McDonald’s CEO Lays Out Solid Guidelines for Commenting on Hot-Button Issues

No doubt a lot of organizations these days are having to determine when and when not to speak out on social, political and other issues that gain prominence in the news. That’s setting aside for a moment the question of WHAT organizations might say publicly, if they decide to do so. In this past Sunday’s New York Times, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski did a pretty good job, I feel, of setting the boundaries for hot topics that McDonald’s will and won’t comment on. Asked “Where is the company on voting rights?”, Mr. Kempczinski’s reply included the following: “Is it either directly in our industry — which is an obvious one that we would comment on — or does it go specifically to the pillars that we’ve said are going to matter to us? So we’ve talked about jobs and opportunity. We’ve talked about helping communities in crisis. We’ve talked about planet. And we’ve talked about supporting local farmers and ranchers. Those are areas that we’ve said are specific to our business where we feel like we’ve got a role to play. If it’s outside of that, then there has to be a really good reason that us saying something can also be part of the solution.”

“Does it go specifically to the pillars that we’ve said are going to matter to us?”

— McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski

There’s more, but that’s the core of his answer. The interview doesn’t include a logical follow-up question, i.e., “Pillars aside, what do you do in instances where a portion of your workforce wants or expects the company to speak up?” From a messaging and reputation management standpoint, I believe this topic is going to get increasingly interesting as more and more young people who’ve grown up with social media and put their views on public display rise to the ranks of organizational leadership.

There are some good case studies and best-practice conversations to be had here, I’m sure.