KFC’s apology for a message it sent to German consumers provides business leaders with timely lessons on best practices for preventing, managing and communicating about a crisis.
The Fried Chicken Company sent a promotional message to customers in Germany last Wednesday, noting that “this is Remembrance Day for Kristallnacht! Treat yourself with softer cheese on your crispy chicken. Now at KFCeese!”
KFC said it “sincerely” apologized for the “unexpected, insensitive and unacceptable message” BBC reported.
“The reaction to KFC’s ‘error’ came quickly, according to the news.
Daniel Sugarman, director of public affairs for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, tweeted that the promotion was “absolutely hideous”. Arsen Ostrovsky, head of the pro-Israel legal group International Legal Forum, said he was “completely speechless and repulsed.”
“The series of Nazi-led attacks in the country in 1938 killed more than 90 people and destroyed Jewish-owned businesses and places of worship,” according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. website.
“The Nazis came to call the event Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night” or “The Night of Broken Glass”), in reference to the thousands of broken windows that littered the streets [afterward]but the understatement does not convey the full brutality of the event,” the museum noted.
Crisis Management Best Practices
How and when KFC responded to the airing of its promotional message provides several lessons for business leaders.
About an hour after the first message was sent, the company sent an apology, which assuaged the mistakenly sent communication about “an error in our system,” according to The Guardian.
The company said communications from their app have been suspended while a review of communications takes place, the BBC reported
Explain what happened
“On Nov. 9, an automated push notification was accidentally sent to KFC app users in Germany…,” a KFC spokesperson said in a statement picked up by several. media outlets.
“We use a semi-automated content creation process tied to calendars that include national celebrations. In this case, our internal review process was not properly followed, resulting in an unapproved notification being shared,” the spokesperson explained.
Make sure the crisis does not repeat itself
“We are very sorry,” KFC said, noting that “we will check our internal processes immediately so this does not happen again. Please excuse this error.” The Guardian reported.
“We have suspended communications from the app while we review our current process to ensure that such an issue does not occur again,” according to the company’s statement.
“We understand and respect the gravity and history of this day and remain committed to fairness, inclusion and belonging for all,” KFC said.
“There’s a lot to be said for the value of a heartfelt and heartfelt apology, but KFC’s response was not an example [of] this,” Irina Tsukermanpresident of Scarab Rising, a crisis communications company, said via email.
“On the contrary, it was an obvious effort to avoid accountability by blaming the tone-deaf and offensive messages bordering on an unspecified ‘error in their system’, which nevertheless clearly required human intervention due to the specificity of the occasion,” she said. observed.
“It is unlikely that KFC globally will suffer serious consequences, such as boycotts, from such an incident. But even if the problematic communication is unintentional, it leaves (excuse the pun) a bad taste in the mouth and denotes a nonchalant approach to communication in [general]which poorly reflects the corporate culture as a whole.
Take care of your communications and your audience
“What business management at KFC and elsewhere should take away from this incident is that the best way to avoid even accidentally offensive messages is to be mindful of communications in general and your audience,” Tsukerman advised. .
“When you think deeply about what your target market cares about, you’ll be inspired to deliver well-thought-out, clear messaging that connects and works without having to worry about getting your foot in your mouth opportunistically jumping at every opportunity to push your product or service.
“In the end, genuine mistakes can be forgiven, but opportunistic insensitivity will sooner or later become a pattern and damage the reputation of the company,” she concluded.
Use social media
“The company should also have posted a video of a senior channel executive apologizing on all social media platforms. Get out there, but face it head-on,” Greg Linellian Otter Public Relations publicist, said via email.
Don’t return the ball
“Point the finger internally and say steps have been taken to ensure this never happens again. Don’t blame a “system error”. Errors occur. Own. Be compassionate and remorseful in apologies and most people will forgive,” Linnelli advised.
“This was an unpardonable sin committed by Kentucky Fried Chicken in Germany. Blaming a “semi-automated content creation process tied to calendars” wrongly absolves management,” Robert Wynneowner of Wynne Communications and Wynne Events, said via email.
“Knowing Germany’s history and the horrors of the Holocaust, everyone at KFC should have known that not all historical memorabilia would be appropriate to promote fried chicken sales.
“The other tragedy is that with anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe and globally, this flawed promotion could inadvertently increase sales. Senior management needs to do more than apologize; they need to step down,” a- he recommended.
Don’t abuse history
Diane Saltzman, director of survivor affairs at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, said in a statement to the Washington Job “Today, recent incidents misusing Holocaust history have increased in frequency and intensity.
“Holocaust survivors, and anyone – especially in Germany – concerned about historical truth, should never have to see such a blatant attempt to minimize and capitalize on their pain. We hope people will remember, learn and study this story, and refrain from misusing it.