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The Chicken Crossed the Road, Just Not to Kfc

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The chicken crossed the road, just not to KFC.

The world famous fried chicken fast food chain KFC ran out of chicken in February, 2018 due to a logistical issue (Geller and Baertlein, 2018). The Twittersphere went into a meltdown as the news quickly spread escalating the situation into a technological crisis (Hagan, 2007). Whilst this meant that there was a potential for a large monetary and reputational loss for Yum! Brands, Inc., the parent corporation of KFC, they were able to mitigate harm on the organisation with effective crisis management.

Challenges arose as KFC signed a contract with a new delivery company, DHL. Over 600 of the 900 KFC stores situated in the UK were forced to shut down or operate on a limited menu as chickens were not delivered by DHL after the changeover (Allen, 2018). This lead to thousands of customers unable to purchase KFC. The hashtag “#KFCcrisis” became a trending feature on Twitter as thousands of unhappy publics turned to social media platforms to express their frustrations. A video was posted on YouTube showing two KFC employees smuggling chickens into a store in Erith as an attempt to remain open (Burrows, 2018). Rumours and concerns about employee payment were voiced over social media and to KFC stores. At least three police stations in the UK were forced to issue statements requesting for consumers not to contact the police regarding this matter following multiple reports from the public. This incident cost approximately three per cent of Yum! Brands, Inc.’s global sales of 2017 (Geller and Baertlein, 2018). Despite the various obstacles KFC needed to overcome, the company was able to manage the crisis and minimize harm through effective public relations strategies integrating both traditional media and social media.

As a response to the chicken shortage, KFC UK & Ireland Twitter immediately identified and acknowledged the cause of the crisis, a changeover in delivery systems, to the general public on social media. This was done as a means to announce the news of the crisis, whilst addressing the target audience of key publics such as potential customers and those who shared or viewed posts related to the crisis on social media.

In the following days, the KFC UK & Ireland Twitter page ran a public relations campaign in order to assist customers and to update key publics about the progress of the crisis resolution. Continual posts were made throughout the time period of the crisis in order update customers as to the amount of stores open. In addition to this, a website was launched and promoted on the Twitter page in order to assist customers to locate their closest operating KFC. This website was updated every five minutes in order for consumers to receive accurate, up to date information. The Twitter page also released a frequently asked questions post in order to clear up rumours and other misconceptions. Within these frequently asked questions, KFC addressed the issue of employment payments and reassured key publics that no employee would be missing out on income due to the store closures.

KFC later released a newspaper advertisement in the UK in order to apologize and inform to the key publics. The full page advertisement depicted an empty KFC chicken bucket against a red background with the letters KFC rearranged to FCK alongside “WE’RE SORRY” (Livingstone, 2018). Below this a paragraph explaining the apology is written. KFC also adds “And endless thanks to our KFC team members and our franchise partners for working tirelessly to fix the situation." (Livingstone, 2018).

As a response to the YouTube video, the Erith store was forced to close later during the day. A KFC spokesperson emphasized that there are strict policies regarding safe handling and transportation of fresh chicken. Many stores were unable to open as to not compromise the quality of the products (Burrows, 2018).

In the apology, KFC did not shift the blame onto DHL for the incident as they apologized, saying “We’re sorry” to the public with sincerity. This apology was important for KFC as this showed the general public that the company was taking full responsibility for the situation. This also showed that the company would still support DHL despite the issues, preventing reputational damage for DHL. In times of crisis, it important for the organization to maintain and strengthen relationships with its partners.

Within the apology, KFC showed gratitude as they stated “And endless thanks to our KFC team members and our franchise partners for working tirelessly to fix the situation." (Livingstone, 2018). This highlighted that KFC recognized and appreciated all parties involved in the crisis management process.

Throughout the course of the campaign, KFC attempted to maintain their brand image and integrity. This becomes evident as stores were shut in order to not compromise for the quality of KFC products. The use of colloquial language and humour assisted in alleviating the severity of the crisis. The various tweets posted consisted of several light hearted jokes such as “the chicken crossed the road, just not to our restaurants…” (Geller and Baertlein, 2018) whilst highlighting the importance of quality in their foods.



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