Fast food hits a faster crisis.
It was bad, but it could have been disastrous.
In December 2013, Belton, Missouri, citizens contacted Sonic restaurant headquarters about a racially insensitive sign, at a Sonic drive-in, for an upcoming Redskins game.
When the franchisee reacted poorly, the sign went viral. Sonic turned to C&W for counsel on dealing with media, the public and Native American groups.
In a racially charged situation, it’s hard to avoid long-term damage. C&W shaped a strategy: support for the client, and thoughtful, personal responses to media and to citizens flooding social media.
Sonic’s reaction limited the story. Media headlines featured the company’s response. Taking responsibility and making apologies helped separate Sonic from the franchisee’s actions.
The Washington Post noted, “A look at Sonic’s feed suggests that they took the time to address an apology to every individual tweeter personally.”
Additionally, C&W was able to secure positive trade press around the strategy and counsel provided to Sonic and the swift action that was taken to mitigate media response.
Monitoring was crucial. C&W had instituted two-hourly reports that flagged vocal individuals, and especially Native American leaders, to engage at high corporate level. Proposed steps against the franchisee that were shared with these leaders also cooled the situation.
It was hectic, but inside 48 hours, what could have been a long-running disaster had lost its steam.