How to turn a corporate mistake into a PR win 

Running a business brings many challenges, and at some point you have to deal with problems that may be caused by external or internal factors. In the last 2 years, entrepreneurs have had a lot of problems with external influences. Most of these were caused by shortages in supply chains and long delays. Supply chains are an essential part of any company’s process, regardless of its size and industry. Delays in materials or goods often mean that production stops or products are not made within agreed deadlines.

Similar to the manufacturing sector, the services sector also faced supply problems during the Covid-19 crisis. In particular, companies involved in the preparation of meals, where supply chains are of paramount importance, have experienced considerable difficulties over the last 2 years. This is a phenomenon that businesses face day in, day out, but the key difference is how businesses react to and deal with it. Customer dissatisfaction, and with it a company’s reputation, is always on the agenda, and even more so when there is a shortage of a particular product or diet. That is why it is important that entrepreneurs are prepared for such shocks and know how to react quickly.

A good example in practice was provided by the US company Kentucky Fried Chicken – KFC – a few years ago. In 2018, the English subsidiary of the American company experienced one of the toughest days in KFC’s history. Problems with supply chains have forced the closure of more than 600 sites, as the company recently changed supplier and, due to logistical problems, was unable to deliver a key component of the company’s business model – Chicken. KFC has, of course, experienced considerable anger from its guests who have driven up to their favourite restaurants to find them closed for lack of chicken. Some of the guests even went so far as to call the police out of frustration. Many entrepreneurs in this situation would have made their problems and anger public, blaming suppliers and everyone else. KFC took a different route, and it worked in a remarkable way.

KFC’s PR team sent out the above poster to the public and instead of the KFC acronym, wrote the acronym FKC(fuck) on a symbolically empty pot. The creative sign was followed by a short apology and a creative note in the style of “Chicken restaurant without chicken. Not ideal. …” followed by an apology to all guests and an explanation that the teams are working to re-establish supply chains and reopen the restaurants.

With the right tactics and smart PR, KFC has impressed the PR community in the UK as well as America, and ultimately won a lot of satisfaction from its customers. The company could easily have blamed the whole fiasco on its suppliers, who were of course the main culprits in the whole fiasco. However, the company has chosen a different path, which has, on the contrary, satisfied its customers and even increased brand awareness. Although this move did not solve the problem 100%, it did mitigate it and even turned it into a positive public reaction. Every company should want to react in this way, so let’s take a look at how KFC did it:


The company has shown humility and communicated in an understated and sarcastic way that it understands the problem. Yes, a chicken restaurant without chicken is really not ideal.  


KFC’s communications team was humorous without being offensive. Being chicken-free is problematic (especially if you’re a chicken restaurant), but it’s not life-saving. Be careful to avoid humour that may be perceived as offensive by customers.


Many companies would find the cause of the problem elsewhere and blame the supplier. Instead of looking for the culprit, KFC first pointed the finger at itself and even went on to thank the supplier. In this way, your customers will identify with you and your problem.  


As mentioned above, KFC thanked its team and the supplier, even though it was the suppliers who made the mistake. However, the company showed its appreciation for the effort they had made to gradually resolve the problem. After all, they still can’t do anything if the supplier fails to deliver the chicken. Businesses must, of course, be aware that the culprits solve the problems and that finger-pointing has never solved any problem.


The small change in the brand logo has attracted a lot of attention, but consumers still associate it with the main logo. Too many adverts never manage to capture consumer attention or maintain brand identity, due to constantly changing creatives, overly clever executions and agencies trying to sign their work with their signatures. That’s why it’s always important not to change too much and always keep the core brand.


KFC’s strategy has shown the power of integration between traditional and social media. Most people saw the post on Twitter or Facebook, but it wouldn’t have had much reach without the old-fashioned newspaper posts. It can be a big mistake to opt for just one type of media these days. Every company should strive to apply a combination of the most appropriate strategies available to harness the power of cross-media integration and maximise the reach of its message.

KFC has done such a good job that some industry insiders claim that the chicken shortage was a pre-planned move by the company. The company’s main objective was achieved by creating interest and buzz on social networks and creating a confident brand persona. Even if this move was not pre-planned, KFC’s response ensured that they presented themselves to the public as a human and humorous company, which increased their brand awareness and gained a few more fans.  

It is in such cases that we first see how important it is to react correctly in difficult situations and turn a company’s disadvantage into a competitive advantage.