One of the UK’s leading fast food chains has been without its main ingredient for over a week now, and for a company called Kentucky Fried Chicken that’s far from ideal.

Following days of ridicule on social media with an outpouring of memes and customer complaints, KFC have re-entered the social arena fighting, and not how we might have expected.

They’ve responded with a print ad in The Sun and Metro, with a basic but extremely effective message to their customers and staff – “We’re sorry”. An empty food bucket lies discarded on the floor, adorned with the face of company founder, the Colonel, and accompanied by a conveniently appropriate anagram of the company name “FCK”.

Customers and commentators alike have taken to their Twitter accounts in their droves to commend them. Digital Spy wrote “KFC launches the PERFECT advert to apologise for running out of chicken”, The Independent added “KFC just issued a hilarious apology for its ‘chicken crises’”, whilst LADbible tweeted to their 2m+ followers “KFC issues genius foul-mouthed apology advert”. “A masterclass in PR crises management” added Andrew Bloch of Frank PR.

And they’re not wrong. The advert is as simple as it is clever. KFC as a company have held up their hands and apologised in the most relatable way possible, even going as far as to say “It’s been a hell of a week, but we’re making progress.” For a company that revolves around chicken, this is a very human message – we’ve f****d up, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience. The result? Press coverage and organic social engagement beyond what they would have ever thought possible following the single biggest comms crisis they’re likely to have experienced. They went from zero to hero within a matter of hours.

As a company first conceived as a PR agency, Punch knows that customer respect for a brand can be worth more than followers, reach and engagement figures combined. You could have millions of pounds to spend on marketing, but without a core message that resonates with your demographic, that spend is essentially redundant. It’s important to be a “good” company with strong values, and we’re proud to work with some of the best in the world.

As a consultative agency, it’s part of our role to navigate the choppy seas of social marketing on behalf of our clients – to identify and mitigate risks, to foresee the unforeseeable. Campaigns should convey the right tone at the right time, and that is exactly what KFC and their agency have done. They’ve kept the message brief, honest and sincere. They’ve not tried to make excuses or pass the buck to third party delivery companies. By acknowledging the issue in such a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek way they’ve moved the conversation on. They’ve taken back control.

At Punch, we’re happy to say we get it right far more times than we get it wrong but we’ll be the first to hold our hands up if we ever do. No company – or agency for that matter – is infallible, but they are all made up of human beings. When it comes to business, ‘sorry’ should no longer be the hardest word.