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Media Training: Adjusting your message

  March 2, 2024

It's vital to stay on your messaging in media interviews and across social media platforms.  But what happens if your messaging backfires and threatens to damage your reputation or your company's standing?  You need to do some quick damage control.  Reach out to industry thought leaders or gather the top minds in your company.  Access how and why your messaging was a miss.  Then, adjust your messaging.  The old saying about not being able to please all the people, all the time, is still true.  That said, if the response was so negative that it is impacting your bottom line, is it really worth clinging to your old messaging?  

There is no better recent example of a company doing an about face than Wendy's.  After its CEO talked about dynamic pricing during earning calls, the internet was ablaze with people criticizing the plan.  It's widely believed that meant the company would raise prices during peak times.  Everyone from Senator Elizabeth Warren to Burger King pounced.  A day later Wendy's clarified it has no plans to increase prices during the busiest hours.  They blame the confusion on media that "misconstrued" the report.  Whether this was actually a trial balloon or just a misunderstanding, Wendy's reputation took a hit.  They were right to act quickly.  

A few other examples to chew on:

  • Kellogg's CEO stuck his foot in it during a CNBC interview discussing their marketing campaign aimed at struggling families suggesting that cereal for dinner is a good option to save money.  With so many consumers concerned about rising grocery prices this, to me, came off as exploitive. Not surprising social media posts called out the CEO--evening likening him to Marie Antoinette. 
  • A Dairy Queen franchise in Kentucky got a fair share of bad press after the media and authorities got wind that the manager allegedly forced teen workers to eat ice cream that was contaminated by cleaning products.  This, an apparent punishment for not properly cleaning the ice cream machine.  The franchise owner put out a statement assuring the public and his workforce that safety is the top priority and that the manager is no longer employed there. Still it may take awhile for locals to warm up to the place again.  Aside from the legal issues involved, the franchisee needs to build back trust within his community.  Hope he consults a good crisis communications team. 

Whether it's a loose-lips executive, a bad ad campaign, an awful employee or any number of things that can go wrong; the faster you act to fix it and let the public know, the better.  Bad news spreads so quickly on social media, that it's imperative to set the record straight and adjust your messaging as needed to protect your brand.

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Brand management is just one of the topics we cover in our media training sessions.  

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