Chick-fil-a enters dicey waters where flipflops die on hypocrisy’s shoals


Chick-fil-A dove head first into a crisis earlier this summer. Now, in an attempt to mitigate it, the company with the funny cow ads instead risks alienating its base and locking itself in the “hypocrisy box.”

That figurative box, designed by EMA reputation manager extraordinaire Peter Kapcio, has a lid engraved with the words, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

For those who grilled burgers, dogs and salmon all summer, here’s the synopsis, from the Bulldog Reporter’s Daily ‘Dog:

A new controversy has landed Chick-fil-A once again in the PR fryer. A Chicago politician’s statement the fast food chain was no longer giving to groups that oppose same-sex marriage has reportedly angered the Christian conservatives who supported Chick-fil-A this summer when its president reaffirmed his opposition to gay marriage. Civil rights groups hailed last week’s change of heart, even though the company never actually confirmed it — instead, it released two public statements, neither of which made Chick-fil-A’s position any clearer.

The events suggest the franchise may be trying to steer clear of hot-button social issues while it expands in less-conservative regions of the country. In its statement, the company said its corporate giving had for many months been mischaracterized, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports.

“Part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us,” the statement said. “Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas. Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.” The three-page statement did not say whether that included gay marriages.

The company’s response, its second in as many days, was posted on its website after Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno announced the alleged policy change. Moreno said the change followed extended negotiations, and as a result, he would no longer try to block a Chick-fil-A restaurant from opening in his district.

Social networking sites lit up following Moreno’s remarks, with many people saying Chick-fil-A had caved to pressure from gay rights organizations.

So much of crisis management is about perception. Chick-fil-A’s position on gay marriage surely angered many, but it likely energized conservatives who may feel the trend lines nationally bending against their position. Now, after its flop, the company may win back some folks who support gay marriage.

But company executives stepped in a cow pie of hypocrisy that could alienate liberals and conservatives as well and net the company double losses.

For most, the initial crisis probably waned sufficiently so the company could have just kept going despite it. A lot of potential customers likely figured they don’t love Chick-fil-A’s philosophy, but recognize its right in a free society to hold it. After that, the purchase decision probably came down to whether a customer wanted chicken or not.

Now the company succeeded only in multiplying the goo on its shoes by trying to play the middle ground and offending everyone with its hypocrisy.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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