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The 2024 Cision and PRWeek Global Comms Report

Find out how 400+ PR and comms leaders worldwide are approaching the way they work in today’s media landscape.

The Next Normal: A Conversation with McDonald’s VP of U.S. Communications

Last week we had the privilege of speaking with David Tovar, Vice President, U.S. Communications at McDonalds. In this webinar hosted in partnership with PRWeek, Rebecca Dersh, Public Relations Manager at Cision, had a discussion with Tovar on how McDonald’s was able to adapt their comms strategy as well as other suggestions on best practices for entering the new normal.  

Below are our key takeaways from our conversation with Tovar.  

Agility is the new stability

“By no means; I don’t think we’ve figured it all out,” said Tovar, “but I believe we need to learn to deliver the right information to the right audience at the right time.”

Tovar described McDonald’s looking at the whole reopening sequence in four different phases: crisis, recovery, revival and the next normal. Different messaging and communication outlets were going to be required throughout each of these phases. “It’s important to be agile, be genuine, be authentic and most importantly be current with the information that is shared.”  

Tovar also shared 3 key points to remember: 

  1. Maintain a predictable cadence and align your system’s needs with the right voices at the right time. 
  2. Prepare the right content be flexible and be able to modify quickly as the system mindset shift and/ or re-direction is needed.  
  3. Monitor operator sentiment and be able to connect the dots for the SLT based on real-time, dynamic measurement.  

The Top down vs. bottom up approach

This is where being agile will come in handy. Tovar says that during McDonald's crisis mode phase the company took a top down approach:

“We knew it had to be led by the company and put strict procedures in place as it related to social distancing and PPE and different steps to ensure that our customers and employees were safe. As we entered the recovery phase this is where we took the bottom up approach, what might work in one geography will be very different in another in terms of reopening.”

Be prepared to modify quickly if needed and no there is not a one solution fits all during these times.  

Do fewer things  

During the onset of the pandemic McDonald’s served 12 million Thank You Meals totaling $63 million worth of free meals for first responders.

“What really hit home for us is that we were able to deliver these meals in our iconic Thank You Meal boxes,” said Tovar, “we didn’t know what the response was going to be but we felt like this was something we needed to do.”

The response was overwhelmingly positive with tons of local and national coverage. “It really gave us a reminder that when we do things, we really just should go big and go bold and do fewer things and allow us to focus and really make a difference. This is something that people saw as it was happening and was memorable and helped differentiate our brand in a very crowded space.”