Case Study

Shake Shack: When PPP Equals PR Crisis

Jeff Cohu, Lipscomb University , Lindsay L. Dillingham, Lipscomb University
December 20, 2022
North America
Strategy & General Management, Marketing & Sales
14 pages
Public Relations, crisis management, covid-19, Payroll Protection Program, Situational Crisis Communication Theory, Scansis Theory
Student Price: 
$4.00 (€3.7)
Average rating: 

Shake Shack’s leadership found itself in a difficult situation when, after initially accepting $10 million in PPP (Payroll Protection Program) funds early in the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company decided to return the money. As the first round of PPP funds were quickly exhausted, a public outcry occurred when it appeared that many small “mom-and-pop” restaurants had been squeezed out of the loan funds by large publicly traded companies such as Shake Shack. This case focuses on public relations crisis identification, communication, and response strategy. Specifically, the case applies both Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) and Scansis theory to the Shake Shack PR crisis. Students are asked to apply both theories to identify crisis types and match appropriate response strategies to address the PR crisis. This case study is ideally suited to apply crisis communication theories to a real scenario. 

Learning Outcomes: 

In completing this assignment, students should be able to:

1. Apply Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) to identify the crisis type in a real PR crisis.

2. Identify the appropriate response strategies to use in a crisis communication scenario utilizing SCCT recommendations.

3. Analyze a public relations crisis from a scansis theory perspective.