KFC: What can PR professionals learn from the Colonel?

As far as PR challenges go, a chicken shop running out of chicken is a pretty major deal. Which perhaps explains the furore which ensued when KFC was forced to close the majority of its 900 restaurants after bringing a new delivery partner on board.

The fiasco was covered extensively across the UK mainstream media, with the most influential outlets from the Sun to the Financial Times offering real-time updates on the situation. Social media, meanwhile, went into overdrive, with fans of the chain demanding, among other things, that the government calls an emergency Cobra meeting over the shortage.

Unsurprisingly, rival brands were only too quick to ride the wave of publicity. Burger King offered free food for a year to a customer who told ITV News she was forced to visit the burger joint after finding her favourite chicken shop closed, while Iceland took to giving away frozen chicken strips.

We’ve previously blogged on the best way to handle a PR crisis, and it seems that the communications teams behind the KFC brand are of the same school of thought. The fast food giant took responsibility, apologised, updated all its channels regularly to keep stakeholders informed and ensured spokespeople were on hand to answer both media questions and social enquiries.

KFC has long been a brand ahead of the curve when it comes to communications strategy. From the subtle (its Twitter account received unprecedented attention when somebody twigged why it only followed 11 accounts) to the outlandish (scratch and sniff Valentine’s Day cards anyone), the company has never been afraid to do things differently. And it’s response to the recent drama is no exception.

A little over a week after the procurement hiccup began to draw headlines, KFC drew a line under the episode by taking out a full page ad in the Sun and the Metro which read ‘We’re Sorry’ under an image of the brand’s famous ‘bucket’. Written on the bucket was an acronym of the logo – FCK.

In a tone which perfectly matches the severity of the debacle, KFC has at once realised the brevity of the issue – while keeping a sense of humour that is synonymous with the brand. And you can bet that the ROI of the print advertising campaign has been blown out of the water by the subsequent media exposure.

Thanks to switched on PR and marketing professionals, the great chicken drought of 2018 will be remembered just as clearly for KFC’s tongue-in-cheek response than the original crisis.

Does your recruitment firm need a crisis communications plan? Contact us today.

Carly SmithAuthor: Carly Smith

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