Ashley Zeckman

Haters Gonna Hate: Tips on Brand Management from McDonald’s #BWENY

Rick Wion (@rdublife) didn’t waste any time jumping in and telling the audience how tricky brand management can be for a large corporation like McDonald’s.  He opened his presentation by teasing that he was sure we had all eaten McDonald’s for lunch and drank a 16oz soda before the ban takes place and they are no longer available.

This post is a mixture of tactical tips shared by Rick, stories specific to McDonald’s and the way they have handled certain situations, as well as a few questions I was able to ask Rick myself.  So sit back, relax, & enjoy your McDonald’s Fruit & Maple oatmeal while I share some highlights from Rick Wion, Director of Social Media at McDonald’s.

A Crisis, A Critic, A Fan & Hero

People love when a brand (especially a large brand) faces crisis.  Why?

  • Crisis spurs conversation
  • Crisis drives traffic
  • hand-wringing draws attention

Everyone is a critic in some way or another.  In addition to being a critic they are also:

  • a “publisher”
  • a “pundit”
  • an “expert”
  • but not everyone is a customer

Knowing who the fans and heros are for your brand are is essential.  Rick shared the story of a four year old boy Evan who was amassing a collection of superhero toys from McDonald’s.  One day he and his mother went to McDonald’s and much to his dismay, the little boy received a girls toy instead.  Evan’s mother who also happened to be a blogger took to Twitter to call out McDonald’s for making a mistake that upset her child.

The team at McDonald’s quickly found her mention and reached out to try and make amends.  They were able to not only send out the proper toy, but also some free/discounted coupons with a special handwritten note.  Evens mom took to her blog thanking McDonald’s for the personal touch and she turned from an upset parent into a champion for the brand.

Photo Credit:

I especially love the way that Fedra ends her post about the experience:

“And finally, hats off to McDonald’s for not only embracing social media, but actuallygetting social media. It’s about connecting with customers and engaging them. They connected. I’m engaged. I’m lovin’ it.”

Read the full post: Hey McDonald’s, I’m Lovin It

Haters Gonna Hate: Negative Feedback WILL Happen

McDonald’s released a sandwich called the McLobster in select areas a couple years ago.  The hashtag #McLobster quickly began trending on Twitter, and it wasn’t a good thing.  Users were uploading photos and sharing tweets that were less than complimentary about the food, and the corporation.

Rick decided to take action.  He bypassed the legal team and decided to take matters into his own hands. The tweet shared by the social team turned the whole conversation around because it was done in the right way, at the right time.

How can you prepare for negative feedback?

  • Monitor conversations
  • Use multiple monitoring and data collection tools
  • Implement a quarterly,  weekly, and daily review
  • Track the macro, watch the micro

Another important strategy is to know who to monitor and listen to online:

  • Focus on those actually buying
  • Listen to critics, move for customers
  • Be wary of echo chambers
  • Don’t waste time trying to change closed minds

Have a Backup Plan for Your Backup Plan

Learning quickly and responding to information in a timely manner is one of the most important pieces of advice for brand managers.  Rick provided 6 great tips for preparing for a crisis including:

  1. Be ready
  2. Have a buddy in the legal department
  3. Take measured risks
  4. Map out friends and foes
  5. Use your fans and employees
  6. Find an external sounding board

TopRank Readers Bonus: My Q&A with Rick Wion

Do you think it is ever acceptable to avoid responding to negative feedback? Why or why not?

Yes, Absolutely.  The volume of conversation about a big brand is so great that you can’t respond to each person.  Which isn’t a bad thing because it forces us to be smart and selective about our responses.  We respond, but look at it with a filter.  We like to ask, is there a conversation that will be mutually beneficial?  Will it be someone that doesn’t like us and never will or someone that is open to a conversation?

Social media doesn’t work a 9-5.  What is your top recommendation for staying aware of and responding to social mentions of your brand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

Try to keep your team somewhat time shifted.  With our agency support we are able to have people in London and California, that way we can cover the majority of time zones.  On Twitter we don’t have 24/7 coverage so the team assigned to the morning needs to monitor conversation from the night before.  The response may not always be instant, but we are covering the majority of time zones.

What if you are a small brand and don’t have the bandwidth of a large brand like McDonald’s?

You don’t have to be on it 24/7 to still be responsive.  Say you have two people, one option is to split the day and each is responsible for a different period of time.  Another option is similar to the way McDonald’s runs their program.  Making sure that first thing in the morning the next person comes in and reviews the posts and feedback from the night before. There are also tools available that will help you make choices if you can’t cover the whole thing you can at least respond to those who have the most influence.

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (2 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)

Ashley Zeckman About Ashley Zeckman

Ashley Zeckman is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy for TopRank Marketing. In addition to finding innovative ways to showcase the exceptional work of her team, she is also responsible for creating digital marketing programs that drive customer acquisition and growth for the agency. Her background includes expertise in everything from content marketing strategy to branding, account management and social media.

Outside of her role at TopRank Online Marketing, Ashley prides herself on being a great home chef, painter, prankster and dog mom.


  1. Great post! Being responsive is so important today!

  2. Did he really go out there using text speak on the brand account? “We r working”? I can’t be the only one who would instantly unfollow for that.

  3. Avatar candiceanderson42 says

    If you already established you brand you really need to take care of it and keep it standing.  Personal attachment of your brand to your customers is really playing a big role.

    Candice Anderson

    Restaurant POS System 

  4. Completely agree that social media is a must for brands today- and let ur customers tell u what they want.

  5. Great post Ashley with great examples ! It is very important to be responsive to your customers now a days. I am fortunate enough to work at Synechron, where we focus on responding to our clients/employees whether the feedback being negative or positive.