Identify Yourself, Abby Farle: Chick-fil-A’s Troubles Move Online

What's on the menu these days at Chick-fil-A? Would you like some crisis to go with your crisis? After the restaurant chain's president, Dan Cathy, came out (so to speak) against gay marriage last week, it's been nothing but chaos for the company, as city officials in Boston and Chicago have let it be known that Chick-fil-A is not welcome because of that stance. And, Jim Henson Co., the creator of the Muppets, backed out of a partnership with the chain to make kids meals toys. 

While just those developments would keep any communications staff busy, today there's a twist in the saga that should strike fear in every PR professional: Gizmodo accused Chick-fil-A of creating a fake Facebook account to answer negative comments online. The article stated that the Facebook account of "Abby Farle" was opened by a PR flack who used a stock image of a teenage girl as a profile picture.

Chick-fil-A then denied making the fake account, telling BuzzFeed: "We have seen this and it is not true. Chick-fil-A has not created a separate or a false Facebook account. We don't know who created it," said spokeswoman Tiffany Greenway.

So either Gizmodo wrote a misleading story in haste or Chick-fil-A is trying to cover its tracks. Either scenario is disturbing. If the story turns out to have been misleading, Gizmodo should own up to it. And PR pros everywhere should be aware that anyone can open an account on Facebook and argue for—or against—a brand. If the argument is "for," it might appear to the public that perhaps the brand itself is taking liberties to defend itself online. What might be less obvious to the public is that a company has been set up for a fake "PR fail" by a prankster.

But if Chick-fil-A is lying about not creating the account, the company is digging a very deep PR hole—one that will take months, maybe years, to crawl out of.

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