Burger King’s Social Media Crisis & Failure to Effectively Communicate

By Gerard Braud

In 2013 there is no excuse for such failed crisis communications. Any and every company should be ready to make a public statement on any crisis in one hour or less. It is good public relations; it is good media relations; it is good crisis communication; it is good social media crisis communication.

So here it is on Monday afternoon, February 18, 2013 as I sit in my office near New Orleans and Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked nearly 4 hours ago. The hackers make it look like a McDonald’s account.


Burger King eventually managed to get Twitter to suspend the account and pull down the content and ugly comments.


But in the 140-character world of fast news, the fast food company is SLOW to officially issue a statement.




Here Burger King, I’ll help you out. Go to my website and download a sample of what a First Critical Statement should look like:


Type in the coupon code: CRISISCOMPLAN

That way you can have it for free. And anyone else reading this blog can have it for free as well.



Every company should have a template like this for fast release to the media, your customers and to your website. In the crisis communications plans I write, this template would then have 100 more companion templates with more pre-written details about every type of crisis imaginable.

The time to prepare these responses is on a clear sunny day before you need them. The worst time to write a response to a crisis is during the crisis.

Burger King’s Facebook page is full of comments by followers, but Burger King hasn’t even bothered to post anything on their Facebook page to acknowledge this unfolding social media and public relations crisis. This is simply failed public relations and failed crisis communications.


Burger King’s official web page has a page for news releases, but as I write this nearly 4 hours after the crisis began, there is no official statement about the hacking from Burger King.


There is a page with names of media contacts. You would think one of these people would be issuing a statement, but no, that isn’t happening.



I decided to send them e-mail, but no one has replied.











I did find a news story on the Associated Press website that said, “Burger King plans to issue an apology later today.” Really? Later? How about right now? How about an hour or less after the event happened.











And just before hitting “publish” on this blog, I’ve tripped across a Chicago Tribune story with an apology message from Burger King.

Here is the statement it took Burger King 4 plus hours to write:

“We apologize to our fans and followers who have been receiving erroneous tweets about other members of our industry and additional inappropriate topics,” Burger King said in a statement to the Tribune this afternoon.

Long story short: Burger King PR Team – you guys are failures.

The next question is will the PR people who read this immediately gather their team together and update their crisis communications plan and prepare for a hack of their own social media accounts, or will they simply go about their daily PR task and hope it never happens to them?



3 Dead in Murder Suicide… and a Crisis Communication Plan Was on a “Wish List”

Friday 2 people were murdered, then the killer killed himself. One of the murders, as well as the suicide, was done “in the workplace.” I won’t say where, out of respect for the privacy of the person who called me the day before. All of this happened where he works.

Just 24-hours before, on Thursday, he called asking me to help his organization write a Crisis Communications Plan. He said he’s had my card on his desk for the past 6 years. We met at a Crisis Communications Workshop I had taught in his town.

He had high hopes of scheduling me to fly out to help him this summer. He said conditions were not right to do it before then.

This tragic event is one more reminder that we, in the corporate world, try to plan out everything. We move this because of a certain project and we postpone that because of another deadline.

Have you ever notices that violent people don’t care about your deadlines or projects? Have you noticed that explosions still happen even when you are not ready for them?

The best thing you can do is to set priorities, with clarity as to what is “urgent” and “important” for the long-term health of you, your people and your institution. There are many urgent and important little things that are on our short to-do list that can but put off.

There is no perfect time in your schedule to stop to write a Crisis Communications Plan. The time to commit to it is today. The time to place it on the urgent and important list is today. The worst time to prepare for a crisis and to deal with a crisis is on the day of the crisis. The best time is on a clear sunny day long before the crisis rears its ugly head.

I’ve successfully helped organizations on 5 continents write and complete a full crisis communications plan in as few as 2-days. I have a much longer list of companies who have called, but who could not find 2 days on the schedule to get this done.

We extend our sympathies and prayers to those who are affected.

Media Training Coach Tip: The #1 Technique to Shut Down Reporter Speculation

As a media training speaker and media training coach, my clients can sometimes find themselves asking, “What’s the worst that could happen? How much worse could it get? But what if…?”Crisis Communications training for the media

Oh, those great “what if” questions – reporters love those.  Why?  Well, reporters love a great story and sometimes the story doesn’t materialize the way they hoped it would.

Such questions indicate that the reporter is as disappointed as a 4-year-old who was hoping you would stop to buy them ice cream, but you didn’t.  Beware of reporters who ask you to speculate, because you are heading into very dangerous territory. If you do speculate, you’ve made the story bigger than what it is.

