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What to say about Chick-fil-A?

July 27, 2012

This is one of the worst PR disasters I’ve seen in a while. Since the CEO admitted that Chick-fil-A  is against gay marriage, the fast food chain that is known for being closed on Sundays for religious observance has been slaughtered (no pun intended) in social media and other outlets. Jim Henson Co., which was supplying Jim Henson Creature Shop Puppets for Chick-fil-A Kids Meal toys, announced it would not partner with the restaurant chain anymore and two cities, Chicago and Boston, have banned Chick-fil-A from their gay-friendly cities.
Stock photo used for “fake” account
In a move to try to ameliorate some of the harsh criticism they were receiving online, Chick-fil-A apparently created a fake Facebook profile and, posing as a teenage girl, tried to defend the fast food company. What they got is even more backlash when they were called out as the account was recognized as having been created just 8 hours prior and the photo was unveiled as a stock photo. The account has since been removed from Facebook.
Regardless of your stance on this issue, Chick-fil-A broke one of the cardinal sins of social media: thou shalt not fool the people. While this tactic may have worked a few years ago, people have become savvy in social media and take deep offense to companies that think they can outsmart the average American. Now, the fight is being taken offline and right into Chick-fil-A stores. Protests have been called, and are being promoted via social media, by both sides. The religious conservatives are planning to have an “eat-in” on August 1st and pro-gay groups are calling for a “National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A” on August 3rd.
One important lesson to learn from all this is to have an offline and online crisis management plan in place before the… chicken… hits the fan. Even though Chick-fil-A officially denies creating the fake account, had the company been a little more social savvy itself, it might have avoided this out-of-control spiral down the proverbial social media staircase to hell. It’s possible that the chain actually has enough supporters on this issue to weather the storm, but its reputation – both in the real and virtual worlds – will surely never be the same.
How do you think Chick-fil-A should have handled this crisis online? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.