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The discussion recently at a four-year old birthday party took a different turn when someone blurted out, “So I’m never eating at Chick-fil-A again.” Several guests joined in, either whole heartedly agreeing or some fervently opposing the view – and voices started to climb the decibel scale. Thank goodness it was time to blow out the candles.

In case you missed the recent coverage, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, whose father founded the business, recently reiterated the company’s belief in “the biblical definition of the family unit.” This led to an outcry from same-sex marriage advocates and the social media sphere blew up with boycott demands. Suddenly neighbors found themselves either pro-delicious chicken sandwich or opting to go to its competitors to satisfy their fast food craving.

When companies and organizations go off the key message cue card and make social or political statements, do consumers suffer? No matter your stance – does consuming a large waffle fry mean you’re expressing to the world your social and political views?

CNN asks this same question in the article “When a sandwich becomes a social statement.” Instead of communicating its appreciation for its consumer base, Chick-fil-A’s PR team has been working double time steer the discussion away from the political game.

Sadly, USA Today announced late week that Chick-fil-A’s chief spokesman for company “died early today amid the furor sparked by his boss’ biblical opposition to same-sex marriage.”  The article noted he had just recently issued a statement “expressing the company’s desire to ‘not proactively being engaged in the dialogue on gay marriage. ‘Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,’ his statement said.”

When an organization goes off-message – it’s important to get back to basics. Revisit your core business and communication goals for your target audience and move forward. Although Chick-fil-A is known for its religious ethos tied into its operations, surely its core goal is to make and serve quality food. As Alan Pearcy noted in PR Daily “Maybe the company—particularly its president—should let the chicken do the talking from now on.”

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From the classic chicken sandwich to the Eat Mor Chikin campaign, we all know and love the Chick-Fil-A brand. At a recent American Marketing Association Baltimore event, Dan Cathy, President and Chief Operating Officer of Chick-Fil-A, shared some insider tips from the company’s 42+ years of success and growth.

  • As a business leader, you may not be comfortable on Twitter or social networking sites, but you must adapt if you’re going to be competitive
  • There should always be a balance between remaining competitive and not forgetting your principles
    • Example: Chick-Fil-A has not, and will never, go back on their Sunday closure. Even though they may loose more than 1/7 of revenues, they make up for it with valued customers, refreshed and energized employees and a better overall experience.
  • Be realistic – there are always ways to improve
  • There has to be internal change before successfully changing externally
  • Honor, dignity and respect are in high demand and in short supply
  • Make your brand about experience, it’s something everyone is looking for

Which tip is your favorite?