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KFC bloggers junket hurts the chain’s credibility more than it helps

by Steve Coomes

Wow, it’s KFC chicken! Can’t find that just anywhere! Take a picture!

The lengths some companies will go to for positive “press” never ceases to amaze me.

Exhibit A: The recent dog and pony show — OK, a junket — put on by Kentucky Fried Chicken for about 10 bloggers, none of whom we recognize.

Which means they likely aren’t from Louisville and had to be hauled here at KFC’s cost.

We saw the video below on Eater.com, a respected food and restaurant blog edited by Raphael Brion. Brion’s tone in his two ‘graph piece is pretty clear: This looks like a love-up by a large corporation hoping to generate some happy buzz by treating some bloggers royally.

Bloggers. Not journalists. Or even journalists who blog. Just bloggers. And apparently no one of note.

What bugs us Insiders is the swell treatment given this group. We’ve been to KFC HQ representing other publications and never received a tour like this — but we never expected it either.

Our business is simple; show up, get the story and move on. You don’t arrive wearing a bib and carrying a spork in anticipation of a gratis chow-down from the Colonel. You expect information, you gather it, you go home.

KFC knows how the game’s played, so none of this was ever offered, which is how it’s supposed to be. But in this age of the InterWebs, where everyone gets to have a say, the rules are changing depending on whom they benefit.

My experience with KFC is this: Like many corporations in the media spotlight — sometimes good, sometimes bad — it provides access or information only when it chooses. If you want to talk about something controversial, they don’t always return calls or answer emails (like the one I sent regarding this post).

But if it’s a sunny story, you’ll get some attention (like the call I made two years ago to talk about a marketing plan in which KFC was paving street pot holes for free).

When I last was at KFC for the Grilled Chicken intro about three years ago, I and one Associated Press reporter were the only media members there — for a national product rollout, no less. Seemed like a small group to me, but hey, they host the party, they make the guest list.

That day, we were taken to a fairly ordinary conference room table were there were two people from the PR team, two from research and development and Gregg Dedrick, then the chain’s president (who would resign a few weeks later).

They talked about the development of Grilled Chicken, some failed roasted products from the past, lessons they’d learned, why this new one would be a game changer, and then took us to the test kitchen for some product.

No dog. No pony. No show. Taste the chicken. Let us tell you about. You tell us what you think. Adios.

Completely professional.

But if you haven’t looked at the video by now, do so to witness the different treatment given The Pack of the Unknown Bloggers: access to an unnamed vault (where the Colonel’s long lost cookbook was “discovered”?), a store tour, an interactive stop at the breading table, a visit to the museum, the test kitchen, a KFC meal and … a visit to the souvenir shop, where, as demonstrated by a pair of the Unknown Bloggers, you can size up baby clothes.

Yes, indeedy. Get your Extra Crispy chicken in the test kitchen, and then your extra cuddly baby clothes on the way out.

According to the I.D. on the video posted at YouTube, this was uploaded by KFC, which amazes me because such footage kills any chance someone would take this event and these bloggers the least bit seriously. Does anyone listen to their comments and think, “Dang, I can’t wait to read what they have to say about KFC!”

Does anyone watch this and think, “Hey, these are really influential bloggers! KFC will really benefit from the publicity punch these gals deliver.”

And “What will they say about the experience?” is the real question here. Will they write that the KFC crew is friendly, generous, hospitable and more?

If they do, fine. But if so, will they also provide the truth: “This was a paid-for trip, so if our retelling of the experience sounds too nice, it’s because we got a free trip and a three piece value meal”?

Not likely.

Will KFC stop doing such junkets because we wrote negatively about it?

Not likely either.

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  • Joey Saylor

    Sorry but I’ve always thought of “bloggers” as people with too much time on their hands. Amazing how many people think they have credibility because they can post their opinions on the internet in more than two sentences. Better yet, why are we supposed to care about what some nobody sitting at home behind a laptop thinks?  

  • Joey Saylor

    Sorry but I’ve always thought of “bloggers” as people with too much time on their hands. Amazing how many people think they have credibility because they can post their opinions on the internet in more than two sentences. Better yet, why are we supposed to care about what some nobody sitting at home behind a laptop thinks?  

  • http://twitter.com/ValleyReport Brian Tucker

    Joey, that was three sentences.

  • http://twitter.com/ValleyReport Col. Brian Tucker

    Joey, that was three sentences.

  • Joey Saylor

    Guess I messed up! Welcome to my new blog then.

  • Joey Saylor

    Guess I messed up! Welcome to my new blog then.