McDonald’s doesn’t always get a break. It’s been criticized, mocked, and has had its share of controversy, especially when it was featured in the documentary film Super Size Me, which followed Morgan Spurlock’s failing health as he only ate fast food every day.
Well they seem to be doing a good job trying to counter the negativity because recently, they gave away children’s books in their Happy Meals. It sounds like a good idea, but Bruce Horovitz wrote in USA Today that when they announced they were planning to do it, they were criticized because the books featured McDonald’s animated animals.
McDonald’s tried to help kids eat right through the messages in those books, and helped kids learn to read, but the company still got stung.
However, it teaches a great publicity lesson. McDonald’s partnered with Reading Is Fundamental, a literacy non-profit, which boosted their image. After all, McDonald’s is a huge for-profit company, and working with a non-profit helped to soften their reputation.
That kind of co-branding is what every company should consider. Like McDonald’s, think around corners. What organization can you partner with to do something positive in your community? By working with someone else, you can create a kind of safeguard so that you don’t have to defend yourself against critics.
The legal website Above the Law can make lawyers laugh about their stories or cry if they’re in there when they get bad coverage. The site got my attention when I saw “Red Bull Gives You…Cardiac Arrest?” because of the title and what appeared to be an absurd lawsuit. A man drank a Red Bull then died of a heart attack while playing basketball, and his family is suing for $85 million. It seems like a frivolous lawsuit, and they’re asking for what seems like an outrageous amount of money, but in every cloud there’s a silver lining.
In a case like this, there’s a potential liability both legally and from a PR point of view. There’s the risk of losing the case, and the attorney representing the plaintiff could say something that supports the apparent absurdity of the law suit. Also, third-party attorneys commenting on the case could also negatively affect their reputations if they make comments that are “laughably” too serious or poke fun where a death is involved.
That’s where the silver lining comes in: in cases like this where it’s tempting to say something dismissive or too critical, it’s important to balance it out with a comment that offers a fresh view of the situation. For instance, an attorney can do research to see if there’s validity to the lawsuit by citing precedents. Elie Mystal, who wrote that post at Above the Law, mentions side effects of the drink that could give the lawsuit validity. That’s an example of showing credible opinions in a peculiar legal matter.
So if you’re asked to comment on a case that seems silly and wasteful, share your opinions when you can offer comments that add value. Or just stay away from anything that’s “bull.”
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