InsightsPOSTED January 16, 2014

McDonald’s 3 key ingredients for engagement

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With 43 years at McDonald’s behind him in a number of positions, John E. Betts says that being president and CEO of McDonald’s Canada is his favourite and the most fun.

Betts, who was recently recognized as the recipient of the CPRS 21st annual CEO Award of Excellence in Public Relations, was born in the U.S. and grew up in Europe.

Still, he spent much time in Canada before becoming president and CEO of @McD_Canada. This dates back to when his father David A. Betts (also at the award ceremony) was U.S. consul general in Montreal in the 1970s and Toronto in the 1980s.

Betts credits his CEO award win to three principles that tie McDonald’s business objectives to their communication strategies:

1. Have a vision people can rally around

McDonald’s vision is

“To be Canada’s favourite place and way to eat and drink, and our employees’ favourite place and way to work.”

Betts believes this vision is one that people on both sides of the counter can buy into.

2. Build a narrative that everyone can be a part of

Betts outlined that they got everyone’s attention with free coffee and kept them coming back with the expansion of McCafé line-up. That led to the Signature McWrap and new veggie options – “platforms that we built based on customer feedback.”

Internally they also create areas of focus for their communication efforts. Betts describes this as, “the journey written as a book – one that McDonald’s Canada is writing one chapter at a time.”

McDonald’s adds a theme each year. In 2013, the “Year of Differentiation” they added their listening tour in which they met with dieticians, students, millennials and industry leaders to engage in transparent communications about McDonald’s.

This also included the Canada-wide Our Food. Your Questions. initiative, which Betts describes as global sensation.

3. Merchandise the story for even greater success

Part of McDonald’s Canada’s storytelling also includes dialogue within their internal community.

For those part of the network, they launched a monthly newsletter called “On the Road.” In it they share best practices and encourage people to get engaged and take action. Through this they’ve found great success in building their “army of ambassadors.”

“Our story is everybody’s story,” says Betts. A bold statement as they wade into their 2014 theme – The Year of Engagement.


“Communication in any medium is the greatest way to engage them in your journey.”

“I truly believe to be a great leader, you have to be an excellent communicator. That doesn’t just mean talking, it’s about listening.”

“As a leadership brand, it doesn’t get any more powerful than having everyone tell your story.”

More on McDonald’s engagement

Need help developing your company’s story? APEX has the expertise.

Diane Bégin is an Account Director at APEX Public Relations. Follow her on Twitter.

Photo via CP Images.




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