MS Podcast#149

McDonalds and social media

(WORLD) The MediaSnackers podcast focusses on individuals, organisations or companies who are simply impressing us and which are crying out for more discussion.

Heather Oldani is the Director of PR for McDonalds (USA) and colead on their digital strategy.

0.00—0.46 intro
0.47—3.07 the digital strategy
3.08—5.30 monitoring the brand online and how do they react to it
5.31—9.12 examples of engagement
9.13—11.45 priorities relating to internal adoption
11.46—13.41 future plans
13.42—13.53 outro

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Heather Oldani: Hello, my name is Heather Oldani and I am the director of public relations for McDonalds US business. Living and residing outside of Chicago and I’m currently responsible for two primary functions. One, leading and directing the public relations strategy across all brand promotions, new product news, menu items, etc as well as collating our current digital strategy, encompassing social media as well as mobile and future technologies for the US business. And partnership and alignment also with our global counterparts.

DK: Brilliant. Well I just really, really appreciate you giving up your time to speak to MediaSnackers today. Tell us what you were doing with this digital strategy, where you’re at, what you’ve been up to?

Heather Oldani: Absolutely. So we have been dabbling I would say within social media for the last two years. We started out looking at, I think where a lot of companies go in looking at what exact tactical execution would make sense to support our marketing and public relations efforts. So, i.e. if we’re launching a new snack wrap menu item to our menu, what’s the YouTube activation or what’s the Facebook activation to support our overall marketing and communication strategy? And where we came too quickly in the fall of 2008 is that we needed to take a step back and say, what’s our overarching strategy? What do we really hope to accomplish? What’s the brand opportunity? And from there, how do we structure ourselves for success internally so that what we do on the external facing front aligns with that overarching strategy and really starts to establish a benchmark for long term success within social media.

So we formed a cross functional team in late 2008 and that team has been at work for the last 14 months developing the overarching strategy, developing the guidelines for activation and choosing those categories and channels that we think offer the most brand impact for McDonalds moving forward. We’ve been monitoring and listening to the online conversations; making sure that we at all times what’s being said about McDonalds and what people are looking for from McDonalds. One of the main gates with the brand through some of these social media channels. And then of course, starting to activate our presence in some of the key channels for us moving forward and then now at this point, we’re looking at once we’ve got the strategy in place, the guidelines in place, how do you really start to elevate our activation, how do we further our line with our global counterparts across the world with McDonalds in every communities across the world is a significant opportunity for us to align with our global communications and marketing counterparts around some of our social media spaces. So that’s where we are currently and anxious to continue to move things forward.

DK: Wow. There’s a lot going on there. I want to come back to something that you mentioned about monitoring and listening online. This is something that is part of what you’ve been doing. Now I was recently watching something online that you were talking about this and you said, “Every five seconds, someone is talking about McDonalds.” From our perceptive when we work with clients and tell them about monitoring your brand profile online, RSS feeds, Google alerts, whatever it is how you monitor it. How do you monitor that in terms of that’s got to be a lot of traffic? And then secondly, how do you react to it?

Heather Oldani: Right, exactly. Yeah. It is a number, I choose to look at it, it could be very overwhelming. We choose to look at it as an opportunity. So clearly, the numbers show that if someone’s talking about your brand every five seconds, that there is a significant opportunity for you to be involved in that conversation. So what we have established as part of our cross functional team is we’ve got a very dedicated listening function. So right now or last year in 2009, we were leveraging radiant six to capture the dialog that’s happening online on a number of key business and brand priorities. We cannot monitor everything. We needed to monitor those conversations that we believed aligned with our biggest brand and business opportunities and from there, capturing the dialogue in those key areas and focusing our efforts on whilst we’ve got a grasp of what’s happening through listening, going in and starting to engage in some of those key brand and business priorities.

So it involved a lot of categorizing, key word searching, making sure that we knew who the influentials were on some of those key brand topics and priorities, engaging our customer satisfaction function here in the United States. We actually have a dedicated team that’s responsible for customer satisfaction and helping to resolve issues at the restaurant level either through email and now through social media via twitter. So involving them and then from there also making sure that as I mentioned we have a dedicated team, i.e., two to three individuals at our PR agency that have been listening and monitoring and capturing all the conversations that are taking place. And even by narrowing the key word search, we were still capturing about 70 to 90,000 conversations a month.

DK: Wow. So can you give us an example, a real life example then? I don’t know if you followed this through yet because I know you’re at the listening stage. But have you reacted to something that you’ve almost heard or listened to or read online and could you give us an example of how you then followed that through in terms of this conversation that you say in that there’s an opportunity to be had?

Heather Oldani: Yeah, there’s a couple of ways. So there’s two examples. So if I look at twitter, twitter’s very rapid fire conversation and some people go on there to rant and/or rave about brands and their experiences with the brands. So we’ve got a six person team that is leveraging co-tweet to monitor the twittersphere and determine where those brand conversations are and what’s being said. And for example, we launched a new burger to our US menu last year, the Angus burger. And some people there had gone into to try it, had a bad experience at the restaurant level. We actually determined that this person is overall a big supporter and fan of McDonalds, had just had a bad experience at the restaurant level in trying the new Angus burger product.

