How KFC Handled their PR Crisis_ 6 Lessons to Learn

Anton Ioffe - September 13th 2021 - 4 minutes read

At one point in history, KFC proved to the business world that challenges are inescapable, but how they are managed make the difference. Why would Kentucky fried chicken, a company established to serve spiced chicken to customers run out of stock? It was one of the worst weeks in the history of this chicken conglomerate, but it wasn't the end of the road.

Across England, several KFC restaurants were completely closed due to a logistical disruption that led to a shortage of chicken. KFC is not the only organization that has suffered a similar crisis – hundreds of companies suffer the same fate.

As the management worked to stabilize supply, the PR team employed some tricks to build their image while apologizing.

This article looks at KFC'S PR expertise and draws subtle lessons from its strategy.

1. Appoint a creative team

Every business faces peculiar challenges. Sometimes, you are wary of them; other times, they happen. When they occur, there should be a team of proactive creatives to handle public perception.

This means they have to speak to the media and communicate directly with customers. KFC reacted swiftly to the incident and didn't have to scout for PR managers. They had capable hands before then, and it was easy to kick off.

They devised a convincing ad strategy and media communication targeted at members of the public. If everything seems rosy for your organization, it's not an excuse to underrate the need for public relations. It would help if you had a standby team from the word go. KFC had that, and you can.

2. Address the affected parties

In line with a working strategy, KFC addressed the affected parties. In their case, the people hit directly or indirectly by this mishap were stakeholders, partners, employees, the media, and, more importantly, their esteemed customers.

Since the chefs and staff members were not guilty, the company thanked and motivated them to work tooth and nail to get things back on track. After apologizing, they narrated the efforts put in improving the situation plus how future adversity would be stalled.

The numerous press releases were timely, and the affected parties were not kept in the dark. The media didn't have to come to them for details; they were swift enough to let out content before pressmen came to them.

3. Gather the facts and accept all the blame

Regardless of whose fault it is, the organization has to accept the blame and not shift it to employees or nature. It is an anomaly to address members of the public without having full details of what transpired. Gather all the information you need before formulating a public relations policy.

Misinformation or the wrong tone makes matters worse as it may mean pride or insincerity on your part. Own the blame and assure everyone that you're in the situation. KFC did not blame suppliers; they were honest enough to let everyone know they made a mistake and would resolve it soon.

Soon after they made promises, fresh chicken returned to restaurants, and customers had no choice than to trust them. Here's the deal: leave no room for excuses, get to work! If KFC channeled all the energy in creating a public image and not working underground, we would be saying a different story.

4. Appeal to emotions

Humans are emotional beings. Clarification is not all there is to it. Appeal to their emotions and make them feel excited (even if the situation is dire). For instance, a man walks into a toy store to purchase one for his 4-year-old.

On reaching there, this reputable store is out of stock and cannot satisfy this customer's needs. He walks out and is not happy for two reasons: he can't make his son happy when he gets home, and his son could burst into tears, thinking his dad deliberately refused to buy the toy.

For a customer like this, he needs more than an explanation to make him cheerful. KFC employed humor without being offensive. The first words on the ad were, "we're sorry."

5. Monitor the situation after the crisis

A crisis can cost a business a lot of customers, which are the backbone of any organization. After the crisis is resolved, customers would still be skeptical about your organization's capability owing to precedence.

Remember, you have bad online reviews and several messages on your website and email. Address those concerns professionally and assure them you'll do better next time. A good PR team would not neglect negative reviews but address them to help repair their distorted image.

Create a relationship between customers that stayed with you through thick and thin and woo new ones. Also, monitor negative trends so that they don't escalate and become a major crisis.

It's only wise to prepare for a crisis because they are inevitable. Don't ditch customers who have bad things to say about your company, but communicate and apologize to them with any opportunity you have.

6. The FCK bucket

There are many ways every company can customize their "FCK" bucket, but here's how KFC did theirs. This bucket was a media campaign aimed at apologizing and putting a human face to the crisis.

It initially ran in print alone but made it to social media and went viral. By rearranging the letters KFC to FCK, they resonated with the minds of consumers who walked into their restaurants and screamed "f*ck" as they walked out in disappointment.

This way, they proved they knew how everyone felt and are in solidarity with them. How would you prove to your consumers that you understand how they feel? Figure out a similar strategy as KFC already set the pace.

Without KFC's creative PR team, there would be no positive lessons to learn from. Their strategy was applauded by customers, marketing professionals, and PR experts.

A company's reputation is on the line when there are no clear-cut plans to get out of a crisis in the future. What are your plans should your organization face a similar catastrophe?

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