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PR Campaign of KFC

Updated on January 16, 2016

Figure 1.

Reproduced from: Bishop 2013
Reproduced from: Bishop 2013

Introduction

In 2004, according to research by Berkook (n.d), it was revealed that KFC wasted three million chicken's parts in the production process. KFC had explained that situation, but those explanations were not reasonable and proved by the public. In 2011, there were rumours about KFC producing fake soya-bean milk with milk powder from China, one of the biggest markets of KFC as mentioned by Peter (2011). Because of these multiple scandals, KFC decided to run a series of campaigns, including "Spread a Smile"(2007), "Hunger to Hope"(2009) and “The Journey of Hope”(2012) in order to enhance their reputation and also improve the relationships between the company and its customers (KFC 2013)

The campaign “Journey of Hope” carried out by Ogilvy addressed public concern about the poverty in South Africa. It approached towards a humanitarian issue and tapped on people's sympathy to turn the campaign into effective PR tool-public stunts. This campaign helped strengthen the brand image of KFC as an ethical company. Besides supporting KFC, “Journey of Hope” engaged thousands of people in helping African children and became a very successful campaign in terms of developing the corporation’s image and society’s value.

Strategy

Research played a very important role in the strategy planning of this campaign as it supported public understanding and to achieve credibility. Accordingly, by studying its public behaviours, the agency found out that people were easily affected and moved by a humanitarian issue. Therefore, the famine in Africa was an opportunity for KFC to approach and run its CSR activity.

In order to attract people’s attention, this campaign created a publicity-stunt using the influence of celebrity (Nguyen 2013). By featuring Ryaan Mansers, a well-known adventurer, to cycle the word "hope" across Africa just by using half of the calories his body needed. Besides, it provided easy access for the audience through a website named ‘Add Hope’ and social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube (KFC South Africa 2013) to make it easier for them to make donations and directly get involved in the campaign. By uploading clips about the journey weekly, it informed donors that their donations went toward the hunger in Africa that helped KFC achieve credibility from customers. Hence, in this case, both controlled (video, website, celebrity, social network) and uncontrolled tactics (media releases, articles) as suggested by Nguyen (2013) were applied in "Journey of hope”.

In terms of evaluation, this campaign reached the output of R127 million in charity, R7 million in media coverage, 67 broadcast stories, 29 print features and articles and 24 online stories (Ogilvy & Mather South Africa 2013). It also succeeded with the outcome that strengthens the relationship between the company and its customers. “Journey of Hope” changed people attitude toward KFC, lifting the KFC brand image from a wasteful firm to an ethical company. The company's reputation has been increased significantly as well.

The strategy and execution of this campaign are greatly affected by the trends of global PR practice nowadays, which is to make use of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and celebrity endorsement, as these are effective ways to achieve its reputation (Epstein-Reeves 2012).

Understanding of PR

"Journey of Hope” is a PR campaign because it is a part of "Add Hope", a series of CSR campaigns that aims to achieve a long-term impact. In addition, this campaign helped KFC build mutual beneficial relationship with its public. The company's reputation was greatly enhanced, while the public gained an opportunity to reduce the hunger problem in Africa. This means “Journey of Hope” was a strategic communication process. Then, by being involved in CSR - one of eight PR aspects (Nguyen 2013) - KFC improved their reputation as well as strengthened its relationship with customers. This was evidenced by the donation, represented in the evaluation of strategy part, of customers and their involvement in the campaign. Furthermore, this campaign met the need of society; it helped feed African children, who suffered from famine and lacked nutrition, by providing millions of meals. Last but not least, KFC might try to use this campaign as a tool to improve its image in the public’s eyes from the chicken parts wasting and milk faking scandals before, or should we say, crisis management (Nguyen 2013).

Theory

In the “Journey of Hope” campaign, KFC applied the fourth model of Grunig & Hunt’s four models of PR, which is the two-way symmetrical model (Nguyen 2013). The problem about famine and lack of nutrition in Africa were a common phenomenon and the children might be the most affected people in this case. According to the World Food Program (cited in Aid for Starving Children, n.d), the problem was so severe that a child under five dies of hunger every 12 seconds. This is what society concerned about and KFC might do research about this problem. This means it was two-way communication. In addition, after researching, KFC ran a corporate-social-responsibility campaign (CSR) to help addressing the severe phenomenon. With this initiative, KFC got people's support, gained the reputation of doing well for the society and reinforced the relationship between KFC and its target public that means there was a balanced outcome.

Another theory successfully used by KFC belonged to the social exchange theory, which indicates the process of negotiated exchanges between parties (Nguyen 2013). To be more specific, KFC’s customers gave financial donations and supported this campaign in exchange for a chance to do charity, which is the mental benefit. On the brand side, by giving its target public an opportunity to join hand in helping the hungry children in South Africa, KFC got a better reputation in term of doing good to the malnourished African children.

