PR: Handling a Crisis in the Community


(Ashton Woods)
(Photo: Ashton Woods)


What do you think of when you hear “PR”?


If the words “damage control” come to mind, you’re not alone.


It seems the only time we even refer to public relations is when a business does something terribly wrong. Out of fear of public outcry, the business enters crisis management mode. We see examples of this everyday in the news.


We all remember the cringe worthy #SaveTheGulf campaign rolled out by BP after their massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP tried to keep the spill under wraps as they worked to fix it, but had failed on both accounts. The spill raged on from April 20th, 2010 to July 15th, 2010 causing catastrophic and lasting damage to the environment. Even six years later, BP’s name is still tainted – immediately associated with baby dolphins dying, birds slicked with oil, and toxic fish. They’re still digging themselves out of this slight on their reputation. BP has tried to come off as environmentally conscious after this incident, but it came off as extremely insincere, and too-little-too-late.


But sometimes, companies can surprise you.

PR in Tragedy

June 12th, 2016 marked the witnessing of America’s worst mass shooting. 49 were killed and 50 injured after a man opened fire at Pulse, a well-known LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The shooter specifically targeted Pulse for it’s LGBT demographic. This was a hate crime. In an outpour of love and communal responsibility, people of Orlando rushed to blood banks everywhere to donate blood.


Enter Chik-Fil-A, a Southern-born fast food joint. In the recent past, Chik-Fil-A has taken massive heat for their president’s opposition of same-sex marriage. The political climate between Chik-Fil-A and the LGBT community has been heated since then.


Whether opportunistic or genuine, a local Chik-Fil-A did what they never do in the wake of the Orlando shooting: they opened their doors on a Sunday. Christian values set in place at Chik-Fil-A give all employees Sundays off, but the Lord’s day became what it should be about, helping others. Employees whipped up hoards of sandwiches and donated all of it to victims and volunteers of the Pulse shooting.


Was this an act of good PR or good will? It’s debatable. Either way, this gesture was not only an act of kindness, but it served a purpose and played a vital function in aiding the Orlando Shooting victims. What Chik-Fil-A did that day not only showed commitment to their community, but solidarity among a group with which they aggressively don’t see eye-to-eye.


Chik-Fil-A chose to handle the crisis with a certain amount of grace, which is something a good PR team would promote. The immediacy of reaction and the intention of the action are what make a good PR move. Chik-Fil-A responded immediately to a community crisis and responded in a way that had a direct impact on who they were aiding.

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