The most important phrase you can use when addressing such questions is to say, “I couldn’t speculate on that, but what I can tell you is…”  Another variation of that answer is to say, “It would be inappropriate for me to speculate on that, but what I can tell you is…”

In my media training work, I often recommend that when you’re asked to speculate, apply the Block, Bridge and Hook Technique:

  • Block: “It would be inappropriate for me to speculate…”
  • Bridge: “But what I can tell you is…”
  • Hook: Redirect the reporter back to one of your key messages and one of the facts that you have previously confirmed.

Ideally, you should create an additional hook that keeps the reporter from asking another speculative question as a follow up. But the most important thing that you are doing is immediately putting an end to the speculation and sticking to the facts.

Use the Block, Bridge and Hook Technique when a reporter asks you to speak for someone else.  The block response should be, “I can’t speak for them, but what I can tell you is…”

One more media training lesson we should address here is how to handle the reporter that misstates certain key facts in their question.  It has been my experience that most spokespeople try to gingerly work their way back to a key message and then correct facts without ever clearly telling the reporter they are wrong. Well my friends, that seldom works.

If a reporter misstates a fact in their question you have permission to stop them dead in their tracks if necessary and say, “I’m sorry, but you misstated a key fact in your question.” At that time you should give them the correct fact. Another variation is to use the phrase, “I can’t agree with the premise of your questions.”

Over the years many spokespeople have confessed to me that they are afraid that such an approach could be perceived by the reporter as hostile. I personally think you can do it without being hostile.

In fact, I have found that the dynamics of the interview or news conference will change in your favor because the reporter sees that you are in charge and that you are holding them accountable. The reporter will not only choose their words more carefully in the remainder of the interview, but they will also choose their words more carefully when writing their script.

Final media training tip: In the end, you must realize that YOU are in charge of the interview. Don’t relinquish control to the reporter. Tell your story your way and you win!

Financial Crisis & Crisis Communications Plans

By Gerard Braud


My phone rings and on the other end is a somewhat panicked communicator who realizes his organization may take a hit from the current financial crisis and he needs a crisis communication plan right away.

Bravo. This is a perfect example of how and why crisis communications plans are needed for events other than fires, explosions, acts of violence and natural disasters. It’s also one of the reasons I developed a system for writing and completing a crisis communications plan in just 2 days.

In crisis communications we learn there are sudden crises and smoldering crises. Too often communicators have difficulty making a case for a crisis communications plan because members of their emergency response team have convinced leaders that they have everything covered.

Not true.

Sometimes it is the fire, explosion, violence and disaster stuff that triggers the crisis communications plan. But sometimes, crisis communications is needed when the emergency operations plan is not needed.  The current financial crisis and the impact on various organizations is one of those examples.

Now is a perfect time to make your case to write a crisis communications plan. Here are a few things you need to be aware of:

• Never call it a crisis plan. There is extensive confusion in definitions and terminology. Many organizations call their emergency operations plan their crisis plan. Others call their business continuity plan a crisis plan. Neither of those have true communications elements. To read more about correct definitions, read the definitions section on www.crisiscommunicationsplans.com

• The time to write a crisis communications plan is on a clear sunny day and not in the throes of the crisis. There is still time. Do it now. You should write the plan when your emotions are low and you have clarity of thought. You can download a free article about how to write a plan at www.crisiscommunicationsplans.com Look for the link in the upper right announcements box.

• When proposing to write a crisis communications plan during times of tight budgets, link the cost of the plan to the business revenue. Partner with the sales department for partial funding by pointing out that good crisis communications helps the company keep customers while bad communications could cause the company to lose customers. Partner with HR for partial funding if layoffs may happen. Work with your financial department/investor relations for partial funding if stocks, donations, cash flow or investments may be affected.

• Whether you currently have a plan or plan to write one, make sure your crisis communications plan is not just a list of policies. Most I’ve been asked to review over the years state lots of policy and serve little use on the day of the crisis. An effective plan must be one that you can open when you need it and follow it page-by-page, step-by-step, in the midst of the crisis. It must be a roadmap that keeps you focused and on task during a time of high emotion, deadlines and high pressure.

• Crisis communications fails for two reasons: decision paralysis and delays in releasing statements. The first page of your crisis communications plan must dictate that the first official communications must go out within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis. And an extensive set of pre-written statements in template form, written on a clear sunny day and pre-approved, will eliminate proof reading and wordsmithing delays on the day of the crisis. I can’t imagine a plan without 50 to 100 such pre-written statements.

If you need help cranking out a crisis communications plan now, contact me directly at 985-624-9976 or e-mail at gerard@braudcommunications.com .