- Posted by Nailah Jones
- On May 3, 2019
- crisis, crisis communications, crisis strategy, PRSA Georgia, social media, Waffle House
You might be surprised to learn Waffle House is beloved for how it serves up its brand message as well as its 24-hour breakfast fare. The iconic Georgia-based restaurant chain recently shared its recipe for a “smothered and covered” public relations and communications strategy at a recent PRSA Georgia luncheon.
Waffle House has become so synonymous with round-the-clock service, even in a crisis, that the Federal Emergency Management Administration established the Waffle House Index to determine the impact of a storm and the likely scale of assistance needed for disaster recovery. Pat Warner, Waffle House’s director of PR and external affairs, shared three ways others can look to Waffle House as a guide for managing the 24-hour news cycle.
Here are three key takeaways from Warner’s presentation:
- Your team comes first. While the practice of crisis communications often focuses on external audiences, Warner said he and his team first address the internal team’s concerns and make privacy a priority when responding to a situation requiring crisis communications. “You have to know when to draw the line,” Warner said. He emphasized that communicators should triage their key messages to address what each audience needs to know at what time in order to move forward.
- Have pre-approved statements created for various scenarios in advance. In the 24-hour news cycle, reporters are under pressure to get the story first. For Warner’s team, this means that guests, employees or law enforcement could be approached to speak about a situation involving the Waffle House brand. By planning ahead and developing statements for various crisis scenarios, his team is ready to respond to media at a moment’s notice.
- Waffle House is authentic, through and through. While the brand has been tempted to jump on the bandwagon of others’ witty use of social media, for example, Warner’s team members first ask themselves whether the strategy remains true to the brand, which tends to play it straight. In a crisis, this commitment offers credibility to statements that lean on the brand’s strengths.
In today’s fast-paced media environment, brand managers should ask themselves the all-important questions: Who are we and how do we want to be perceived? Let the answers be your guide and plan now to be sure your communications strategies aren’t scrambled.
Nailah Jones is an assistant account executive for Poston Communications, based in Atlanta.