey's personal trainer, will serve as McDonald's chief spokesman throughout this year. Golin Harris, McDonald's longtime lead agency, will support Greene's efforts.
Company officials were in New York City last week on a media tour with Greene, visiting between 20 and 30 publications. A radio tour is planned, as well, and the company this month renewed its relationship with Greene through next year.
Other initiatives now being planned include the launch of a new apple, grape, and walnut salad, and activities touting the restaurant's 50th anniversary, said Mike Donahue, VP of McDonald's US communications.
An internal relations initiative this year will highlight the quality of McDonald's food, attempting to turn employees into ambassadors for the company. "We want our employees to be proud out loud," Donahue said.
McDonald's plans a second Go Active! American Challenge for this year - an educational effort using Greene in a national tour to promote active lifestyles. In last year's challenge, Greene biked and walked 3,000-plus miles in a 36-day cross-country trek. Greene will appear on Winfrey's show February 3 to promote his new book. On that day, McDonald's will begin offering 60% off coupons for a companion journal that readers can use with Greene's book to track their fitness progress.
McDonald's also will use preventative-medicine expert Dean Ornish to push its balanced-lifestyle message this year.