Yum Brands and KFC Continue to be Clueless about PR — and their agency doesn't seem to be helping much

The Colonel would have cancelled this pitch we received today…

A few months back, we had the 24-hour nonstop news cycle spectre of CNBC showing an almost continuous loop of video depicting rats running wild in a New York City KFC outlet. We blogged about the clueless, tepid, and no-boots-on-the-ground crisis non-response of KFC’s parent, Yum Brands.

Well, their PR agency has helped them once again with a brilliant strategy.

We got a breathless email from a WeberShandwick PR person letting me in on “…a celebrity story that is QUICKLY gaining attention…”

The pitch goes on as follows:

As you may know, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony are soon to start their En Concierto tour and are also BIG fans of KFC! To return the favor and show them the high esteem that they have with The Colonel, KFC has sent an official letter to Jennifer Lopez inviting her to have a KFC After-Party at a nearby restaurant immediately following her concert performance.
On September 28, the couple will kick off their 13 city tour starting Atlantic City, NJ. JLo and Mr. Anthony, their entourage, and a few VIP guests are all invited to take KFC up on their offer and stop in at any of 13 KFC locations and fulfill their midnight cravings!

Below, please find the letter address to Ms. Lopez and the 13 stops on her tour/13 KFC locations where the after party could take place. Please dont hesitate to contact me if you need additional information! Lets PARTY!!!

September 19, 2007

An open letter to Jennifer Lopez:

Whether you are topping the charts with your latest musical hit or shining on the silver screen, you have always had an Original Recipe for success.

We recently heard about your love for KFC and want to help you celebrate your upcoming nationwide tour with a tasty offer. On the road the comforts of home can seem miles away, but KFC is offering you a home style meal no matter what block you find yourself on during your route.

From Madison Square Garden to Miami, Atlantic City to Anaheim, and everywhere in between, we would like to offer you, your entourage and a few VIP guests an all access pass to the KFC location of your choice. You have a bucketful of choices for “after party” locations because KFC has more than 5,500 restaurants across the country. Hearing about your fondness for KFC was music to our ears, so just name the time and the place and we’ll open our doors to you for a post-concert feast.

Good luck on your upcoming tour and we hope to host you soon.

Your Fan,

Gregg Dedrick
President of KFC
[The open letter is followed by a list of about 20 KFC restaurants near where Lopez is appearing in various cities. It did not include the restaurant in New York City where the rats were videotaped.]

Let’s analyze what this PR strategy involves.

KFC’s PR agency heard or read somewhere that Jennifer Lopez told someone she liked KFC.

So instead of KFC’s advertising people throwing some bucks at her for a real endorsement, or to sponsor her concert tour, they got this teriffic idea.

What if we send her an “open letter” inviting Jennifer and her entourage to chow down at KFC after concerts in various cities?

Maybe, just maybe, we can get some underpaid, inexperienced ink-stained wretch in the local market, assigned to cover the concert and so poor they would kill for KFC to eat, to actually mention that there is a KFC near the concert venue?

They are not even offering local residents patronizing those KFCs some sort of party to celebrate the concert. They are just inviting Lopez to stop by and hoping someone will write about that?

And this is ‘quickly becoming news’ because … er … why?

I wonder what WeberShandwick billed KFC to have an intern cut and paste the list from the restaurant locator function of KFC’s website?

It’s attempts to create linkages and “news” where no news exists that make people think of PR practitioners as used car salespeople. This is just one more awful example of the lack of strategic insight and ignorance of how to manage corporate reputation that seems to dominate product and celebrity publicity.

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