The Crisis of the (Un)Happy Chicken

Silver Award for Excellence 2019

Crisis Communication

Agricola & Rogalski Damaschin PR

 

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The crisis of the (un)Happy Chicken! – Executive Summary

On March 21st a woman uploaded a picture on Facebook showing a discolored chicken from Agricola after putting it in saline marinade, accusing the brand that it uses artificial colorants to make the chicken look better. The Facebook post had been shared 27,000 times in 12 hours, sparking negative comments as many angry people said we are poisoning them with artificial chemicals. The crisis was over after 48 hours after it began by communicating to our Facebook fan base the official reports from authorities that didn’t find anything wrong with the chicken meat. It was perfectly fine! No artificial colorants, no nothing.  Right after the conclusion of the crisis, we started working on a campaign to dispel any negative perceptions and to regain the lost trust from our consumers, retailers and other relevant audiences. From the beginning the Agricola Facebook community was divided into three distinct groups: supporters, skeptics and critics. For each of those we have developed  different communication approaches. From a community point of view we had three categories: mothers, retailers and food enthusiasts.

In the first 12 hours of the crisis Agricola reacted rapidly, the first official response being issued by the Director of Quality Management. He signed a messaged we posted on Facebook denying all the allegations. After 48 hours we published on the Facebook page of the brand the results of the medical checks carried by two independent institutions: the Veterinary and Food Safety Authority in Bacau and the County Commissariat for Consumer Protection Bacau. The medical reports certified that the Agricola chickens do not contain any artificial or chemical pigments, as suggested by the original Facebook post from the angry consumer. After own experiments we communicated to the public that the discoloration of the chicken meat, was most likely due to the saline solution, the discoloration being the result of the chicken food, a blend of corn, linen, marigold and other plants.

We conducted an online study that revealed the opinion of Romanians regarding chicken meat consumption, the results being analyzed by sociologist Barbu Mateescu and psychologist Ligia Moise. The contents of the study were promoted through a press release, infographic and media pitching. Oana Botezatu, parenting blogger, conducted an interview with Dr. Dumitru Dragotoiu, on the topic of nutrition in young children, explaining what should we consider when buying a chicken, what to be careful about, what is normal and what is not normal to happen when we cook it, with a focus on pigmentation. The interview called “A necessary talk about chicken” was followed by a online Q&A with mothers who were able to ask Dr. Dragotoiu questions about their concerns”. Communication with “food enthusiasts”  was  achieved with the help of the blogger Laura  Laurenţiu and Urban Savors, by organizing two online contests, focusing on chicken recipes and how we can cook it in multiple ways. Communication with retailers was focused on magazines that targeted retailers, by promoting an interview the president of Agricola, Grigore Horoi, explaining the situation. However, the surprise came from other influencers that supported the brand without being paid in the campaign. Good faith consumers, with real confidence in the brand, such as Ciprian Muntele, Radio anchor, passionate about cooking, strongly counteracted the crisis,  with articles such as ‘’ The Happy Chicken and the story of a media out of control”.Also during the campaign we promoted a video showing how the Agricola chickens are raised and fed, in an effort for transparency.

The most important effects of the campaign were the fact that retailers resumed orders for chicken meat and people realized that this had been not a real issue. Many people reacted in support of the brand, including famous food bloggers that basically said this is not a real issue and the allegations were not true. We were pretty creative by doing our own experiment with chicken depigmentation. Basically we also marinated a chicken in a saline solution and the result was the same, proving that every chicken behaves like this which is totally normal, especially if the chicken is fed with plants that color its skin. We asked a food chemist from the company to do this and explain it to our Facebook community, right after the crisis began.When dealing with a crisis you have no choice but to be creative and come up with new ways of dealing with the problem, because every crisis is unique. The new element that this campaign brought was the opening for the first time for Agricola of a dialogue between an expert and a parenting blogger, creating a space in which other concerned mothers could openly ask questions, receiving answers, directly from the source.

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