When your organization is in the middle of a PR crisis, changing your position on a controversial issue may be the best decision if you want to stop the bleeding, survive and hope to thrive in the future.
Case in point: Chick-fil-A.
After president and COO Dan Cathy said in an interview the past July that "We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit,” a national controversy was sparked as the fast-food chain suddenly became the center of the same-sex marriage debate, receiving both support and criticism from consumers and the public as a whole.
What made matters worse and added fuel to the crisis fire, was the revelation that between 2008 and 2010, the WinShape Foundation, a nonprofit created by the Cathy family and funded almost entirely by Chick-fil-A, gave $3.2 million to groups that advocate against same-sex marriage, according to the group’s tax reports. Some of that money went to the Family Research Council, which has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
So after being caught in a PR whirlwind that saw protests, online campaigns and unlimited media coverage, Chick-fil-A is taking a closer look at its stances and has made the major decision to stop making donations to groups with anti-gay and other political agendas, the New York Daily News has reported.
After spending enormous amounts of time and effort to manage the crisis created by the president’s statements and actions and the negative press that followed, the PR team is now faced with the challenge of handling the company’s shift in policy.
What tactics are the company using to change its position? An internal memo has been sent out to franchisees and stakeholders that states that as a company, they will “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender” and that their “intent is not to engage in political or social debates.” This statement was placed into an official company document called “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are.”
It’s clear Chick-fil-A heard the voices of those who were in opposition of its stance. As PR pros, a crisis will sometimes force a company’s message to be altered. It appears Chick-fil-A, at the very least, taking some small steps to right what many feel was a wrong.
Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson