How to Win at Crisis Communications as Told by KFC

How KFC Won Over the Nation

The KFC chicken shortage will forever go down as one of the brands biggest company mess ups in history. I mean, what’s a fast food chicken restuarant without the chicken?

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks and you’re not up to scratch on the news and current affairs of one of the UK biggest eateries, then we’ll go back a bit and explain. On 14th of February 2018 news that KFC had ran out of chicken emerged, causing mass panic throughout the whole of UK. Sirens rang, fires were started and the police were called. (Okay, fires and sirens never happened, but people actually phone the police). We’re all aware of the infamous ITV News video of a woman crying over the fact “I’ve ‘ad to go to Burger King”.


KFC PR after chicken shortage
KFC Chicken Shortage – The Independent


The chicken shortage was caused by KFC moving to courier company DHL, and the consequences were somewhat catastrophic when trying to deliver hundreds of tonnes of chicken to over 900 stores across the country.

This was almost PR suicide for KFC. However, luckily for them, they pulled it round with the best advert of 2018*. The hilarious full page advert, which was placed in Metro newspapers round the country included a hidden message which may have gone unnoticed at first.

*not confirmed


KFC Campaign


The subtle message that switches KFC to FCK, went down like a storm with the nation, who immediately forgave their favourite chicken fast food chain for running out of chicken.

If you search the news section on Google for ‘KFC apology’ the SERPs are flooded with articles about the advert from some of  the big publications around the world. So it wasn’t just the customers who were impressed with the quick witted advert.

So what can we learn from the advert in terms of crisis communications?

Be apologetic

Part of what really works in KFC’s favour is that they were straight to the point and held their hands up and said sorry.

Make light of the situation

The funny advert won many of their fans back over and even those who weren’t that bothered about them anyway we’re all paying kudos to the smart and funny advert.

Spread your message far and wide

With thousands of people commuting via trains every day, the Metro was a great choice of advert placement. The daily free newspaper was sure to be seen and that factored in with the hilarity of the picture meant it was shared via social media over and over.

Action what you promise

The main thing is to make sure you follow through with any promises you make when trying to avert a crisis. In the advert KFC were careful to word that ‘day-by-day’ more of their restaurants were serving more chicken- so not giving a definitive date of when the issue would be fixed. Meaning no one could questions and say they were lying or promising too much.  

So this is how KFC carefully turned it around for themselves and how they should the best practise in crisis communications. The takeaways from this are always to make any crisis communication as personable as possible, after all even the biggest brands in the world are made up of just normal people.

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