Crisis Communications (Part 1): KFC Teaches Us the 3 Do’s

Everyone has to deal with a crisis sometime in their life, such as a mid-life crisis or, for millennials, a quarter life crisis. Companies are no different.

Crisis Communications deals with safeguarding the reputation of individuals within an organization and most importantly the company’s brand image. While many business leaders are of the opinion that crisis management is ‘good to have, but not necessary’ that’s equivalent to hunting for a good insurance policy after you’ve broken your leg.

A crisis can have a significant negative impact on brand image and reputation, which could lead to detrimental consequences for a company’s bottom line. On the other hand, if your crisis is handled well, it can be an opportunity to generate positive press for your company.

Though prevention is always better than cure, crises are often unexpected, and your PR or Corporate Communications team should always have a plan on how to tackle them before they happen.

Here are three simple do’s that we have learnt from KFC (UK):

Apart from their original recipe of 11 secret herbs and spices, KFC will probably also be remembered for one of the most creative and effective PR campaigns launched just in February this year. When the famous fried chicken giant ran out of ‘meat’ in the UK, it sparked outrage amongst the British, even leading to police calls. However, the KFC PR team released this quirky apology, by rearranging the letters ‘KFC’ to form ‘FCK’ (in reference to a famous four letter word) and apologising for their shortage of chicken and any inconvenience caused.


1. Apologise to All Stakeholders

Take responsibility for whatever you are accountable for. Admit your mistake, apologise sincerely and your target audience will understand (if your PR team does it well).

That was exactly what KFC did, recognising that an apology was in order. KFC ran a full-page print ad in The Sun and Metro, apologising for the ordeal. KFC apologised upfront to their customers, not shying away from their responsibility. “Huge apologies to our customers, especially those who travelled out of the way to find we were closed” shows how KFC addressed the issue head on.

And not forgetting their team as well “endless thanks to our KFC team members and franchise partners for working tirelessly”. In times of organisational crisis, everyone in the company suffers and in this case especially the service staff. As an organisation, KFC understood the importance in recognising everyone’s efforts on the team.

2. Understand Your Audience Well

Look at things from your audience’s point of view and understand why they are unhappy. Step into their shoes to understand how they feel and what response will make them understand you more. Design a message and connect with your audience. In the case of the UK KFC PR stunt, they empathised with their audience saying, “A chicken restaurant without any chicken? Not cool bro!”.

When the letters ‘KFC’ were rearranged to form ‘FCK’ together with an apology, it cut straight to the heart of the frustration people were feeling and made them feel that KFC understood them.

3.Be Honest and Transparent

Don’t try to cover up or make up some bulls**t that everything is okay. Just be honest. Let your target audience know the current situation and more importantly, what your company is doing to improve it.

“It’s been a hell of week, but we’re making progress, and every day more and more fresh chicken is being delivered to our restaurants. Thank you for bearing with us.” Despite the tough situation, KFC was honest and transparent in terms of letting their customers know what was happening within the restaurant chain and what they were doing to improve the situation.

They even followed up with a website for avid KFC fans to locate where the nearest open store was located. This move showed sincerity and the initiative that KFC was not merely sitting around talking, but was taking concrete action and doing whatever they could, which resonated well with the audience.

This PR initiative was lauded by many and was even considered to be a “masterclass in PR crisis management”, generating even greater buzz for KFC. Even amidst a crisis, KFC was praised for how they handled it and this translated into stronger brand credibility and greater loyalty from KFC customers.

You never know when a crisis may occur, and when it hits, you have to fix it ASAP. The only way to facilitate this, is to have a crisis communications plan ready well in advance. This acts as a guide for your company’s reaction, in order to not just contain the crisis, but recover from its impact as well. A well rounded plan should include how to respond to ALL stakeholders, not just external media and investors, but internal as well, accounting to and ensuring the safety of all employees.

Equipped with the right people, tools and experience, Crisis Communications is one of Right Hook’s specialties. Well that’s a coincidence!

Stay tuned for our next article on the 3 Don’ts of Crisis Communications!

Reach us at assuring you that even in times of crises, you are in the right hands.


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