Being prepared for an unplanned crisis is why we always recommend that all our clients have a crisis communications plan in place. Crap happens and you can’t be caught with your proverbial pants down in response to a crisis.
“No comment” is not an option, nor is waiting until the dust settles either. Responding quickly and in a thoughtful and strategic manner is key and will determine if your brand reputation will survive or take a nasty hit. But not every brand gets it right, even when they are prepared.
Recently, an iconic fast food brand, Kentucky Fried Chicken, aka KFC, did get it right.
However, first their blunder that quickly escalated into a full-blown crisis.
Hard to believe, but KFC actually ran OUT of chicken in the UK after there was a delivery mishap by DHL. How in the world can you run out of the product which is the main ingredient on your menu? KFC did, and it caused hundreds (over 800) of KFC restaurants to close down in the UK which is the company’s largest market in Europe. Apparently, KFC had recently switched carriers to DHL and that caused a “couple of teething problems” in the transition. You think?
DHL came right out and owned up to their role in this mishap, attributing it to some “operational issues” and then said that they weren’t the only party responsible for KFC’s supply chain — a little deflection move, but still, they did own up and were committed to reopening the KFCs ASAP.
Regardless of DHL’s response, KFC was masterful in their handling of the issue. In this case, they embraced the power of social media to get their message out, which makes sense to reach the broad KFC patron community in the UK.
Sometimes it’s OK to invoke a little humor when responding to a crisis, as long as it’s done tastefully (pun intended). So, that’s just what KFC did by using the old “chicken crossing the road” adage on KFC’s UK Twitter feed, beginning with a Tweet that said, “The Colonel is working on it” with this image containing a message addressing their position:
Then they followed up with more humorous tweets that contained “updates from the Colonel,” such as this one showing how they set up a special website, aptly containing “crossed-the-road” in the URL.
They owned up to it, they apologized and they even set up a #wheresmychicken hashtag to inform their patrons. They even ran an ad that contained an apology, again using humor with mixing up the letters in their name to read “FCK” on an empty KFC chicken bucket. Brilliant.
They also used social media to set up some lighthearted, yet informative, Q&A about the situation, beginning the tweet with “There’s gossip in the henhouse…”
Well done KFC. We can learn a lot from how they responded to the situation, namely:
- They owned up to the problem: KFC easily could have deflected blame to DHL, but instead they took full responsibility. In the time of a crisis, your target audience will respect you more if you own up to your problems, and most likely will continue to be your client/patron/customer as a result.
- They were informative even while using humor: Sure, KFC had fun taking advantage of the chicken-crossing-the-road analogy, but they also set up a very informative site and kept their customers up-to-date regarding what restaurants were open — not to mention a clever hashtag that was also quite useful.
- They were quick to respond: There were a lot of unhappy KFC patrons who couldn’t get their chicken, but KFC came out and set up a response very quickly to calm their fears.
- They updated their audience often: They updated their Twitter feed and their microsite constantly to keep everyone apprised. They created several Q&As to address their audience’s most common inquiries. There was no smoke and mirrors, you knew exactly the status of the situation as it was unfolding.
So, if you have a crisis communications plan in place, great! Hopefully you will never have to use it, but if you do, take a page out of KFC’s book in your approach to responding to that crisis.