Gimme a break!
The flap about Chick-fil-A is much noise with little substance.
Were comments by Dan Cathy, the company’s president and CEO, retrograde to a darker period of social development? Yes. Does he have the right to express his beliefs? Absolutely. Should government limit the restaurant’s ability to do business because his beliefs are out of favor with many? Absolutely not.
From a PR perspective, Cathy’s comments were a nightmare. In one brief statement, he offended half of society. That’s a lot of potential customers. (Recent polls, including the Pew Foundation, show Americans increasingly favor or don’t oppose same-sex relationships or marriage, by numbers ranging from 46% to 54%. This is a tremendous change from only 10 years ago, when it was in the 30s.)
Standard Reputation Management advice: Do what you must to mend fences, lessen the fallout and make the story go away sooner.
Not in the cards. Cathy was insistently unapologetic: Those who wish to engage in same-sex marriage — and all those who support them — are shaking their fists at God and threatening mankind with His wrath. This begot more and noisier protests and more negative media.
It would have been worse if Chick-fil-A were a public company, whose officers have a duty to maximize profits. But it’s not. It’s privately owned and hence not beholden to shareholders.
Look at Chick-fil-A’s roots. It was born in 1946 in a small town in Georgia. It still closes on Sunday so employees can spend time in worship and with family and friends. And its Corporate Purpose statement is: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”
How soon will the media tempest wane? When the next story comes along. Too often amongst the media, “news” has a short shelf life, and substance matters less than sound bites.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that specializes in high-stakes Crisis & Reputation Management. If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog Insights on High-Stakes PR. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.