Religion, Politics, and Waffle Fries Dan Cathy’s statement creates a crisis for chicken chain
What Happened • July 16th, 2012 • The Baptist Press releases an article with controversial statements from Chick-fil-A’s President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Dan Cathy
"Well, guilty as charged," • said Cathy when asked about the company's position [on the traditional family]."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.
What happened? • July 17th, 2012: • Dan Cathy reiterated comments made to the Baptist Press on the Ken Coleman Show • Cathy Statement
What Happened? • July 27th • VP of Public Relations Don Perry dies of a heart attack
What Happened • Stirred up controversy among the LGBT community • Incited support from various Christian groups • Media turned the issue into a cultural debate
What Happened? • Liberal media • Conservative media • Company was put in the spotlight for donating money to anti-gay rights organizations
Company background • 1946-Truett Cathy opened his first restaurant, The Dwarf Grille, in Hapeville, Georgia • 1967-The first Chick-fil-A opened in Atlanta • Truett Cathy serves as CEO , chairman, and founder
Company background • Mission statement: • “To be America’s best quick service restaurant.” • 2nd largest chicken restaurant chain in the U.S. based on sales • 2011-system wide sales reached $4.1 billion
Company background • 1600 restaurants across 39 states and D.C. • Focus on Christian values (closed on Sundays) • Corporate purpose • “To glorify god by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A”
Company background • YouGov.com’s brand index score • 65 at the time of the statement • 19 points above the national average of 46
Company background • 2010: Chick-fil-A donated over $1 million dollars to proponents of traditional marriage through the WinShape Foundation • Marriage & Family Foundation • Family Research Council
Public Reaction • Chick-fil-A Employees • Employees who share the views that Cathy expressed, reported to be prideful in the company • Gay employees of the company have reported to be uncomfortable with the company’s association of anti-gay marriage stance • All employees are not allowed to speak to the media and are told to ignore all statements made my customers about the controversy
Public Reaction • LGBT • a community which emphasizes a diversity of sexuality and gender identity based cultures • Widespread calls to boycott Chick-fil-A • August 4th-Chick-fil-A kiss day
Public Reaction • Mike Huckabee-44th Governor of Arkansas (1996-2007) • Ordained Southern Baptist Minister • Host of Fox News talk show, Huckabee. August 1st: Calls for national “Chick-fil-A appreciation day” • large number of Christian Chick-fil-A supporters flock to the restaurants
Public Reaction • "While we don't release exact sales numbers, we can confirm reports that it was a record-setting day” -Steve Robinson, Chick-Fil-A executive VP of marketing
Public Reaction • Rahm Manuel • Mayor of Chicago since 2011 • Thomas Menino • Mayor of Boston since 1993 • Edwin M. Lee • Mayor of San Fransisco since 2011 • All stated that Chick-Fil-A was not welcome in their cities.
Winshape Foundation • American charitable endeavour of Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family founded in 1984 • Donated money to controversial anti-gay groups such as Family Research Council & Exodus
Results • The Jim Henson Company • Creators of The Muppets and other hit T.V. shows, produces toys for Chick-fil-A’s kid’s meals • CEO Lisa Henson has been a strong supporter of gay marriage • Cut ties with Chick-fil-A stating that they “celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness” • Directed payments received from Chick-fil-A to Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
Results • HaperCollins • One of the world’s largest publishing companies, headquartered in New York City - contracted to make toys of the Bearinstean Bears for the company’s kids meals • Was petitioned to cut ties with Chick-fil-A • Did not cut ties • "We have a long history of…protect[ing] the freedom of expression. It is not our practice to cancel a contract with an author, or any other party, for exercising their first amendment rights."
Results • 4 days after Cathy’s statements • Yougov national score drops from 65 to 47 a nineteen point drop – 5 points below the national average • Mixed results
Chick-fil-A’s Response • Disseminated message through multiple channels
Chick-fil-A’s Response • On the company website under “contact us” • Provides a link to a document which details the company’s views on the controversy and it’s charitable donations • No way to contact the company through it’s website • Other than for experiences in it’s restaurants
Discussion Questions • Should Dan Cathy or anyone in a similar high position be allowed to publically make controversial belief statements? • Should Dan Cathy and other high ranking officials be given proper media relations training before giving interviews? • How much did Dan Cathy’s statement affect the perception of the company as a whole?
Discussion Questions • Was it a good public relations tactic to only issue one official news release? What other communications tactics could have been effective in this crises? • What could the company have done to prevent this crisis from occurring? Or from it becoming a national issue?
Lessons • Manage for tomorrow • must stop all practices that would reflect negatively on the company • Donations to controversial anti-gay marriage groups • Conduct Public Relations as if the whole company depends on it • allowed the crisis to grow out of hand within the media • Company’s true character is its people • Dan Cathy’s personal views in his statement reflected the perception of the entire company • Affected employees and company’s Yougov index
Recommendations • Have a crisis plan • If a plan was created – the crisis could have been contained • Have one unified message • Promote the company’s mission statement • truly leaving the policy to the politicians – any future belief statements remarked as personal and not from the company • Media Relations Training • Provide personal training for all higher level employees • And create a training plan for all employees who serve in restaurants who deal with customers daily
References • "What Dan Cathy said". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 26, 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012 • Robinson, Steve (July 31, 2012). Chick-fil-A Response to Recent Controversy. Retrieved October 12, 2012 • "Form 990-PF: Return of Private Foundation" (PDF). WinShape Foundation, Inc.. Guidestar. 2010 • "Chick-Fil-A Fast Food Chain Donated Nearly $2 Million To Anti-Gay Groups In 2009". November 1, 2011. Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 August 2012. • Devaney, Tim; Stein, Tom (November 8, 2011). "Chick-fil-A Increases Donations to Anti-Gay Groups". AllBusiness.com. • Hsu, Tiffany (July 18, 2012). "Is Chick-fil-A anti-gay marriage? 'Guilty as charged,' leader says". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 July 2012. • Turner, Greg (July 20, 2012). "Mayor Menino on Chick-fil-A: Stuff it". The Boston Herald. Retrieved July 21, 2012. • Dardick, Hal (July 25, 2012). "Alderman to Chick-fil-A: No deal". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 26, 2012. • Matthew T. Hall (3 August 2012). "Hall: Gay-rights supporters kiss in, kiss off Chick-fil-A". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
References • "Chick-Fil-A Supporters Gather for Appreciation Day - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. 2012-08-01. Retrieved 2012-08-17. • Lendon, Brad (July 24, 2012). "Henson, Huckabee take sides in Chick-fil-A same-sex marriage controversy". CNN.com. Retrieved July 28, 2012. • Goddard, Jacqui. "Gay rights come to Toy Town as Chick-fil-A battle continues." The Telegraph, 2012-08-13 • Dardick, Hal (September 19, 2012). "Moreno relents, will allow Chick-fil-A". Chicago Tribune(Chicago, IL). Retrieved September 19, 2012.