Inside McDonald’s: PR 101

As one who pays attention to the public relations world, I often notice especially good or especially bad examples. One especially good example I noticed recently was McDonald’s CEO, Don Thompson, in a brief CNBC piece, Inside McDonald’s.

insidemcdonaldsCNBC fires several tough-ish questions at Thompson, all of which he answers in plain English, followed by one very important thing: he steers the discussion back to his points. Even the classic, “(controversial topic) followed by, “how do you feel about this?'” comes back around to “we’re about opportunity” in a conversational manner.

Talking Points & Must-Airs

It’s pretty clear that in preparing for this interview – and you know there was some serious preparation – keywords definitely included, “opportunity,” “innovation,” “real food,” and a few others that stand out to anyone who’s ever done any sort of media analysis. Still, Thompson comes off as sincere, keeping his cool (very important), and gives a textbook example of handling questions on one’s feet.

Reporter: You said last year the menu to you seemed to lack a bit of energy. You didn’t want to repeat what you did last year. What went wrong?

Thompson: Well, I’ll say it’s less than what went wrong, it’s what didn’t we do? It’s always about the opportunity. Some of the opportunities we had were… (and: back to talking points).

Inside McDonald’s is much less of a hard-hitting exposé than a top-level look at how things operate. Regardless of what you think of McDonald’s (they are not paying me for this, and I do eat there occasionally) or the merits of this production vs. others – see Netflix for some less-than-friendly reviews – the interaction between reporter and executive here is what makes this worth watching.

Here’s Inside McDonald’s in its entirety via


What do you think? Have you seen any examples of good or bad PR lately? Have you ever developed talking points or been in a similar media situation yourself? Let us hear from you in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Inside McDonald’s: PR 101

  1. anonymous

    I started watching this on Netflix thinking it was a documentary… then I realized the ‘journalist’ started asking easy questions. It then took on the all too familliar feel of a sales video… slick sentences, all questions neatly answered, the debate steering effortlessly back to talking points… No criticism over the fact that the food is unhealthy is large amounts. And a 20 minute video.

    What Bloomberg B.S.! PR 101 indeed.

    1. rsmithing Post author

      Good point. Calling this a “documentary” would be a stretch, and anyone hoping for hard-hitting investigative journalism would be disappointed in the first few minutes. Your observation about steering to talking points looking effortless is what stood out to me the most from this video.


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