Learning from Chick-fil-A’s PR Disaster

By Herman Pool
In Marketing
August 6, 2012

Article By Vertical Axion

Thanks to the speed at which rumors and bad news travel via the Internet, we can’t help but run into some news about a situation that spirals out of control. Not too long ago the beef industry was hammered because of their “pink slime” products. Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s reputation was severely damaged for pulling their funding from Planned Parenthood. And now, Chick-fil-A has found themselves in a difficult position because of political statements that came directly from the president of the company.

A PR disaster is something you can’t really win, and no company ever wants to deal with one. Still, a simple decision that seems reasonable at the time can trigger a nightmare in less than 24 hours. You may not be as popular at Chick-fil-A or the beef industry, but you still have a public face. That’s why it’s important you’re prepared for PR disasters. Read on to see how you can start preparing your company today.

Have a PR Policy Designed

It doesn’t matter if you only have 20 clients at your business. Rules in case of a PR disaster are still important, especially since these types of disasters don’t happen on a rotating schedule. They’re almost always inconvenient. Make sure you and your team knows exactly what to do in case of such an emergency. If you’re on vacation, who manages the Facebook and Twitter? Who’s allowed to speak in your absence on behalf of your entire company? Even if the answer to all of these questions is “me,” you and your employees should still be aware that that is the answer.

Admit You Did or Said Something

Trying to hide what made people angry in the first place will only rile them up more. Address the issue, and do it head-on. Every minute you don’t say something because you’re formulating a plan is one more minute people can assume you did something they don’t approve of. Often, this leads to the addition of more fuel to the fire, and your company hasn’t even gotten a chance to say anything yet. When you do answer to what you did, make sure you’re frank and exceedingly sincere. Apologize – or don’t – and forget making an “official statement”. People care more about heartfelt, straightforward words.

Anticipate and Prepare

Once you know whatever you said has caused rage among your customers, you should pull out a list of proper responses for certain types of things people are going to say. It’s been over a week since Chick-fil-A caused a riot, and they still haven’t said anything to their fans or on their website. Why? They simply were not prepared for this kind of event and are not organized enough. Even if you don’t have the information you need to make people happy, you can at least say you’re working on a solution that satisfies everyone involved.

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Author: Kat