I’m sure all of you have heard about Chick-fil-A being tried in the court of public opinion. You might even be going to their restaurants today to support one side or the other. But I’m not going to get into who is right and wrong because that’s not what this blog is all about.
What made me gape open-mouthed during this whole event was the horrible damage control that ensued after the Muppets announced they were pulling their toys out of the Chick-fil-A restaurants.
Someone at Chick-fil-A, who apparently still had not gotten over being dumped in high school, decided to claim that they had called off the relationship with the Muppets earlier that same week, before the Muppet toys announcement. Then, someone at Chick-fil-A (or maybe a PR company they hired?) doing damage control in social media, decided to create a teenage girl persona on Facebook to rebut comments about the Muppet toys decision, only to get “outed” by others online who figured out the girl’s account was just created minutes earlier using a stock photo.
What were they thinking? Apparently they weren’t, from the company owner on down.
I understand that people have their own opinions and that they like to share their opinions, and that includes owners of fast food chains. But you still have to wonder why. After all, what good can come from the owner of a fast food chain airing his opinions on traditional v. gay marriage? No matter what you say, you alienate one side or the other. What does any of that have to do with chicken sandwiches? How is that going to help increase sales?
Then for someone to go undercover online and pretend to be a teenage girl? Another bad move, and sloppily done to boot. I mean, what teenage girl (that looks like a model) would have really just gotten on Facebook? And why would anyone think that arguing with people online (and including bible verses with their comments) would be a winning strategy? My hope is that it turns out some random fan tried the Facebook teen idea, not the company or their PR agency.
At least Chick-fil-A’s pratfall does provide a lesson for the rest of us on how to handle a PR crisis. Here are a few tips, should you ever find yourself in damage control mode:
1. Let the boss speak. People want to hear from the person-in-charge, not an employee, and certainly not a fabricated person.
2. Use YouTube instead of a press release. Videos are harder to misquote or take phrases out of context, plus YouTube is easy for anyone to fact check.
3. Acknowledge any mistakes you made. No denials, no shading the truth. If you messed up, admit it and tell what you are doing to correct the situation.
4. Respect your audience’s intelligence. Don’t assume you can dupe your audience or misdirect their attention. Give straightforward answers that state your position, post genuine content, and, above all, maintain your credibility.