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Brand Crisis Response: A Case Study Of KFC

Brand Crisis Response: A Case Study Of KFC

A chicken company that ran out of chicken. What you can learn from the great chicken crisis of 2018.
KFC’s chicken crisis, or dubbed #KCFCrisis by twitter is the perfect

7th March 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

A chicken company that ran out of chicken. What you can learn from the great chicken crisis of 2018.

KFC’s chicken crisis, or dubbed #KCFCrisis by twitter is the perfect example of how to bounce back from a PR nightmare. When the Colonel ran out of chicken in the UK, the companies biggest European market, due to issues with its new logistical supplier, it had to close 600 of its stores. This had a devastating impact on the company’s employees, franchisees and their customers. Customers in the UK were so outraged by the #KFCCrisis that a local police precinct used their Twitter account to remind customers to not call the police due to the chicken shortage because it was “not a police issue”.

Throughout the logistical nightmare of crisis, what really set the #KFCCrisis from other public relations nightmares in recent times is how they have effectively managed this situation which can be easily applied to your business. You need to understand that, yes, your brand will have a crisis at some point. This crisis, doesn’t need to be a nation-wide chicken shortage but can be a customer having a bad experience, someone leaving a bad review or if your website is down. Making sure your business is prepared to face the highs and the lows will ensure your business survives in the face of adversity.

Here are 3 effective ways businesses can respond to a brand crisis

1. Take Responsibility – Acknowledgement is Key to Your Business Surviving (but remembering the legal ramifications of acknowledgement)

The chicken crisis was a consequence of issues around the supply chain of YUM foods, KFC’s parent company. By the 16th February 2017, 600 stores were closed and customers turned their anger on the brand’s social channels. The hashtag #KFCCrisis became a trending topic on twitter . KFC responded to the irate internet with the perfect apology post. The post acknowledged the seriousness of their customer concerns, highlighted the operational issues they were experiencing with their supply chain partner and what they were doing to solve it.

Any apology a company puts out you want to make sure you are accountable, transparent and pro-active . Once 97% of stores across the UK re-opened over the weekend, KFC won over hearts and minds with their full page ad in the Metro, a British paper, rearranging their letter to ‘FCK’. The tongue in cheek messaging showed a brand willing to make fun itself and to show support for their staff and franchise partners during the crisis period. Additionally, they kept their customers informed of their progress in reopening stores, by directing customers to a wheresmychicken website.

All online interactions your brand has both legal and financial implications. For example, if you repost an image without acknowledging the original author this can land you in hot water due to copyright infringement. Apologies, are no different to any of your online interactions and when framing your message in a crisis, the legal implications of an action must be considered and weighed equally with business decisions. If you are unsure of the legal implications of your apology, you should always contact a professional business lawyer whom can give you advice on both the legal and business implications of the apology. With KFC’s tongue-in-cheek apology, they decided that the reputational risk to their brand far outweigh any legal ramifications and issued an apology that tried to restore their customer’s trust.

2. Silence is (mostly) not golden

Burying your head in the sand, whilst the angry mob comes after you is not an option. The lessons businesses can learn from the #KFCCrisis is that when a brand makes a mistake, you need to own up to it and apologise publicly from the heart. No-one wants to overreact, but, the longer you leave things the progressively worse the situation will get. If you are not sure of what has happened yet, say that. If you want to make sure you understand the financial and legal implications of admitting fault BEFORE copping to a mistake, say you are still assessing the situation. This is much better than no comment, because “no comment”, implies guilt and will not impress your customers.

KFC turned their crisis around by keeping consistent messaging across their organisation. They kept their customers informed of their progress in reopening stores, by directing customers to a wheresmychicken website which showed at what stage their local store was at. This proactive crisis management strategy allowed them to reclaim the social media narrative.

3. Stay Ahead of this Crisis and the next Crisis

Making sure you stay on top of any crisis is important to continue your company’s relationship with its customers. Most small businesses do not have the budget for Public Relations which is why you need to have a Crisis Management strategy inbuilt into your organisation. When devising a crisis management strategy, you need to consider all the different possible scenarios, the audience of your message and what you want to say. You also want to consider who, in your team, is authorised to speak on behalf of the company and make sure everyone knows what the message is. By creating a crisis management strategy in advance you can also make sure that you seek professional advice that takes into account the financial and legal implications of your apology to your customers. This way, depending on the type of crisis you are facing you can take the strategy that will best benefit your organisation.


The recent #KFCCrisis is a vital lesson for entrepreneurs which shows how effective message management can reduce the reputational risk of your business in times of crisis. Addressing a crisis head-on with a clear strategy can assist in de-escalating and winning back the trust of your customers. At the time of writing, KFC UK stores were suffering a Gravy shortage, one of the most popular products the store offers. Although this is devastating for the business and its share price, I for one, can not wait to see how they recover from this crisis to see if the can recover with the same pizzazz and strength of the previous crisis.

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Jessica Maher

Jessica Maher is a legal tech intern working in the content team at Lawpath.