Chick-fil-A is the home of "yummy, awesome" food served by "homophobic, Christian gay bashers."
No, that's not a Zagat review. The words are among the top results of a word cloud I generated on Brand Tags this morning, representing disparate views of the brand.
I've written about Chick-fil-A here before, opposing the company's support of anti-gay organizations, but praising the brand loyalty of its customers. But I've been perplexed by the company's non-response to the issue.
Evidently, I didn't give Chick-fil-A the credit it deserves. It turns out that President Dan Cathy has been meeting privately with Shane Windmeyer, the executive director of Campus Pride, a leading LGBT rights organization.
The conversations, which Windmeyer characterizes as "awkward" but "respectful," seem to have helped both sides make progress: Chick-fil-A no longer contributes to anti-LGBT groups and Campus Pride has dropped its national boycott of Chick-fil-A.
Moreover, Windmeyer writes: "Never once did Dan or anyone from Chick-fil-A ask for Campus Pride to stop protesting Chick-fil-A. On the contrary, Dan listened intently to our concerns and the real-life accounts from youth about the negative impact that Chick-fil-A was having on campus climate and safety at colleges across the country."
If you're a cynic, you probably think that Windmeyer got "played." I'd prefer to believe that this is how strategic communications really should be practiced—through open and respectful dialogue that can lead to mutual gains.
Neither Cathy nor Windmeyer has abandoned his principles. But both won something in the debate, while moving an important conversation forward constructively. Sounds like a model that Washington, D.C., should be working a lot harder to adopt.