McDonald’s Budget Tool Doesn’t Add Up

 McDonalds Budget Tool Doesnt Add Up

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for McDonald’s.

An attempt by fast food giant McDonald’s to help employees manage their finances has left a bad taste in workers’ mouths. The burger chain is being grilled this week for a sample budget contained in its brochure “Practical Money Skills,” part of a financial literacy program McDonald’s created with Visa and Wealth Watchers International. The budget suggests that an individual who makes $1,105 a month after taxes – about what a McDonald’s minimum-wage worker brings home – would need a second income of nearly the same amount to pay for basic monthly expenses. And even those expenses are debatable: the budget assumes rent or mortgage of a mere $600, health insurance for $20 a month, and a daily spending goal of $25 from which, presumably, things like gas, food, and child care are all supposed to be drawn.

The problem is not that the budget isn’t realistic; it’s that it is. McDonald’s inadvertent message to its workforce is, without a second job, you probably can’t survive on what we pay most of you. And that’s exactly what its workers have been saying in protests across the US. The project’s PR folks clumsily compounded the problem, saying it was only a sample budget (so it wasn’t meant to be accurate?) and that the “second job” was a theoretical partner’s wages (quite an assumption, and all the expenses appear to be individualized). McDonald’s also surreptitiously added in $50 in heating costs after the original plan presumed workers in chillier climates would simply shiver through the winter.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for McDonald’s, which is already fighting wage-related battles with employees in several states. This blunder gives workers some fine ammunition.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: All communications are public relations. The line between internal and external communications is effectively gone; all company materials must be looked at with a critical eye for the PR impact they might have. Most large companies have already learned this lesson – some the hard way – but still don’t understand it applies well beyond the company-wide memo from the CEO. As McDonald’s found out, even such well-intentioned projects as a financial planning tool for workers can cause reputational indigestion.

Sick Leave Issue Makes Disney Look Ill

 Sick Leave Issue Makes Disney Look Ill

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Disney World.

Walt Disney World: The Happiest Place on Earth… Unless you’re not feeling well. That’s the word out of Florida, where the family-friendly entertainment resort is being slammed for blocking employees from receiving paid sick time.

That’s what the press is reporting, anyway. In truth, Disney World and other businesses are objecting to state legislation that would allow local governments in Florida to enact their own wage-and-benefits laws. Presumably, Disney’s lobbyists are arguing that, in addition to an inherent question of fairness, having to conform to potentially dozens of local laws would place an undue burden on their clients.

We use the word “presumably” because Disney has not commented on the matter and its position, if public, is nowhere to be found. As a result, the media is carrying only the messages of disgruntled employees, their unions, and a grassroots group called MomsRising that has taken the issue of guaranteed sick time national. Last week, a group of MomsRising activists who tried to deliver a petition to Disney’s corporate offices were turned away by security.

This isn’t Disney’s first tussle with employees. A few years ago, a union representing 25,000 Disney employees shot a film called Mouse Trapped 2010. In it, workers tell tales of earning less than $8 an hour after three years of service and having to go to local churches for handouts despite being employed full-time. It’s a small wage after all, and this latest news could bring ill will to Disney’s PR.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Disney World. One need only look to Walmart or Michael Moore’s film Roger & Me slamming General Motors to see what might be in store for the Magic Kingdom.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Silence may be golden, but it’s not always the right PR move. Once your name is in the headlines, it can pay to clarify your position. This is particularly true for a place like Disney World, a global powerhouse of a business built on fairy tales – being seen as being mean just doesn’t fit the brand. Disney may think it has bigger fish to fry than dealing with some squeaky wheels in Florida, but management would do well to recall the famous advice of U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill: “All politics is local.”





Walmart’s Un-Happy Thanksgiving

73248406 150x150 Walmarts Un Happy Thanksgiving

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Walmart.

Ah, Thanksgiving, the holiday when American families gather together over a meal, express gratitude, spend time together… And then start their holiday shopping at 8 pm, right after dinner, Aunt Mabel visiting from Boise be damned.

At least, that’s what Walmart and other major retailers are hoping will happen when it makes the unprecedented move of opening its doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving night. Store workers will have to arrive hours before opening time, thereby putting a serious dent in their holiday.

A strike at Walmart is now planned on Black Friday, the nation’s biggest retail day. Workers are fed up, claiming ongoing retaliation for speaking out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care. A Walmart spokesman answered, “The super majority of our 1.3 million associates are excited about Black Friday and are ready to serve our customers.” Ironically, Walmart failed to secure an injunction agains the union and the strike.  The earliest it could get one is Thursday, the national holiday, when courts are closed.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Walmart. Their decision to start Black Friday so early on Thanksgiving Thursday plays right back into its ongoing PR problem of being one of the country’s meanest employers.

The PR Takeaway: Thanksgiving begins at home. Walmart has had persistent PR problems when it comes to employee relations. As one of the nation’s largest employers it has been routinely been characterised (fairly or unfairly) as the employer who scrimps on benefits and pays a barely living wage. Walmart’s PR answer has been to focus on its role in the community including Working Families for Wal-Mart, a nonprofit organization funded by the retail giant to combat criticism of the company. But with this move it will be hard to take seriously its pledged commitment  to helping families and local communities. RIP, Thanksgiving; hello, Dark Thursday.

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Note: The PRV returns on Monday. Happy Thanksgiving to our readers!