KFC Taking Heat

By: Gina Mason

KFC has been getting grilled lately and I’m not talking about its chicken! The fast-food chain has been taking some serious heat after an employee in Jackson, MS asked a three-year old little girl and her grandmother to leave the restaurant because of the girl’s appearance.

The little girl named Victoria Wilcher was recently a victim of a pit-bull attack that caused her to lose an eye, paralyzed the right side of her face and left her with scars all over her body and face. As if this poor little girl had not been through enough trauma,  according to her grandmother, Kelly Mullins a KFC employee came up to her and asked them to leave because Victoria’s appearance was “bothering the other customers.”

Enter the power of social media. Last Thursday, a photo of Victoria along with a description of the incident was posted on Victoria’s Victories Facebook page asking the question, “Does this face look scary to you?” The post went viral and people from all over the country vowed to never eat at KFC again. It didn’t take long for word to travel to KFC’s corporate headquarters and in less than 24 hours the KFC crisis management team sprang into action.  KFC issued a statement Friday morning about the incident to the local WAPT TV station. “KFC launched an investigation as soon as we were made aware of this report. We take this very seriously, as we have zero tolerance for any kind of hurtful or disrespectful actions toward our guests. Our investigation is ongoing, but we have been in touch with the family and are committed to doing something appropriate for this beautiful little girl and her family.” said KFC spokesman, Rick Maynard.

Although, the original statement was very standard in terms of crisis communications, KFC stepped up their game on Sunday when they pledged $30,000 to assist Victoria and her family with her ongoing medical bills while they investigate the situation. “Regardless of the outcome of our investigation, we have apologized to Victoria’s family and are committed to assisting them…the entire KFC family is behind Victoria,” Maynard told the Associated Press.   

This was a smart move by the corporation and I applaud KFC’s prompt response to the crisis. Although, the actions of the employee are not excusable, it is great to see an example how social media can open the lines of communication between consumers and corporations and can lead to something positive. I am interested to see how the investigation plays out and how KFC will try to prevent incidents like this from happening again. Also, it will be interesting to see if more people follow in Mullins’ footsteps and publically notify corporations of their negative experiences through social media.

How do you think KFC handled this crisis? Do you think KFC did enough for Victoria? How do you feel about the family going to Facebook instead of the company directly? Do you think the attention that this story got could be problematic for corporations in the future?

Lastly, on a positive note, Victoria’s story has received an enormous amount of media attention and kind people from all over the world have been reaching out to help her. Generous people who heard about her story have donated over $131,000 to her GoFundMe page that will help her family pay for all of her medical bills. It’s great to see that there are wonderful people out there in the world who are willing to help a perfect stranger! To donate to Victoria’s cause visit her page here: http://www.gofundme.com/8q8yww  

As always, I welcome your comments and if you like what you read, be social and share. 

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