KFC Dodges Major Social Media PR Bullet

KFC logo

Update: 6/24/2014

It appears that the story of little Victoria was a hoax perpetrated on KFC: http://gawker.com/little-girl-getting-kicked-out-of-kfc-was-reportedly-a-1595066434. While the investigation continues, that does not nullify the good work that KFC’s social team performed. The black-hat in me is now thinking what a great way to get national publicity for only $30K.

Original article:
We can all learn a lesson from KFC’s PR team about how to handle a potential social media crisis.   Their swift and public acknowledgment of the problem and actions to cure redirected the negative momentum and effectively neutralized the situation.

Background

Victoria Wilcher KFC Social Media CrisisThe social media crisis started when 3 year old Victoria and her grandmother Kelly Mullis  stopped by KFC after one of Victoria’s medical appointments.  Victoria was the victim of a dog attack that took her right eye, broke her jaw and left visible facial scarring.  The little girl was hungry so they stopped by the Jackson Mississippi KFC to get some mashed potatoes as that was edible given her broken jaw.  As they were eating and employee said the following:  “We have to ask you to leave because her face is disrupting or customers”.

The Internet’s Wrath

On June 13th, the story about Little Victoria’s incident with KFC spread as quickly as the Internet’s indignation can travel.  The Huffington Post, Mirror, and Reddit were popular distribution hubs for the story.

Shortly thereafter KFC’s social sites were on fire.  As of the 6/16/2014 there are 685 comments on their Facebook page regarding the topic.  Elaine Jones fired the opening shot:

KFC Facebook Criticism

Twitter was equally active with anti-KFC rants.

kfc twitter rant 1

kfc twitter rant 2

KFC’s Quick Social Response

KFC didn’t waste any time getting a responding.  At 8:16 AM on Friday the 13th they started replying to Twitter users who expressed distress over the employee’s action.

kfc responds on twitter

They were a little slower on Facebook as the hate storm hit at 2:43 the 13th. Their social media response team may have left for the day as it wasn’t until the 14th at 8:59 AM that they responded.

kfc facebook response

After weathering a blistering social storm,  on Sunday the 15th KFC releases the following statement:

kfc victoria statement

Once that statement was released they continued to address critics on their social sites.  That effort extended through Monday the 16th when these screen shots were taken.

kfc twitter responses continue

kfc facebook responding

Granted, the flood on Facebook was so great that it just wasn’t practical to respond to all the  commenters.

One notable observation from all this was the lack of vocal outrage on Google+.  Take a look at their page:  https://plus.google.com/u/1/+kfc/posts.  There are only 7 negative comments about this incident.  I guess when it comes to expressing strong opinions Google+ isn’t the preferred platform of choice.

google plus kfc

Takeaways from the KFC Incident

This whole incident put a spotlight on how to properly deal with a social media crisis. KFC’s team did the following right:

  1. Responded quickly and in a way that didn’t inflame customers. Notice how they agree with the general outrage and emphasize that they are working to do something about it. Pushing back or a blanket denial would have escalated the issue.
  2. They went above and beyond to remedy the situation publically. As this firestorm started via social they announced their solution on the same medium. Responding on the sites you are getting attacked allows for the solution to go viral as easily as the initial problem. Their gesture to remedy the slight was a smart move because it makes it very difficult for the Internet trolls to keep flaming them when they step up with a sizeable cash donation. Just try to come up with a counter-argue against helping a little girl with her medical bills. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
  3. If you are in the middle of a developing social media crisis, you must take care of it now even if it’s not during regular business hours. The Internet is 24/7. Every minute you let a crisis fester is another minute for it to reach an exponential number of potential customers.
  4. Google+, despite the hype, just doesn’t have a lot of traction. This is an emotional issue that is impactful to multiple demographics. The overwhelming majority chose Facebook and Twitter to communicate with the brand. Either that’s the medium they were comfortable using or they thought that was the best way to get their opinions heard. Either way, Google+ was the odd man out.