The Week in PR: March 30, 2015

McDonald’s Shakes Up New Campaign. The latest marketing push by McDonald’s is a good example of how brands and organizations can use the calendar (plus a little imagination) to get the message out—and relatively quickly. “Moments of Joy” kicked off March 24, in 24 cities in 24 countries. The company’s most ambitious effort since it rolled out “I’m lovin’ it,” the effort started in Sydney, where people were encouraged to jump into a coffee-cup-shaped ball pit. Ergo, a moment of joy.

Other countries on the marketing map include Brazil, China, Poland and Romania. McD’s PR effort comes against the backdrop of declining sales and new CEO Steve Easterbrook announcing that the fast-food giant will eliminate antibiotics in chicken within the next two years.

Starbucks’ Bitter Cup. Well, that was fast. Starbucks dialed back part of its plan to spark a national conversation about race relations after it was hammered on social media. Earlier this month Starbucks’ baristas started to write “Race Together” on customers’ cups. No more.

In a note to employees acknowledging that part of the plan had been scrapped, Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz said: “While there has been criticism of the initiative—and I know this hasn’t been easy for you—let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise.”

Of course, no brand can expect to be showered with applause when it wades into a hot-button issue. Starbucks simply decided to cut some of its losses, but its broader race initiative will continue.

Will Ferrell’s Impeccable Timing. It’s another way to promote a new product without, er, promoting it directly. Will Ferrell last week blasted fraternities, saying they should call it quits. The actor’s comments followed revelations of bad behavior at frats at Penn State and Oklahoma State.

“The incident in Oklahoma, that is a real argument for getting rid of the system altogether, in my opinion, even having been through a fraternity,” Ferrell told The New York Times. His comments are well and good, but Ferrell’s timing was hardly comedic. He chimed in on frats just days before the release of his latest film, Get Hard. We don’t blame Ferrell for having an opinion, but the timing of his comment seems a little too transparent.

A Different ‘Layout’ for Instagram. Time for PR pros to find their inner Ansel Adams. Barring that, sending a comprehensive message via Instagram probably just got a lot easier. Last week saw the rollout of Layout from Instagram, a new app that lets users combine multiple photos into a single image.

The app gives Instagramers complete artistic control, according to an Instagram blog post. “Drag and drop photos to rearrange them, pinch to zoom or pull the sides of each photo to adjust its size and get your layout just right,” the blog post says. Just make sure the ability to reconfigure artwork on Instagram doesn’t encroach on the message you want to convey to audiences.

To secure spontaneous moments—the CEO in an unguarded yet endearing pose—Instagram has added Photo Booth. Tap it to start a countdown and capture photos that will be seen instantly in a layout. The tool can help to humanize brands, but PR pros need to be careful that they not cede too much control to an Instagram algorithm.

Facebook’s New Publishing Model? It could be the next plateau for how PR pros pitch Facebook. The social network is in conversation with several large publishers, including The New York Times and National Geographic, about a new way to host those publishers’ stories directly on the platform. Should some type of partnership emerge, PR pros will have to sharpen their pitching skills to convince Facebook’s gatekeepers why a certain story (or interview subject) will play well on the platform. Communicators also will have to ramp up efforts to monitor how their brands and organizations are portrayed on Facebook and what the adjacencies are for content that tends to get shared.

Such a deal also will make it more difficult for communicators to get their stories across the plate, what with competing against the likes of New York Times ’ stories.

People Moves. Burson-Marsteller said Jon Wentzel has joined the agency as Executive VP, U.S. Chief Client Officer. Wentzel will work closely with U.S. CEO Michael Law to build client relationships. Previously, Wentzel was Executive VP, Corporate & Public Affairs Practice Lead for Ogilvy Public Relations in the agency’s West Region… Marci Kaminsky has joined Grant Thornton LLP as CCO, a newly created position. Based in the Chicago office, she will lead management of the company’s reputation and strategic communications. Before joining Grant Thornton, Kaminsky was senior VP, corporate relations, at The Allstate Corp.

This article originally appeared in the March 30, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.