May 10, 2013
After a man named Charles Ramsey helped Amanda Berry escape from the Cleveland house where she and two other young women had been held captive for 10 years, Ramsey told reporters he was eating McDonald’s when he saw her trying to leave the house.
As USA Today reports, people quickly began urging the hamburger chain to do something for the local hero. McDonald’s responded by sending out a tweet late Tuesday: “We salute the courage of Ohio kidnap victims & respect their privacy. Way to go Charles Ramsey — we’ll be in touch.”
As of late Wednesday, McDonald’s had not met with Ramsey. A McDonald’s spokesperson told ABC News on Wednesday that the company was planning to “reach out to Mr. Ramsey directly” without offering further details. “We saw an overwhelming response on Twitter calling on McDonald’s to do something,” spokesperson said. “As we committed, we will be in touch.”
In a world where nearly every social-media action brings a social-media reaction, some are applauding McDonald’s for acknowledging Ramsey’s role in the women’s escape, while others are criticizing the company for its tweet.
“I call it news-jacking,” says Chris Ann Goddard, president of CGPR. “They’re taking advantage of a situation to help their brand.”
Illustrating what’s happening to marketing in America, “The social-media folks all jump on something without asking: Is this a good idea?” says marketing strategist Al Ries. McDonald’s would have been wiser to do something for Ramsey without making a public splash of it, he says.
For now, the story should be about the three young women who were rescued, Ashley McCown, a crisis-communications specialist at the Boston firm of Solomon McCown, tells BusinessWeek.com. “The last thing you want is an organization seeking PR for the PR buzz and appearing self-promotional.”
Meanwhile, complicating matters are the reports that surfaced pointing out that Ramsey is a convicted felon with three separate domestic violence charges. As Time magazine business writer Brad Tuttle notes, “Perhaps, one might think, it’s unwise for a brand to want such a man as a spokesperson.”
Tuttle goes on to write that the Ramsey episode “represents a cautionary tale for brands that are eager to take advantage of a hot marketing opportunity, before the public’s attention shifts elsewhere.” — Greg Beaubien
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