McDonald’s media relations chief explains the best and worst things to do in a crisis

Danya Proud, director of media relations at McDonald’s USA, shares nine crisis communications tips.


There’s rarely a lack of headlines about organizations facing a crisis, whether it’s a large airline, a presidential campaign, or a social media start up.

Usually, the organizations that make it through choppy waters most intact are the ones with a plan.

Danya Proud is well aware of the necessity for any company—big or small—to be prepared for such a situation. Proud, who is director of media relations at McDonald’s USA, shared with PR Daily the best and worst practices during a crisis.

According to Proud, you should never:

Inflate the situation before you’ve figured it out, Proud says. Sending an email to your entire company when in crisis mode is unnecessary. Identify the key players and departments, and focus on communicating with them.

Be a slacker.
Social media moves quickly. “Gone are the days that you can procrastinate about what you’re saying,” Proud says. “You have a responsibility to get back to people.” If you aren’t informed enough to address the problem at hand, a simple tweet or post letting people know you’re looking into the issue will show that you’re listening.

Miss an opportunity. A crisis can be an opportunity to set the record straight. “I seize every opportunity to educate,” Proud says.

Fail to recognize C.A.V.E. people. Some people are “trolling” the Internet looking to stir up trouble. You need to know when to respond and when to recognize a “C.A.V.E.” person—that is, a Citizen Against Virtually Everything, as McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner calls them. “Understand and accept that you won’t get 100 percent” of people loving your brand, Proud advises.

You should always:

Define the crisis. Before you go into panic mode, you need to understand what the crisis is, what it means to your company, and who needs to be involved.

Tailor the communication. The CEO isn’t always the most relatable person. Make sure the person you choose to represent the crisis at hand resonates with the audience.

Avoid jargon.
“People forget conversational language and resort back to comfortable corporate speak,” Proud notes.

Give them what they want. Proud knows that “it’s not about what you want to say, it’s about what your audience wants to hear.” McDonald’s embarks on listening tours and monitors social media to understand what people want from the company.

Acknowledge that you’re not perfect. If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it. Let people know you’re listening to them.

Samantha Hosenkamp is the social media editor at PR Daily.

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