The Queen, the President, and a PM go into a McDonald’s and …

This sounds like the beginning of a good joke… the Queen, the President and a Prime Minister go into a McDonald’s… But actually it is a thought or two for PR people about exploiting opportunity when it presents itself.

Hi-jacking news stories is a tried and tested technique used by everybody in PR. Watch for the stories running in media and on social media, and find or invent a hook to connect your employer’s (or client’s) story. But I would also commend event hi-jacking.

My favourite three hi-jacks from my casebook go back a way (most things with me do) but they do involve the Queen, a President, and a PM.

All three were when I was leading comms for McDonald’s in the UK in the 1990s.

Queen at McDThe first hi-jack involved HMQ. We were informed that the Queen was due to visit a large new shopping centre which had a McDonald’s Drive-Thru restaurant on the edge of the site.

Chatting with those involved from the Palace on site recce we managed to persuade them that the best way to move the Queen’s car from one place to another on the site was through the McDonald’s Drive-Thru lane.

Result was HMQ entering and leaving the centre to get back into her car next to McDonald’s and a line up of McD staff, and oh – the press pack of photographers and consequently the front page photos the next day giving more space to McDonald’s than to the shopping centre.

It was a long time ago so hopefully the centre owners are over it now!

The second involve the then HM Opposition and Labour Party leader Tony Blair.

I took a call one day from an old friend who was then working on the Blair’s team. He called to ask me as a former PM’s agent a question about managing event logistics with security considerations.

mcblairDuring the call I realised that the visit he was talking about would involve TB being close to a McDonald’s restaurant.

I managed to persuade my old friend that it would be a great opportunity for TB to press some flesh in the world’s favourite hamburger restaurant with some “ordinary people.”

This might balance the actual purpose of his visit which was to be flown in by helicopter to officially open a new machinery plant owned by big business Labour Party donors (this was New Labour when Labour and business were friends). The visit was duly arranged.

What slightly threw me was that the Labour team bussed in their own “ordinary people” to be customers in our store for TB to meet. Tha fiction aside, I have to say he was brilliant with our staff. Spent real-time with them and remembered all of their names which is not a trick mastered by all politicos in my experience.

We stole the front pages again. Hamburger restaurant with McBlair much more news worthy than fat cat business story.

This event also helped to build the relationships which when Labour came to power resulted in the announcement of Labour’s flagship Statutory Minimum Wage introduction by the Employment Minister in a McDonald’s restaurant.

The third hi-jacking event also involved Tony Blair, by then PM.

At the Labour Party  Blackpool Conference, Blair accompanied by former President Bill Clinton and mutual pal, the now disgraced Kevin Spacey, were all in the conference hotel, The Imperial ahead of Clinton’s guest address to conference the next day.

McD BlackpoolPresident Clinton’s liking for a Big Mac was well-known. So when I was talking to Blair’s team ahead of our McDonald’s sponsored event at the conference, I asked how the President was being fed.

They looked blank and said that was the hotel catering. I suggested that they let him know we had a brand new UK product about to launch and that we had it on trial in our nearest Blackpool restaurant, and that maybe we could deliver one to him.

The message came back that he’d like to go to the restaurant.

That night the PM’s cars sped President Clinton and Kevin Spacey down  through the Illuminations and they visited the store. Clinton being Clinton, he had a photographer with him, and was not shy to help us with a bit of a photo-op.

Simple moral to the tale, never let an opportunity slip by. It’s always worth asking.

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