KFC Crisis Offers a PR Lesson in Authenticity

The chicken franchise, KFC, was forced to temporarily close most of their British doors this February because…. they had no chicken.

PR nightmare? Yes! Potential customers were being turned away, emergency services were called… and the hashtag #KFCCrisis was born.

Was this an opportunity for KFC to destroy their reputation and their business by handling this crisis poorly? Absolutely.

Did it? The jury is still out at this writing since it’s only just happened, but it looks like the answer will be no. Quite the opposite, it’s been titled “A Masterclass in PR crisis management.”

They did a lot of things right:

  • Injected just the right level and style of humor.
  • Owned the responsibility, rather than blaming or offering excuses.
  • Focused on the issue and its impact on their customers, rather than on the source of the problem
  • Offered hope and an update on progress as they moved forward through the crisis.
  • Apologized to their customers.
  • Publicly thanked their stakeholders – workers and franchise owners – who were working hard to make things right and were also being impacted by the problem.
  • Expressed real emotion. They were human about it and they led with this; it’s right there on the bucket. It’s as real as it can get (and still make it into the paper).
KFC's cheeky ad helps create just the right tone in a crisis

Source: incimages.com

The best part? They did all of this in a simple 8-sentence ad. Nothing confusing. Nothing hidden.

Sure, there are things they didn’t talk about, but those topics were not part of the goal of this ad. This advertisement was about connecting with their customers, sharing in the emotions that their customers are feeling, owning up to the problem, and assuring that there will be a fix as soon as possible. That’s it, and so the ad stays on point.

Three key elements – the real emotion, the appropriate humor, owning the problem – make this an authentic message. It’s real.

And that is why this works.

Authenticity is key in a PR crisis. KFC means what they are saying and that is why readers will believe them. It increases KFC customers’ ability to trust them now, and that trust will continue into the long run as KFC gets back to business.