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Crisis management… done right

From sexual misconduct scandals to singing CEOs and product failures, the PR world has had more than its fair share of negative headlines already this year.

It all started just two days into 2018 when Intel, the global manufacturer of computer processors, was found to have been producing chips with a “fundamental design flaw” for the past decade, leaving their products vulnerable to hackers.

Over the course of two days the company saw its stock drop by a whopping 5%, leading to key customers such as Apple and Google releasing statements admitting that their products were vulnerable to attacks due to chips manufactured by Intel.

Then, a month later, we had the Oxfam scandal. The front page of The Times on Feb 9th led with the headline: “Top Oxfam staff paid Haiti survivors for sex.” As far as crisis communications go, it had it all. It quite rightly sparked a public outcry, caused the charity to fallout with its commercial partners, and led to serious questioning from regulators and senior politicians.

An internal investigation from the charity then resulted in four people losing their jobs and three resigning, including the deputy chief executive.

And, who can forget Mike Coupe, the Sainsbury’s chief executive who just last month was caught singing “We’re in the money” to himself whilst mic’d up for a news interview for ITV.

Coupe was preparing for an interview about the potential merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda which was being referred to the competition watchdog.

If you didn’t see this one, take a look at the video below. You won’t regret it!

However, if there was one brand which managed to really turn a PR nightmare into a masterclass in crisis management, it’s fast-food chain KFC.

When Kentucky Fried Chicken ran out of, you guessed it, chicken, in most of its 900 UK stores, the press and the public were quick to turn on the brand and berate its management.

Almost every publication in the land carried the story and social media was rife with criticism, the company was also a top trend on Twitter throughout the crisis.

Believe it or not, some customers in Manchester and London even rang their local police departments to complain about the chicken drought, sparking a number of responses from the local authorities themselves!



So, how did the Colonel’s PR and Marketing team at KFC manage to turn this one round? Well, it’s amazing how far a simple apology and a bit of humour can go at times.

A lot of businesses would point their finger at their suppliers, or in KFC’s case, it’s logistics partners who caused the shortage, and wouldn’t dream of admitting that they were in the wrong.


However, the team at KFC had different ideas. The company ran with a full page advert featuring a KFC bucket with the letters rearranged to say “FCK” with the catchline “we’re sorry…” and went on to share the message across its social media channels.

The company admitted it was in the wrong, announced how it was going to address the issue, and even made a joke out of it themselves.

And, after a week of hell for the company, the attention was diverted just like that. The media, the industry and the internet lapped up the witty response, acknowledged the apology, and before they knew it, the crisis was averted.

Can you think of any other great crisis management case studies? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Tweet your best examples to @WeAreCreo.


Please note we are currently working from home until further notice. To contact the team:

Louise Bradford
0778 894 4120