‘Big Mac: Inside the McDonald’s Empire’ Is Excellent PR

'Big Mac Inside the McDonald's Empire' Is Excellent PR

When you think about documentaries about McDonald’s, you likely think about the wildly successful but recently debunked “Supersize Me” or one of several stories told about founder Ray Kroc. But the best one yet was the CNBC-produced “Big Mac.” The documentary told the story of McDonald’s from its founding to its present-day fast-food domination. It was a warm and revealing glimpse into the international empire. In a culture where excess and scandal get so much attention, how is it that McDonald’s — and CNBC — succeeded with this lighthearted and happy look under the hood of the Golden Arches?

A few reasons:

1. Companionable tone: While most documentaries sell with brash statements and bold accusations, this one kept a companionable tone and told just the (fun) facts throughout. It was a nice change of pace and an effective “different” story in a market glutted with gotcha journalism and trumped-up accusations.

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2. Positive theme throughout: The theme remained informative, even when dealing with criticisms of McDonald’s. In fact, during the final segment with the CEO, the reporter could have kept it congenial and friendly. Instead, that’s when the hard-hitting questions came out. And they kept coming. Still, the interview remained an amiable exchange of ideas. This tone respects the viewer’s intelligence and ability to make a decision.

3. Insider secrets: Consumers LOVE inside looks and learning secrets, whether past or present. The show offered quite a few different looks into how the company develops its product line and other trade secrets. Sure, there was a fair amount of info that “everyone already knows,” but that was comfortably offset by the real revelations.

4. Delivered with authority: This is perhaps the most important distinction from the crowded documentary marketplace. “Big Mac” was delivered with news-maker aplomb and legitimate authority. While many documentaries come across like yappy little purse dogs dying for attention, this one “felt” like real news.

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5. Not posturing or heavy handed: Dovetailing off the last point, the tone of the storyline was open and, to a point, honest and revealing. There was some marketing, of course, but the message wasn’t laden with advertising schlock so much that it came across heavy-handed, like a giant Looney Tunes mallet to the consumer’s skull.

Each of these criteria helped CNBC produce a hit that turned into positive public relations for McDonald’s. There is wisdom in each point that can be applied to any marketing or PR campaign. Stand out. Respect your audience. Pique their curiosity and deliver honest and unvarnished truth.

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