McDonald’s looks internally for brand ambassadors

In this week's issue of PRWeek I wrote a Market Focus on a new internal communications effort that McDonald's plans to launch in early...

In this week's issue of PRWeek I wrote a Market Focus on a new internal communications effort that McDonald's plans to launch in early 2008. When PRWeek features editor Erica Iacona and I met with a few of McDonald's top marketing and communications executives this past summer at one of the company's offices in Oak Brook, IL, they stressed to us how the quality message was becoming a major focus and priority. McDonald's had already begun an external program called the Moms' Quality Correspondents campaign designed to create brand ambassadors (real life moms) who would push that quality message to their peers and others.

But McDonald's wanted its own employees to be able to tell that story as well. And in the hope of doing that, the company had been testing a significant internal communications plan called the McDonald's Brand Advocate (MBA) program. The goal of the non-mandatory effort, according to its boilerplate, is to educate and equip McDonald's employees and Owner/Operators with information about key topics important to McDonald's, to help them become stronger brand ambassadors.

Molly McKenna, manager of US communications at McDonald's, says the program will help its employees more effectively communicate specific messages about the McDonald's story in their day-to-day work and personal lives.

Heather Oldani, director US communications at McDonald’s, told us that the quality message is being taken so seriously that she and Molly Starmann, director of McDonald's US marketing, are part of a cross-functional team “established by our president and head of marketing” whose objective is to discuss and identify tactics and program outcomes that "layout a direction we want to head in [with our quality messaging]."

She said the quality message is not just a PR, marketing, and advertising effort anymore. Oldani said, “It’s bringing in the operations team, training team, and owners and operators and saying: 'What is everyone’s role and what can be done from an advertising standpoint, marketing standpoint and PR standpoint? And what can be done at the restaurant level?'”

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