While it is the Big Mac of the fast-food industry, McDonald's Corp. is taking a mom-and-pop approach to telling its story, according to the York-based firm now handling its local public relations.
The Central Pennsylvania co-op, which includes 23 owner/operators and 89 restaurants in nine counties, recently hired Moxie Design and Marketing to bolster its midstate voice.
"When people think of McDonald's, they think of the national brand and often overlook that these individual restaurants are owned and operated by local individuals who have a stake in their community," said Brenda Pettersen, owner/operator of a Dillsburg franchise and president of the midstate co-op. "We saw hiring a public relations firm as an opportunity to make our community connections grow even stronger."
Earlier this year, the golden arches cut ties with midstate franchisee Andy Cheung after foreign guest workers made allegations of worker exploitation.
"That's a separate issue from this decision," Pettersen said of the move to add the co-op's first PR firm, which came in May but was only just announced.
Moxie was one of three regional communications firms invited to make a pitch to McDonald's, said Julie Lando, Moxie's founder and president.
"I have fond memories with my kids at McDonald's and (my own) memories," said Lando, who thought she was the only person in the world who put fries on her McDonald's cheeseburger, something she still does today.
Franchise owners and their employees have an abundance of stories to tell, Lando said. From fundraisers to support for local events, these folks are active in their communities.
It's Moxie's task to craft a PR strategy around those success stories while still integrating the products that make the brand so well known.
"Competition is increasing for them," Lando said, citing the likes of Chipotle and other chains that are threatening to take larger market shares.
McDonald's needs to home in more on its people and give them a voice, she said.
"Our goal is to tell the story of all of them," Lando said. "We're still in the early phases."
Much of what Moxie is working on with other firms who handle McDonald's advertising and social media will be rolled out this fall, she said.
Working for a large corporation such as McDonald's "elevates your game," she said. It's a double-edge sword type of job: Ideas come naturally because the brand is so iconic, but that also makes it more stressful because McDonald's has heard and seen everything before, she said.
Moxie is only a 10-person shop, which can work to its advantage.
"The bigger you get, the more withdrawn you are as an owner," said Lando, who intends to remain more of a boutique shop. "It's about having a personal relationship and what it is (the client) needs."
Moxie works with a variety of business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies in the Mid-Atlantic region — mostly in Central Pennsylvania. That client list includes companies in the apparel, automotive, building supply, consumer packaged goods, entertainment, government, health care, luxury, tourism and technology sectors.
Terms of the PR contract with McDonald's were not disclosed.
York-based Moxie Design and Marketing, a full-service advertising and communications firm, is the public relations firm for the McDonald’s Central Pennsylvania co-op.
The co-op includes 23 owner/operators and 89 restaurants. Those restaurants are in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties.
Nationwide, McDonald’s has about 14,000 restaurants. Nearly 90 percent are independently owned and operated.