Media Relation

Undoubtedly, in order to spread out the information to its target public, media relations played a crucial part to the success of the “Journey of Hope” campaign. For reaching a quality level, they provided an easy access for the audience as Newsom & Haynes (2011) suggested, which included a variety of channels such as a website of the campaign pitching weekly updates from Riaan Mansers on his journey, videos and images on social media (facebook, youtube, twitter) and press release. The output of over 1,800 new online conversations showed a high interaction and interest of the audience to the program (Ogilvy & Mather South Africa 2013). Besides, a media relation technique mentioned by Bailey (2009) was used is to target the news story. In particular, the story of “Journey of Hope” was sent to selective media of South African such as thesouthafrica.com or news24 instead of delivering all the stories to all media. By giving a meaningful story of Riaan with his journey as a representative for KFC’s corporate social responsibility program, the angle was picked up by national TV as well as regional media. The news also reached three out of seven values suggested by Nguyen (2013) which were “impact” (the info impacts the hungry issue in South Africa), “prominence” (when it features the journey of Riaan, an adventure) and “timeliness” (weekly update).

Within two months, the campaign reached a R7-million in media coverage in all three media channels: print, online and broadcast (Ogilvy & Mather South Africa 2013). This is an example for PR practitioners in creating a good story with new angles, values to attract media as well as maximizing easy access and channels to get more people to involve.

Figure 2.

 Reproduced from: Flude 2012
Reproduced from: Flude 2012

Recommendation

The campaign “Journey of Hope” can be implemented in Viet Nam owing to the reality that it reinforces the Vietnamese tradition “lá lành đùm lá rách” (wrapping torn leaves) in helping other people. From 2007 to 2011, Viet Nam ranked 2nd in the underweight severe category according to the UNICEF’s statistics (n.d). Still, starvation and malnutrition are the sore point in the development of the country. Therefore, the campaign “Journey of Hope” can be reality in Viet Nam, focusing on the mountainous areas, the Northern Midlands and the Central Highlands. According to MICS4 Vietnam final report (2011), children in the mountainous areas, Northern Midlands and the Central Highlands are most likely to be stunted plus underweight than others. It is time for “Journey of Hope” to apply in Viet Nam.

However, there are some details we need to change if we bring “Journey of Hope” to Viet Nam. First of all, due to the craggy terrain, we should shift from cycling to using a charity bus across the country and walking in mountainous area, because it goes beyond the realm of possibility to cycling through the whole country especially in mountain areas. And, children still have to go through footbridges and rowing to go to school every day in ethnic minority. Secondly, we can offer a celebrity such as the actor Chi Bảo who has a clean image and good reputation to join the campaign. The Vietnamese youth are looking for a role modern that is not only adroit at their occupation but also has a sympathetic heart. A suitable celebrity can also affect and enhance public awareness about the importance of the current malnutrition as well as starvation.

Conclusion

All in all, the campaign “Journey of Hope” has gained many outstanding successes of both output and outcome. This campaign enhanced KFC’s reputation along with developed the relationship between the company and their public. Effective strategy on the appropriate PR aspect-crisis communication has been implemented flexibly. Moreover, “Journey of Hope” has applied both the two-way symmetrical model (Grunig & Hunt’s four models of PR) and the social exchange theory. The new values and angle of the news attract media and make it a well-known campaign. It also highlights opportunities for PR practitioners to apply elements such as media relations, crisis communication, endorsement, etc, appropriately in making a successful campaign in reality.

Some pictures about Journey of Hope

Riaan Manser helps the hunger children from South Africa
Riaan Manser helps the hunger children from South Africa
Riaan Manser helps the hunger children from South Africa
Riaan Manser helps the hunger children from South Africa
Riaan Manser - renowned adventurer
Riaan Manser - renowned adventurer
Children in South Africa
Children in South Africa
He eats with African boy.
He eats with African boy.

References:

  • Nguyen, L 2013, ‘Class 1.1 INTRODUCTION’, PowerPoint slides for COMM2374 Introduction to Public Relations, RMIT University Vietnam, Hanoi, viewed 2 December 2013, Blackboard@RMIT.
  • Nguyen, L 2013, ‘Class 3.1: Theory', PowerPoint slides for COMM2374 Introduction to Public Relations, RMIT University Vietnam, Hanoi, viewed 2 December 2013, Blackboard@RMIT.
  • Nguyen, L 2013, 'Class 3.2: The art of persuasion: Social exchange and social learning theories', PowerPoint slides for COMM2374 Introduction to Public Relations, RMIT University Vietnam, Hanoi, viewed 2 December 2013, Blackboard@RMIT.
  • Nguyen, L 2013, 'Class 7.1: Media Relations', PowerPoint slides for COMM2374 Introduction to Public Relations, RMIT University Vietnam, Hanoi, viewed 2 December 2013, Blackboard@RMIT.

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