Chick-fil-A Crisis: One for the Ages?

If you're a PR pro, the following statement is probably not what you'd want to hear from your CEO:

"We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

That's what Chick-fil-A president and COO Dan Cathy famously said to The Baptist Press on July 16. Since then, the restaurant chain has been on the receiving end of both vehement criticism and spirited support—from the public and politicians across the country.

And the saga continues: It was reported that on Wednesday, Aug. 1, thousands will show up at Chick-fil-A's across the country in a show of support of Cathy's statement, while on Friday, Aug. 3, same-sex couples will be at the restaurants for public displays of affection. Key question: How will events like these, plus continuing online chatter, affect Chick-fil-A's business performance?

While Chick-fil-A sales figures during the controversy are unavailable—the company is private—a report on Bloomberg Businessweek's site says the chain is valued at $4.3 billion and has the biggest sales per unit in the fast-food industry (according to QSR Magazine). Whether that impressive data point  holds up remains to be seen.

But you can bet Chick-fil-A's sales will be an integral metric within the crisis management case study that will surely become part of university communications curricula in the months and years to come. This case will answer a burning question: What happens to a company when it takes a stand on a controversial social issue? We anxiously await the answer.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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