Did a Reporter Make a Mistake with your Story? How to Fix it.

What happens when the media makes a mistake with your message? Or worse, customer backlash ignites following the news? Wendy’s is a great example of how to quickly get the record straight before that incorrect messaging starts gathering momentum. 

To summarize, Wendy’s announced on yesterday’s earnings call that they were going to add digital menus that could change prices with demand. Earnings calls are usually messaged around analysts and investors, so the idea that the fast food chain found new ways to increase profits was probably perceived as a friendly audience. But I don’t think their internal comms team adequately debated how their customers would react to the news.

It only takes one reporter to coin a popular phrase for a story to go viral. And that’s what happened here. A reporter compared the surge pricing to Uber and the backlash was underway. It’s now trending on Linkedin. Yahoo has the story on their front page. And any customer, like myself who loves Wendy’s, is probably questioning that loyalty at dinner time if higher prices are sneaking into my bill.

What did Wendy’s do right?

They quickly addressed the miscommunication and said no one ever discussed raising prices during dinner. As a long time journalist with NBC and CBS, I suspect the raising prices message was likely inferred- if not outright stated to specific reporters. Reporters don’t make up quotes, especially if the message describes a menu that will change prices based on demand. I suspect Wendy’s executives quickly recognized the customer backlash and had a change of mind.

And that’s ok. If you realize a policy or pricing change wasn’t perceived as expected, it’s okay to change it and communicate it to the media. Just change it before the story goes viral. In the case with Wendy’s, the overall message should have been more clear. You can’t assume a message will be correctly interpreted with reporters. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you’re discussing a critical component of your business model, be clear about it. Don’t mince words.

There are still some outlets writing about this surge pricing today. The mixed messaging won’t end overnight even if Wendy’s adapted to the message overnight. Lesson for you: if the media gets your story wrong or the message is misconstrued, be quick to address it. Don’t wait for it to go viral.

ABOUT MACIAS PR

Finance Monthly named MACIAS PR the 2017-2020 Strategic PR Firm of the Year, and PR Firm of the Year. This was the third year in a row that Finance Monthly recognized our firm. The founder – Mark Macias – is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. He’s a PR contributor with Entrepreneur and Forbes, providing media analysis, insight and crisis advice. City & State Magazine named him a 2024 top Political PR Player in New York.