Caught you being good: Wendy’s fast food chain changes social strategy

The PR Wars “Caught You Being Good” segment recognizes real world examples of best practices in public relations.

The Wendy’s fast food chain Twitter strategy gained serious momentum over the past few years. The channel took on a snarky tone teasing competitors and pleasing digitally connected Millennial customers while growing its platform to nearly four million followers.

In the late Spring of 2020, Wendy’s began taking criticism for not responding appropriately to the Black Lives Matter movement. It was time to shift its social strategy. Wendy’s responded by moving from the snarky self-promotion to a more serious educational tone honoring Black voices including students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s).

The shift in strategy proved appropriate. Just over a week later, the hamburger chain was thrust into the center of the controversy when a police officer shot and killed Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot in Atlanta, GA. During ensuing protests, the Wendy’s restaurant was set on fire and burned to the ground.

Wendy’s restaurant set on fire during a protest of the killing of Rashard Brooks from WSBTV.com

Wendy’s paused for a week before acknowledging the death of Rashard Brooks, but returned with a program to promote the objectives of HBCU’s nationally.

At the end of the day, Wendy’s needed to shift its successful humorous social strategy to rise to the seriousness of the current movement in American culture. For public relations professionals, it is a reminder to know when to change. Be strong enough to change the direction of a campaign, even a successful one, when you are morally and ethically compelled to meet the expectations of your customers and the nation.

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