If you haven’t heard, Chick-Fil-A, an American fast food franchise, recently released a statement to the Baptist Press saying:
”We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
Well, with a statement like that in this day and age you can surely imagine the backlash the chicken franchise has been experiencing! Since issuing this statement, Chick-Fil-A has lost control of their Facebook page, lost some long-standing partnerships, and have, in the midst of all of this, potentially made some very poor decisions.
It’s safe to say that Chick-Fil-A is in the midst of their very own social media crisis!
Some mistakes Chick-Fil-A has made, and what you can learn from them
Mistake #1: There are allegations stating that, in an attempt to counter the negative comments overpowering their Facebook page, Chick-Fil-A created some fake Facebook accounts in order to leave supportive comments to their own page.
Why this is a bad idea: Social media is based on truth and transparency, and when it comes to the Internet nothing stays buried long. When you’re caught in such an attempt – and odds are you most definitely will get caught – you will pay for your schemes ten fold. Once you lose the trust of your customers and fans, it is very hard to get it back – and getting caught in such a dishonest, shallow and desperate attempt is a sure-fire way to instantly lose the trust and respect of your customers and fans.
Mistake #2: Blatantly lying in a desperate attempt to save your brand from total embarrassment.
When the Jim Henson Company announced that it would no longer partner with Chick-Fil-A due to the company’s anti-gay-marriage views and beliefs, Chick-Fil-A almost instantly released a statement saying that they would no longer be issuing Jim Henson toys within their kids meals on account of “possible safety issue”.
Why this is a bad idea: Wether true or not, this statement came out looking to many as another desperate, dishonest and pathetic attempt to save their reputation.
Mistake #3: Though the brand is responding to the crisis and publishing updates to their Facebook page, they have completely neglected Twitter – where the other half of the crisis is taking place.
Why this is a bad idea: It is important to respond and be present wherever the crisis is taking place – in real-time. Issuing their statements on Facebook is only half the battle when the other half of the viral chatter is taking place on Twitter. It’s important to have your message be heard by as many people as possible. This means that you need to address the crisis on each and every platform that the public is addressing and discussing it on.
There’s positive to learn from too! What Chick-Fil-A is doing right:
What they’ve done well: Through all of this we have to give Chick-Fil-A credit for doing a good job at addressing each issue with a statement of their own on their Facebook page – where the crisis is heavily breaking out.
Why this is a good idea: By doing this they’re scoring points with their still-loyal fans and advocates for addressing the issues head-on and on their turf. I’ve posted their statements below, and you can clearly see that they’re accompanied by a high number of support and likes. This is helping the brand continue to connect with their still-happy and loyal fans and customers. They’re not shunning away or staying silent.
Though I can never and will never condone lying (though there’s no way to know, 100% for certain, whether Chick-Fil-A is lying or not), addressing the issues head-on rather than shying away and letting the crisis take complete control of your brand is always in your best interest – as is being honest and transparent every step of the way. These statements, which are at the top of the brand’s Facebook page, allow for anybody coming over to the page to see what they have to say first and foremost. This is very important in a crisis.
However, if Chick-Fil-A is lying within these statements and the public finds out, well, they’ll be finding themselves in even more of a crisis, giving their angry customers even more of a reason to lash out at them – a risk that is never worth taking.
What they’ve done well: They’ve allowed for the discussion to take place.
Why this is a good idea: Their Facebook page is being bombarded with comments from haters and fans alike. The discussion and debate is taking place on their fan page by the minute and Chick-Fil-A is simply allowing it to happen. In this age of two-way conversation and free-speech, Chick-Fil-A is doing well to give each and every person the right to voice their opinions and feelings on this highly controversial subject – and they’re giving them an open platform to do so.
Learn the lessons and strengthen your brand!
Within each social media crisis are lessons to be taken away and learned from. Chick-Fil-A offers a wide array of such lessons, and by understanding both their strengths and mistakes you will empower your own brand to pull through a social media crisis, if ever you find yourself in such an unfortunate situation.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.