Food PR: Prepared, Overdone, or Too Raw for Consumption?

Sometimes in our social media saturated, 24-7-365 news cycle reality, a communications initiative can be put in motion too quickly. Take the case of the recent day Chick-fil-A faux pas. As the chicken sandwich war begun last summer with Popeyes prepares to re-intensify, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A sent an email last week to many of its loyalty members reminding them to flock to their restaurants for “National Sandwich Day” (Sunday, November 3rd). Problem was, Chick-fil-A is famously not open on Sundays. Awkward.

“Well…this is awkward,” was actually the subject line of a follow-up email sent out by the chain, which attempted some tongue-in-cheek humor with tail firmly planted between legs. Popeyes also once again took to social media, including Twitter and YouTube – the latter including a retweet of a the Chick-fil-A explanatory post with the message: “seriously…y’all good?”

It’s a reminder that sometimes we all need to slow down, look things over and think things through. To spot check. Proof read. Get another set of eyes (and brain cells). Instead, today, our competitive landscape often dictates we “come in first” and beat the competition at something – anything. If one is not careful, though, it can be detrimental to the initial message and intent. As Popeyes chicken sandwiches have returned in a big way, I get it. Yet, here, even a slight pause could have saved embarrassment.

Last week’s events were in stark contrast to a recent food brand action long overdue. This Fall, Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco, finally redesigned their iconic Barnum’s Animals Crackers box after depicting animals in cages for more than 100 years. The protests for change by PETA began some 30 years ago. And while the brand has, over the years, raised significant dollars for the World Wildlife Fund and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, respectively, one is left to ask: What were they waiting for? Setting the final stage, certainly, was Ringling Brothers’ decision to remove elephants from their shows in 2016. The circus closed altogether in 2017.

Too soon or not soon enough? When talking about timing for a new PR or marketing initiative, sometimes the answer is obvious while, at other times, it can take a combination of thoughtfulness, foresight and good judgment. Proactivity is one thing. Hyperactivity is another altogether. Perhaps it is merely striving for a happy medium, if that is even possible anymore. It’s all good food for thought.