What KFC taught us about crisis management

Running out of chicken isn't great news when you're a chicken shop. Here, PR and social media expert Logan Harrington walks us through how KFC made the best of a bad situation with a perfectly executed crisis management strategy.

On January 5 2018, I declared that KFC was “still absolutely on point for another corker of a year” when it came to their social media strategy.

On February 19, KFC ran out of chicken (awks), and 600 out of 900 of their stores across Britain were forced to shut up shop. So, amidst #KFCCrisis trending and their competitors taking cheap shots at ‘em, what did we learn about crisis management on social media?

You rock up to your favourite chicken shop and it’s closed. What’s the first thing you do? Head to social media to rant and rave, and share a few quick quips about it. Seriously, everyone did. Even Jesus Christ himself didn’t miss out on the meme opportunity.

In fact, the whole of Twitter (kinda) went into meltdown, claiming that the supply problem from the UK’s favourite fried chicken chain was a sign of the apocalypse and how disgruntled they were that they now had to eat at Burger King.

With thousands of users causing a ruckus on Twitter, @KFC_UKI had to respond. I like to imagine the social media manager being pulled into a meeting to be told: “Right, so, here’s the thing… We don’t have any chicken.” What do you even say to that?!

Thinking quickly on their feet, seriously, chickens were going undelivered by the minute! The KFC social media team devised a solid strategy that didn’t rectify the situation (here’s looking at you, supply chain) but it certainly calmed the waters, continued to engage chicken lovers across the world, and, ultimately, got involved in the joke.

1. “We’ve only gone and clucked up!”

Acknowledgement is key.

The rumour mill is rife when a big brand mucks something up, and it ain’t usually kind! Once news has surfaced, there’s no way to sweep it under the rug, so it’s best to tackle it head-on. We’re all human, we appreciate honesty.

2. Getting your customer service team on board

As soon as you post an official acknowledgement, you’re going to be swamped with customer replies. The important thing to ensure is that you’re all singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to your comms.

Whether you’re the SMM, a CS representative, or Barry from sales. A unified approach is professional and reassures your customers that you have it in hand. Yeah, we ran outta chicken, but it’s no sweat. We got this.


Many social media management tools, like Sprinklr, will automatically ping customer queries to the support channel of your business. Educating customers that’s where they can get further questions answered in the process.

3. Don’t go quiet.

The conversation will continue, regardless if you’re a part of it or not. What’s the best way to control it? Get involved. When you’re in the big leagues, they’ll come at ya. Continue your usual tone of voice and respond where it makes sense.


If you’ve fallen in a big industry, it’s likely that your (smart) competitors will rise to the occasion. There’s no shame in getting involved in their cheap shots, people love the banter between brands on social media! It humanises you and actually serves as a platform to continue your marketing efforts during a time of crisis.

4. Champion your employees

Throughout their entire comms, KFC continued to champion their staff in their stores across the UK. Internally, it provides a national recognition to the good work that they’re doing and shows that they understand that ­they are on the front lines during this hardship.

It also puts a positive spin on the mishap; they have great employees and a strong foundation.

Your crisis management strategy needs to touch all points. If KFC had gone straight in with bants, their customers would be outraged – where’s the official statement? When can I taste that sweet sweet fried chicken? You’ll need to ensure your statements and comms are aligned before you evolve yourself in jokes with Iceland et al.

As well as a solid social media strategy for the occasion, KFC also took over a whole page spread in the Metro to apologise for their “hell of a week.”

For all we know, KFC simply executed a plan that they already had in place should this happen, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised. Think about your business and what would happen if the very crux of it fell apart and stopped you from trading effectively, then devise a strategy on how you’d communicate throughout the process.

From KFC to SME, it’s good to have a Plan B.

Logan Harrington is PR and social media manager at Quadrant2Design. This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn. 


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