So we actually engaged with him back and forth through direct message a number of different times and actually were able to recover him, send him some BOG’s (Be our guest cards) which is like what we call free coupons to go in and try the Angus burger for a second and third time. And so we saw the positive dialogue one, wow, McDonalds was listening to me. Two, they’ve actually taken the time to reach back three and find out what the issue was and where the issue occurred. And then three, cared enough to based on the conversation, send me some coupons to go in and give it another shot. Which at the end of the day, he did and reported back positively about his experience. So for us that was a huge opportunity to not only recover that one customer, who’s a fan of McDonalds but then also the word of mouth spread of him then tweeting back out to his follower base that we’re listening, we cared and that we’re trying to rectify the situation. So that’s an example on twitter. That happens as you know very rapid fire over a course of a couple days.

We also then had an example with a blogger who wrote a post about what his five year old son taught him about marketing and it was the fact that his five year old son wanted to come into our restaurants to receive our happy meal toys, had gotten very excited about some of the properties that we had there. And the last two times that they had visited, the restaurant had been out of the current happy meal property toy and so he had gotten a replacement toy. He talked about the disappointment that his son experienced, etc. So by monitoring, we were able to capture that. I actually reached out to him. I have a four year old son myself and can underhand the disappointment that comes when we don’t have the properties at the restaurant due to supply.

And so we reached out, had a conversation and we were able to actually ship him and his son the full sets of the last three properties in order to again, make good and ensure that our customers are getting the experiences that they want and deserve from the brand. So it ended up very positive. Again, very appreciative that we were able, we were listening and capturing that dialogue. So I think those are two just recent examples of the power of one by one reaching out to customers and engaging them in a positive way and encourage them to have great perceptions of the brand.

DK: Cool. And let’s shift the focus there on more internal adoption of social media. Because I know that you’re very keen that not just one person does social media for McDonalds and again your priority is looking to global, I don’t know what you call it but global adoption maybe of all this stuff. So where’s your priorities at the movement as someone who is co-leading the digital strategy for McDonalds which is a huge brand. How do you just, where do you start?

Heather Oldani: You know, there’s a couple of efforts. We work very closely with our internal communications counterparts and our HR department. So we as a global brand are just now releasing or getting ready to release our social media guidelines. So this will be a set of guidelines, a set of etiquette do’s and don’ts. Because at the end of the day we absolutely want to recognize that our employees across the world are in the digital space and communicating. And two, given our size and given our reach and the number of people who work for the brand on a global basis, we believe that there is an opportunity for our employees to be a positive representation of the brand through social media.

So kind of giving them the guidelines as well as some things to think about and representing the brand online; those guidelines are going to be coming out in the next couple of weeks on a global level. And from there, what I would imagine is and I can speak for the US, what we hope to do then is start to train and equip our staff in understanding what social media is, if they don’t already know. If they don’t have a twitter account, how to get up on twitter. A lot of people have Facebook, Bebo, etc accounts. So, getting them familiar with the tools and how to leverage them. And then from there, how to ethically and positively represent the brand in social media space.

So we’re working on a couple of training opportunities as well as then making sure that from just an ongoing engagement that to your point, it’s not just one person engaged in the space but that we have a number of different individuals for example our chief nutritionist. And not many people are familiar that we have a chief nutritionist at McDonalds. But having her trained in the use of the tools and having her be a good representation of the brand on some of those key nutrition and food quality discussions through social media. So we’re looking at kind of creating the digital squad if you will that will be able to go out and communicate.

DK: Great. Well, we could just talk and talk about this but we’re running about of time here. So I’d love to ask a wider question here. In terms of for you personally, what is your future plans for – I know you’re on twitter and stuff like that. So tell me a little bit about what you’re hoping that the brand overall will get for them and for your personally as well, for the use of social media?

Heather Oldani: Yeah, absolutely. Again, I think it goes back to opportunity. We know that we have a huge opportunity in this space as a global brand and being able to capture and engage customers as such a one on one and two way conversation level is a fabulous opportunity that I think we are just on the cusp of taking advantage of both here in the US as well as a global brand. So I’m really looking forward to working with the team and to taking and activating the brand in a much bigger way this year and moving forward. So we’ve got some exciting things planned.

I’ve actually just officially signed on and hired on a director of social media. So that person’s going to come on board and really start to take on a full time activating our presence in the space. And then for me personally, I think just being a part of McDonalds and the brand that it is and continuing to help co-lead this effort. It’s a fascinating opportunity as well as personally developing and each time I say that I think that I know all the trends that are out there, all the technologies that are out there, something else comes along. And watching the rapid adoption curve with mobile and some of the things happening there with GPS based technologies and other applications for our restaurants and for our employees. So I think it’s a great space for people who if you’ve got the desire to learn more and continue to push yourself, from a brand and marking communications standpoint, the opportunity’s there.

DK: Brilliant. Well, thank you for giving up your time again. And I really appreciate you coming to speak to MediaSnackers about what you’re doing then.

Heather Oldani: Thank you and thank you for the time.

2 thoughts on “MS Podcast#149”

  1. Very interesting to hear that they have spent 2 years ‘playing’ with social media before developing a strategy – as this is exactly what we advise our clients to do.

    So many want to write a marketing plan of attack before they have explored the spaces, developed a feel for who is using it and what the needs and wants of the network is.

    So yeah, refreshing to hear that MacDonalds take the same approach – it’s the right way to go about it after all.

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