40 Under 40 2017: Lori Eberenz

Senior manager, public affairs, KFC, 37

Colonel Sanders has returned to pop culture thanks for the efforts of Lori Eberenz. When Eberenz joined KFC, she was charged with reigniting the tired legacy brand — no easy feat.

Eberenz has been a key leader in reviving KFC with fun, exciting, and breakthrough PR initiatives that delivered outstanding results. She helped mastermind an extra crispy sunscreen viral stunt, orchestrated the brand storming the Golden Globes, and rolled out the promotion for several new product launches.

The efforts landed KFC back on the radar. PR-generated buzz has played a significant part of providing a big boost to key brand metrics such as relevance, quality, and value. The chain has seen 11 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth after decades of decline.

While half of her job is generating good buzz, the other half is controlling negative spin and derailing crises. She has been a part of the business strategy to better train restaurant personnel and has personally led the control of issues before they reached a crisis point that could have derailed the turnaround.

Her focus on dealing with crisis at the restaurant level, as well as the corporate level, is a breakthrough approach for the industry, and Eberenz trained franchisees and restaurant managers on how to better use social media responsibly and deal with potential crises in their restaurants.

  • Eberenz’s leadership in creating a crises team has led to zero national issues since she took over by resolving at least 40 issues before they could gain traction in the press or social media.
  • She arranged a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float for KFC.
  • Eberenz partnered KFC with the United Nations World Food Program and the U.S.-based Harvest program to donate food to charities.

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