MARKETING | Staff Reporter, Australia

Crisis Management and QSR's

Find out how you can best respond to a fallout.

Various challenges and problems will inevitably occur in your business,  some recent examples include Chicken treat (Read the ABC News report here) and the KFC troubles in China (Read the Bloomberg Business Week story here).

It got us thinking, what are some broad strategic PR principles QSR's can deploy to limit the potential damage?

We asked comms expert Melissa Webber, Owner and Creative Director, Holy Cow! Design and Advertising what were some principles QSR's could follow if faced with a similar situation, here's what she said: 

QSR Media: What advice would you have for a QSR, which finds itself with a major consumer PR problem?

Melissa: Dealing with a major PR crisis requires an emergency plan and a team of advisors relevant to the nature of the issue. Like all good plans, this one needs immediate actions and an ongoing strategy.

The first step would be to engage a reputable PR consultant experienced in dealing with such issues with professionalism and sensitivity. Next, a consultant from either the legal, medical or other profession relevant to the issue should be engaged to provide factual information and advice on the details and the consequences of the issue.

Together with the CEO and leaders of the organisation, this team should devise a plan that places the well being of the victims above saving the reputation of the organisation - if the issue is dealt with genuinely and humanely, both can be achieved.

QSR Media: How would you best respond to this type of PR fallout?

Melissa: Holy Cow! would recommend that the CEO of the company delivers a genuine, personal response via both mainstream media and social media. A representative or PR spokesperson is not recommended as this demonstrates that the company wishes to distance themselves from the issue or event – a heart-felt apology from the business owner or CEO will not only allow the organisation to convey its distress and shock about the issue, but it also gives the company a human face and a human voice.

In the case of the caustic soda incident at Chicken Treat, as well as a personal response from the CEO, a medical professional speaking on behalf of Chicken Treat and providing information about both the effects and the treatment of burns would help to reassure both victims and consumers in general that Chicken Treat takes this matter very seriously.

QSR Media: How can you mitigate the fall out?

Melissa: A serious issue or event can often take weeks or months to overcome but if the matter is dealt with to consumers' satisfaction in an authentic manner, research has shown that consumers forgive and forget more easily than we might expect.

Dealing with the fall out of a serious issue or event takes honesty and bravery. Consumer sentiment will immediately be made very clear on social media platforms so the careful handling of these comments, especially in the first few days after the incident, is paramount.

A well worded personal apology and acceptance of any blame or responsibility is the best way forward, as well as responding sensitively to as many comments as possible made online in the aftermath of the incident.

Chicken Treat's Facebook pages shows comments of both criticism of the incident and congratulations for handling the incident so well.

QSR Media: Any other comments?

Melissa: We believe that if a brand deals with all circumstances, both good and bad, with the same level of authenticity and commitment, they can withstand the fall out.

While the incident behind a PR crisis is always regrettable, consumers will gain a real insight into your brand and your brand values by the way that you deal with it – be authentic and be human.

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