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Hardee’s social media lessons from the Joplin, Mo., tornado

4 min read


Yesterday’s column was an interview with Jenna Petroff, Hardee’s public relations and social media manager, about social media’s role in helping the Joplin, Mo., community in the wake of the May 22 tornado. Here, Petroff talks about how the company’s social media strategy was affected by the disaster, and what that means for the future.

How does social media fit into Hardee’s overall strategy? Did your experiences with the tornado change the way you think about social media on a personal or business level?

Social media for us is another communications tool — an extension of marketing, advertising, public relations, human resources and guest relations.

We use it to raise awareness for particular programs, campaigns, products, store happenings, sponsorships, etc. We use it to resolve customer service issues. We use it to support our partners and our relationships.

We use it to provide value to existing customers via special offers, coupons, prizes, etc. We use it to increase fan visits, purchase intents and to influence and persuade potential new customers. We use it for entertainment to solidify our brand identity and messaging. We use it to listen, gain feedback and spot trends. We use it for a lot of different reasons.

For this one, we used it to say we care. That we are here. And that we will continue to be here to support our communities where we operate. That’s been part of our corporate culture and mantra long before social media and will continue to be long after social media ceases to be a buzz word. The immediacy of the platforms simply allows us access to a greater depth of information and the ability to act and respond quicker.

What did you learn from this event about the role of Hardee’s (and other restaurants) as members of their communities? What else did you take away from the event? 

I think the takeaway from this, for any business, is that no matter how large you are, there is or should be a sense of corporate responsibility and support for the communities where you do business.

Hardee’s grew by being the first restaurant in every small town. Our community ties are tight. We have groups that meet in the Hardee’s every single day, order the same thing, know the managers by name; and we know theirs as well. This wasn’t the first time we’ve stepped in during a crisis, nor, unfortunately, will it be the last.

Outside of our official corporate efforts, one of our franchisee’s charitable foundations made a large donation to its local Red Cross chapter. We also partnered with a local media outlet on an additional fundraiser in North Carolina.

We’ll also continue to be there to support our communities in other ways, whether through a sponsorships with a local charity, lending support to a local civic program or event, or feeding the brave men and women from the police and fire houses for free as a thank-you for their efforts. It’s just who we are. That’s just the way it is.

What challenges and opportunities come from managing social media for an organization like Hardee’s, with so many locations spread over a wide geographic area? How does franchising affect your approach?

We have a stellar relationship with our franchisees. They recognize the time and budget that we’ve put into cultivating our social media presence and have seen the results firsthand. We have a two-way line of communication for its use in their markets, as well as suggestions for new approaches.

Managing all of the communications from the brand hubs is continually a challenge that we address through streamlined communications, making sure we have the information in a timely manner so we can adjust how/if it needs to be communicated and in what area. And as with the online world, our approach and strategy doesn’t operate in a vacuum and is always evolving.