Sex, Chicken and Religion: Will the recent Chick-fil-A debacle become a classic public relations textbook case study?

August 4, 2012


These pertinent questions must be asked when reviewing, through a PR paradigm, the recent Chick-fil-A (CFA) debacle. What can be learned from the Chick-fil-a fiasco? Did CFA successfully manage a PR crisis? Could PR have prevented this? Finally, and most important, what is the real issue here?

It may be hard to answer correctly those questions just a week from the initial media blitz. It is too early to tell just what the fallout, from comments made by CFA president, Dan Cathy, last week. A proper post crisis review of the situation from outside the organization needs more time to develop and procure all the facts and figures. Important to note that since public relations deals with the feelings and emotions of consumers- two things that can change very quickly and easily, one tweet or status update can have enormous consequences.

In a media war of biblical proportions, a comment from the president of Chick-fil-A sparked outrage and enthusiasm through out the nation. It is unprecedented, in my eyes, how infatuated people were with this issue. Especially, given that it was barely a week after a mass murder in Colorado, I’m stunned that the CFA topic drew so much attention.

Started in Georgia, Chick-fil-A has a huge presence in my hometown of Atlanta. It is an integral part of my local community. I’ve met a few franchise owners and worked at a Chick-fil-A briefly one summer when I was 15. Other than that, I have no real exposure to them as I try avoiding fast food— especially chicken. I have nothing against them and no real feelings towards them or their product. Apathetic or ambivalent do not quite describe my feelings, but I would like to say I have no judgments for either side of this debate.

Friday’s events were the most remarkable. In a fight that, to some is about Christianity, I find it funny that neither side has done nothing really Christian at all. Free chicken sandwiches don’t count, sorry. However, today was remarkable in that Chick-fil-A offered water and refreshments to people boycotting outside their restaurant. That is perhaps the first Christian act perpetrated since this beginning of this media fueled frenzy. It seems so obvious, yet the media refuses and fails to acknowledge or report this. Thankfully social media has helped out and filled in the gaps.

I doubt Chick-fil-A’s bottom line took a hard hit. If anything, they will come out on top. I bet the company’s department budgets for marketing and PR are way over budget for the year! With correct planning, money should have been cached for a crisis of this nature and magnitude. Only time will tell what the real issue is or was and only then, in the weeks and months to come, can we take a better look at this case and dissect it for the benefit of everyone involved.