Mclibel Case Study

.. y from a public relations perspective? The Public Relations perception mistakes that McDonald’s should have avoided : McDonald’s first public relations mistake was it pursuit of its legal vendetta against the two activists. This action proved that the company had jumped the gun in protecting its reputation/image. By not conducting any environmental scanning, the corporation had no idea of how its publics perceived the organization after the dissemination of the leaflets. Thus, the company had no idea whether or not it was necessary to conduct damage control in order to protect its reputation. Secondly, the corporation failed to do environmental scanning on Greenpeace itself.

The company had no idea of the size of the activist groups, its power to influence publics locally, nationally, and internationally, the resources the group had available to defend its position, or the credibility of the organization. The final public relations mistake the company made was using asymmetrical methods to disseminate information. On the eve of the trial, McDonald’s issued 300,000 leaflets that called the activists liars, as a way of discrediting them. This strategy backfired because the company did not conduct any background research on the activists, thus just deciding to utilize one-way communication to argue its side. Mcdonald’s had failed to do environmental scanning on Greenpeace itself. The company had no idea of the size of the activist groups, its power to influence publics locally, nationally, and internationally, the resources the group had available to defend its position, or the credibility of the organization. As McDonald’s felt justified in the legal action it took against Morris and Steel.

In the September 16, 1999 issue of Marketing, a weekly UK trade magazine, an article on the case exerts the fact that no matter what McDonald’s does, it will always be a bad guy in the eyes of pressure groups which don’t like multinational capitalism, particularly when its well marketed. 2. How could other corporations learn from the case? According to Murphy and Dee (1992), many public relations practitioners generally assume that the solution to dealing with activist publics lies in negotiation and compromise: The solution is a redefinition of the relative roles in a non-adversary climate, no matter what is takes. The rule makers are not evil, capricious, unthinking people, but more likely hardworking public servants. They can, with some sense of community, engage in a dialogue..(to) balance the conflicting needs of employment and the environment.

(Schnancht, cited in J.E. Grunig & Hunt, 1984). Research has shown that business and industry are not always held in high esteem in the eyes of the public when words are put on someone else’s mouth. Oftentimes when an organization attempts to advocate a good image, it is not supported or accepted by the public because it knows who the organization is. Organizations must realize that they are not immune from potential credibility problems. In realizing this, organizations must seek the help of other credible institutions to re-establish its credibility.

Rose(1991) Lesly (1992) noted that an organization must have expertise in five areas which are: v Knowing the situation and the climate. v Knowing your people. v Knowing your adversaries. v Knowing what to do. v Knowing how to do it.

3.Grunig’s Four models of Public Relations (Grunig, J. E.1984, pg56-57) Model Name Type of Communication Model Characteristics Press agentry/publicity model One-way communication Uses persuasion and manipulation to influence audience to behave as the organization desires Public Information model One-way communication Uses press releases and other one-way communication techniques to distribute organizational information. Public relations practitioner is often referred to as the journalist in residence. One-way asymmetrical model One-way communication Uses persuasion and manipulation to influence audience to behave as the organization desires. Does not use research to find out how it public(s) feel about the organization. Two-way symmetrical model Two-way communication Uses communication to negotiate with publics,resolve conflict, and promote mutual understanding and respect between the organization and its public(s). 3a) The two-way symmetrical model would have been most effective for Mcdonald’s.

v The need of two-way communication to learn the consequences of what they are doing on all their relevant publics, not just their employees, and their associates. v The need two-way communication to tell the publics what they are doing about any negative consequences. 3b) The Public Information model would have been most effective for anti- Mcdonald’s group. Nope! Mcdonald’s adopted the One-way asymmetrical model (one-way communication) strategy. It backfired because the company did not conduct any background research on the activists. My recommended approach was not adopted in reality by McDonald’s, but the anti-McDonald’s activist group had adopted the Public Information model (One-way communication), thus utilizing one-way communication to argue its side.

If McDonald’s had approached the two-way symmetrical model since the late eighties (the beginning of the anti-Mcdonald’s campaign), the court case would have been avoided. Therefore the organization reputation wouldn’t have been smeared so badly, which results in the loss of company’s godwill. There’s no doubt that the McLibel trial became a unique and historic public tribunal of enquiry into many aspects of the food industry and modern Corporations. Despite all the odds being stacked completely against those representing the public interest. The company’s completely in a untenable position trying to suppress widespread public criticisms. Conclusions As cited by Anderson(1992) weaknesses in most case studies of activism is that similar case studies should be conducted that examine activism from the perspective of both the organizations and of the activists groups, which I feel it is applicable to this study of the McLibel case.

In my research for preparing this assignment, I’ve came across more literature and disseminated information from the small activist group of London Greenpeace versus the large multi-national corporation of McDonald’s. This study also points to the need of more studies that examine the special problems of international communication. The actions multi-national c McDonald’s triggered activist conflict not only in London, but in other different countries as well. If public relations practitioners are to assess issues successfully and identify publics that are likely to become active on those issues, they must look beyond the confines of their own culture and beyond the borders of their own country, Anderson (1992). Legal Issues.

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