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Holy Cow, What a Mess: Chick-fil-A and Its Public Relations Crisis

Mr. Cathy needs to understand that while his company is privately held, it is publicly supported. Thousands of gay people work and eat at Chick-fil-A every day. That will change quickly.
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A lot of people have a beef with Chick-fil-A right now -- and, from a PR
perspective, deservedly so. Company President and COO Dan Cathy
stepped in a cow chip that quickly turned into a sand storm when he
publicly stated what many people privately knew: His company doesn't
like gay folks that much.

First of all, let me come out of the closet on a few things. One, I
love me some Chick-fil-A. I'm an expert on chicken biscuits, nuggets,
waffle fries, coleslaw and iced tea. In the name of full disclosure,
my company, Creaxion, has done work with Chick-fil-A. We like their
employees and franchise operators a lot. Their attention to detail
and around the clock (except on Sundays) work shows their passion for
the product and providing exceptional customer service.

Secondly, I'm a public relations expert (or so people have been
telling me for the past 20 years). I've spent much of that time
working with companies -- and often CEOs in crisis.

Finally, I'm an openly gay man.

I pretty much have this situation covered from all angles -- and I'm
personally offended by what has transpired.

I will no longer eat at Chick-fil-A -- that is, until Mr. Cathy publicly
apologizes. And he needs to do it soon.

Mr. Cathy needs to understand that while his company is privately
held, it is publicly supported. Thousands of gay people work and eat
at Chick-fil-A every day -- many of them with a bit of shame knowing that
they love the company but don't like what senior executives apparently
stand for. That will change quickly.

Facebook and Twitter are afire with gay, and gay friendly people,
publicly boycotting Chick-fil-A and asking their friends and followers
to do the same. In today's hyper-connected and hyper-sensitive
environment, one person quickly turns into one thousand and a comment
to a religion reporter becomes fuel to fire the 24-hour mainstream
news cycle.

Companies and great brands need to realize that at some point, they
become bigger than the CEO. Vision must be separated from
views -- because it's all about the voice. What people say and believe
is the only thing that matters.

If Mr. Cathy doesn't do something about this really fast, he will find
himself looking at declining sales and fewer familiar faces. He may
not realize it today, but in the future he will see the harm he has
done to his company, employees and customers.

Yesterday, I took several of my employees to lunch. We walked
straight past Chick-fil-A to the food trucks just down the street.
And that's the point. Chick-fil-A isn't the only chicken sandwich in
town anymore.

Atlanta is an international city with 12 Fortune 500 companies and 2,100
international companies and is the former host of the Olympics.
Chick-fil-A calls Atlanta home, yet with small-minded views, this high-profile citizen brings a closed-minded sensibility that the city has
long since moved past. International cities are filled with all types
of people, including closeted chicken-biscuit lovers.

Mr. Cathy, do the right thing and apologize. Once you separate the
view from the vision, we can all go back to making Atlanta the great
city we know it can be. If nothing else, if you apologize, I'd be
happy to treat you to lunch. At Chick-fil-A.

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