Best Use of Digital or Social Media for Media Relations

McDonald’s sets up a Nutrition Network to change public perception about its menu

Take a look at how this fast food restaurant reached out to bloggers and a nutritionist to change its image. PR Daily’s 2012 Digital PR and Social Media Awards were presented by Synaptic Digital. Learn more about Synaptic Digital here (pdf).

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When you think of McDonald’s, do you associate it with “nutrition”?

Probably not.

The fast food chain is trying to change that perception through the McDonald’s Nutrition Network, a program designed to highlight its commitment to nutrition. To help spread the word and change the minds of consumers, it turned to influential bloggers, a dietician and social media.

That effort won McDonald’s the nod for Best Use of Digital or Social Media for Media Relations in PR Daily’s Digital PR & Social Media Awards.

PR Daily’s 2012 Digital PR and Social Media Awards were presented by Synaptic Digital. Learn more about Synaptic Digital here (pdf).

To localize the message, MWW and the McDonald’s New York Tri-State Owners/Operators Association created The McDonald’s New York Metro Nutrition Network (MNN).

The “MNN” was created to award local organizations with seed money to fund projects or programs that promote nutrition and responsible eating choices to the communities they serve, says Alissa Blate, MWW executive vice president, Consumer Lifestyle Marketing.

Developing a healthy strategy

First, a third-party, high-profile dietician was selected to tell the brand’s story. This campaign also relied on local “mommy bloggers” to share the McDonald’s story. McDonald’s knows parents are concerned with providing affordable, healthy meals to their children.  

MWW also reached out to thousands of local organizations to raise awareness for this program and encouraged them to apply for funding. These organizations were pleased that McDonald’s was getting involved in the conversation, Blate says.

Next, local “Meetups” were held throughout the area. The registered dietitian, Tanya Zuckerbrot, spoke to attendees, answered questions, and provided wholesale menu items for people to sample.

“Lastly, content for consumers was created by the program’s registered dietitian, including prebuilt meal bundles and nutrition tips, which were available on the program website,” Blate says. “This content was supported with ongoing messaging on McDonald’s local Twitter and Facebook handles as well as seeded to prominent, influential bloggers.”

How to change the conversation

MWW invited key bloggers to attend the network’s launch event, featuring a Q&A with Zuckerbrot. Then, after the launch event, there were more “Meetups,” live-tweeted by McDonald’s.

“Bloggers never before had the opportunity to talk to McDonald’s about nutrition,” Blate says. “When they learned about the better for you options available at McDonald’s restaurants their perceptions changed. The experiential component – taking them offline versus just communicating with them online – made a difference in their views of the brand.

“Tanya helped dispel myths around McDonald’s food, created custom menu choices for each meal of the day, and armed parents with the information that they need to responsibly integrate McDonald’s into their hectic daily schedules,” she says.

In addition, the MWW public affairs team met with local officials in the community to raise awareness of the program and encourage their constituents to apply for the grants.  They applauded McDonald’s for supporting nutritional education in the local community by donating seed funding to local nonprofits.

“This effort had an enormous effect in increasing the number of organizations applying for the grants, as well as opening a line of dialogue between the McDonald’s owners and operators in their constituency,” Blate says.

Did it work?

MWW secured close to 100 media hits, including Newsday,, and posts from more than 20 influential bloggers in the local NY Metro market.

McDonald’s exceeded its goal in applications for the grant awards by nearly 500 percent and every segment of the New York Tri-State area was represented showing that the efforts in this program reached the entire region and wasn’t limited to just the big cities.

Success was also measured on social media channels. Before the launch, MWW benchmarked the volume, tone, and common themes around discussions on McDonald’s and nutrition throughout the region. Then, it compared the numbers to post-launch.

Blate says the results were “perception-changing” with nearly “a 2,300 percent increase in social media impressions around McDonald’s and nutrition with 99 percent of them considered ‘favorable.’”

“Additionally, many local bloggers who had previously written negative posts around McDonald’s and its nutritional benefit have begun to praise the brand for its commitment to bringing responsible eating to the forefront,” Blate says.

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