PR Catastrophe: “Hashtag Becomes Bashtag” – McDonald’s Social Media Mistake

“No amount of communications—regardless of its persuasive content—
can save an organization whose performance is substandard.”
-Fraser P. Seitel, The Practice of Public Relations

McDStories-300x300Public Relations is an amplifier.  It’s an excellent way to tell people about the good reputation a company has earned.  But PR cannot shield a company from public scrutiny if they have earned a poor reputation.

McDonald’s was painfully reminded of this reality in 2012 when they created the Twitter hashtag “McDstories” and invited customers to share their favorite Golden Arches memories.

Quickly, the hashtag became a lightning rod for the public’s anger toward the chain for everything from the company’s customer service to the impact of its corporate practices on health, environmental pollution and culture change.

See below: Supersize Me in 7 mins: How too much of McDonald’s will make you feel!


You know you’ve made a mistake when an aspect of your public relations program is so bad it’s the focus of a story in Forbes.

“Look after the customer and the business will take care of itself” ~Ray Kroc, McDonald’s Founder.  That quote is a far cry from the P&G exemplary campaign I featured in the JoTo In pick this month.

McDonald’s asked the customers to post their stories on how McDonald’s was taking care of them – and they did!

Moral of the story: Look after the customer and the business will take care of itself. Don’t and you will pay in the court of public opinion!


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