Social Media Crisis Lesson from KFC: Stop Your Marketing Messages in a Crisis

The whole “Kentucky Fried Liver” fiasco has got me wanting to remind you all of one very important, very crucial step that must be taken in the midst of a crisis:

In the very early stages of a crisis, it is imperative that you evaluate and assess all pre-scheduled marketing messages, stopping and/or pausing as many (or all) as necessary.

When Ibrahim Langoo, a 19 year old UK-based scholar, recently found brain-like substance in his KFC chicken, the image he took and posted online soon went viral, leaving KFC in a social media storm. However, as Karen Freberg points out in her blog post, “Kentucky Fried “Liver”?: Photo sparks viral social media crisis for fast food brand“, the fast food chain did little to respond to the online crisis, leaving their brand to be potentially damaged for the long-haul.

Adding insult to injury, while the world was disgusted with the realization of this global fast food chain’s lack of compassion, extremely low-food-quality and lack of regard towards food safety, KFC continued to publish their regular stream of marketing messages to their social media accounts, as if nothing had happened.

The big mistake you can’t afford to make

As part of your social media crisis management plan, somebody needs to be responsible for evaluating and stopping or pausing all pre-scheduled marketing campaigns in a crisis. This includes tweets, Facebook posts and any other form of self-promotional campaigns that were scheduled to be released on the days during and proceeding a crisis. Failing to do so will only make your company or organization look insensitive, uncaring and very disorganized.

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As we see often, this crucial step in your crisis management plan is easily forgotten. A social media crisis is a hectic time and things easily get overlooked. That’s why having a crisis management plan created – and having your teams established and trained prior to experiencing a crisis – is so very, very important.

Your own crisis is not the only time to stop marketing messages

As Brad Phillips of Mr. Media Training recently pointed out, evaluating your pre-scheduled online messages should not only be done when you’re facing your own crisis, but also when there’s a global, regional or societal crisis occurring that affects your nation, the world or your fellow-citizens. When a tragedy strikes your nation, for example, it’s very important to reflect upon what marketing messages, tweets, etc., were pre-scheduled for that day and the immediate days proceeding the crisis. If it’s time to grieve with your peers and fellow-citizens, then it’s most certainly NOT the time to be promoting your services.

Times of a crisis are not times for marketing messages, and it’s very important that this step within your crisis management plan not be overlooked. For more information on social media crisis management and communications, click here.

Image courtesy of Mashable and Ibrahim Langoo, Facebook

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