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Chick-fil-Eh?!
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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What began as a Chick-fil-A's CEO speaking on behalf of the core values of one of America's most beloved companies has become a case study in crisis communications of biblical proportions. Amazing how one statement can lead to national boycotts, Hollywood celebrities pandering, and now city Mayors continuing the NOH8 charges, but if you ask the aforementioned chief executive Dan Cathy, he may have reconsidered...or would he? For those Mickey D fans, here's the summary:

Dan Cathy was having a "friendly fire" interview with the Baptist Press about his $4.1 billion company. Without provocation, Cathy released the following pipe bomb to the nation: 

We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. 

Although this is one of the only companies on the planet that is proud to stay closed on Sundays, boldly claims Christ in corporate collateral, and does not cower to the ACLU, it was widely considered that this was the company's "coming out parade against same-sex marriages." Almost immediately, the Jim Henson company — yeah, friggin' Kermit the Frog — had something to say about this. In fact, they ended their long-standing relationship with Chick-fil-A and recalled all their toys from kids' meals. To pour a little more of that waffle fry salt in the wound, the Muppets are proud to donate the entire payment from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD. 

Chick-fil-A felt a little scorched by this, so they felt inclined to respond via Facebook, a post that included: 

The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.

In other words, someone put Cathy in punishment and took his interview rights away for one month. However, the crisis cow train didn't stop there. Since then, the cities of Boston and Chicago have pretty much gone vegan and told the Chick-fil-A cows to go range-free elsewhere. You would think the company would learn, but they just couldn't leave well enough alone. That's the thing with crisis communications — if you don't communicate first, the crisis will get out of hand. And now, they have this ballyhoo via Facebook. 

Meet Abby Farle.

Abby was a cute 16-year-old girl on the corporate Facebook page who decided it was her mission to stand up for the cows with love for the mission. Click on the Gizmodo story for that fun. Apparently, one preturbed Chick-fil-A former customer thought Abby looked familiar. It turns out she was a clip from a stock photography website and Abby's voice was one of Chick-fil-A's PR guys. And after said upset, former customer busted the flack for his cyber subterfuge. There were no more comments. 

Whoops. 

Of course, according to this article in PR News, Chick-fil-A has denied the stock photography brouhaha. However, if this is also a rouse, those friendly cows may be another wonderful ad campaign of the past. MEMO to all PR pros: Perception is reality. Principles are sound. But profits make the world go 'round.

   

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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