A Strong Brand Will Stop a Hoax Before It Starts

Besides the ongoing struggle to justify its age-old mascot, McDonald’s battled a story over the past few days that got passed around on Twitter (#SeriouslyMcDonalds). A photo showed a sign that said the fast-food chain was charging African-American customers an additional $1.50 “as an insurance measure due in part to a recent string of robberies.”

McDonald’s addressed the story, with Rick Wion, McDonald’s director of social media telling Mashable that the company has “been tweeting and striving to clarify that this is a hoax.”

A quick check of the hashtag this morning shows that tweeters understand that the image was fake. But, as Gawker points out, this is a story that first reared its head in June 2010. So how do you kill a negative story once and for all?

A blog called IJustDid has three suggestions to explore and two of them are pretty good: target influencers with the message that this is a hoax and launch a complimentary Twitter campaign #SincerelyMcDonalds that highlights the good that McDonald’s does on the issue of diversity.

The goal here shouldn’t just be to let everyone know this incident was a fake. Rather, emphasize that it’s so contrary to what McDonald’s stands for that if it should ever come up again, people will know instantly that it isn’t real. A strong brand prevents a far-fetched prank from taking hold once, let alone twice.

Gawker questions whether any amount of reputation management can stop a negative story from bubbling up time and again. The answer is likely no. But you can fortify a brand to withstand them. What’s crazy here is that some people did believe that McDonald’s would do this.

What are your thoughts on the topic? The comments section is open and you can reach us @PRNewser.