I really enjoyed the article that we read this week, focusing on the use of social media to avert a crisis. This got me thinking about other companies that have gone through crises of their own, particularly fast food restaurants. A few that came to mind immediately: the KFC chicken shortage in the UK, the E coli contamination at Chipotle and Chick-Fil-A’s anti-gay stance. I decided to take a deeper dive into how each of these company’s handled their situations.
So how in the world does a major fast food restaurant that has chicken in its name, run out of chicken? The simple answer is a change in supply chain. The reality is that change resulted in nearly 900 KFCs in the UK shutting their doors. This no doubt was a crisis! As the articles I found discuss, KFC wasted no time tackling this major issue. Interestingly, rather than employing a digital first strategy, KFC went “old school” and took out two newspaper ads. The ad was brilliant and made its way organically to Twitter and Facebook almost immediately. They knew exactly who their target market was and how to best position themselves. In class last week, we also talked the most engaging pieces of brand content in 2017. Many of the top brands used social issues in their content, but KFC choose to simply acknowledge the problem at hand. Turns out, that strategy was very effective.
Another fast food chain that has had their share of trouble is Chipotle. Unlike KFC or Southwest, Chipotle chose to be relatively quiet about their crisis on social media, not once, but twice. In 2015, after an E Coli outbreak affected dozens of people, Chipotle made no mention of the issue on their website or social media until they were forced to start responding to individuals. You would have thought they learned their lesson, but a norovirus issue was virtually ignored in 2017.
And who can forget Chick-Fil-A’s awful handling of the protests in response to their anti-gay stance back in 2012. While the company thought that they were tackling the issue head-on on their facebook page, they instantly made the issue worse!
What could Chipotle and Chick-Fil-A have done differently. A few things we learned from the readings this week are that both companies could have practiced social customer service. Southwest has six company communication strategies, as referenced in the article, Honesty, Transparency, Quickness, Genuineness, Progressiveness and Omni-channel ready. If Chipotle or Chick-Fil-A had used even half of those strategies, they could have averted a lot of negative publicity. Additionally, as this article in Ad Week states, there are four steps to managing a crisis: Get your Plans in Order, Triage the Problem, Respond Quickly on Social and Be Honest, Transparent and Direct. The most important takeaway for me from these 3 examples is that in order to successfully manage a crisis, companies need to be prepared to react and respond quickly, honestly and authentically on social media.