PR Roundup: Wendy’s Blunder, B2B Thought Leadership Impact and Ad Council Unites Against Gun Violence

Wendy's burger set and drink on table. Wendy's is the world's third largest hamburger fast food chain with approximately 6,650 locations.

This week's PR Roundup looks at Wendy's pricing blunder, the latest B2B and thought leadership study from Edelman and LinkedIn, and a new coalition formed by the Ad Council to combat gun violence in America.

Wendy’s “Surge” Pricing

What happened: Word circulated this week that Wendy’s planned to test “dynamic” pricing in 2025—higher prices on food during busier times of the day. 

Nation’s Restaurant News first reported the comments, coming from Wendy’s CEO Kirk Tanner on a February earnings call earlier this month. 

Needless to say, customers were not pleased at the news.

Burger King, reading the room, quickly took the opportunity to appeal to the disappointed fast food fanbase by offering a free Whopper with a $3 purchase through March 1. 

Wendy’s has since rolled back its original plans. In an email to the Associated Press, Wendy’s Vice President Heidi Schauer said the company “will not implement surge pricing.” Schauer also clarified that the information was “misconstrued."

"To clarify, Wendy's will not implement surge pricing, which is the practice of raising prices when demand is highest," Schauer said in the email. "We didn't use that phrase, nor do we plan to implement that practice."

Communication takeaways: For some industries, consumers are used to pricing during higher demand times. Hotels during Spring Break, flight prices during holidays, Uber during a rainstorm and chocolate during Valentine’s Day. However, customers are not used to convenience items such as fast food enacting such actions. Fast food brands see extreme competition for consumer dollars because of the vast amount of options and locations available.

Nicole Brief, AVP at Carve Communications, notes the importance of word choice and transparency when rolling out updates to the public. 

"This is why it's so important for PR practitioners to do their homework and be super diligent with messaging and positioning,” Brief says. “If you google-search "dynamic pricing", it is defined across the web as "surge pricing" in one way or another, similar to the popular business models Uber and the likes follow, so it is pretty clear how the media picked up this not-so-accurate narrative.”

Brief says message clarity from the very beginning on what exactly was being tested could have prevented the situation. 

“As an Axios report on the topic alludes, consumers tend to gravitate toward discounted and limited-time pricing offers, so with better phrasing, this could have received a much more positive initial response,” she says. “We would have issued a statement immediately as the news started circulating, to get ahead of the news cycle and set the story straight!"

Edelman and LinkedIn's Annual B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report Released

What happened: B2B is a large part of the economy. And with that thinking, Edelman and LinkedIn teamed up to research and distribute results for the sector regarding thought leadership and impact. 

According to Edelman, the report “examines how thought leadership influences buying behaviors among B2B decision-makers and C-suite executives.” It also provides insight and ideas on how organizations can successfully approach thought leadership initiatives.

Findings from the report include:

  • Nearly three-fourths of B2B decision-makers (73%) say that an organization’s thought-leadership content is a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities and competencies than its marketing materials and product sheets.
  • 90% of decision-makers and C-suite executives say they would be moderately or very likely more receptive to sales or marketing outreach from a company that consistently produces high-quality thought leadership.
  • Protecting existing customers is critical. 70% of respondents say that a piece of thought leadership had at least occasionally led them to question whether they should continue working with an existing supplier.
  • 50% of respondents say the main barrier to producing more effective thought leadership is that it’s under-resourced.
  • 30% of respondents say the overall quality of thought leadership they read is of mediocre quality. Only 13% say the quality is very good or excellent. 

Communication takeaways: It’s a tough time for B2B communicators, especially when purchasing budgets are being stretched or completely removed. So it’s going to take extra work, such as quality thought leadership, to convince customers of the importance of an investment. And PR plays a critical role. 

Global Chair of Edelman Business Marketing and study architect, Joe Kingsbury, says it’s important to win business by making B2B buyers see their challenges and opportunities in a new light. 

"Put simply, B2B buyers who aren’t actively looking for what you offer won’t pay attention to your product messaging,” Kingsbury says. “B2B buyers trust insightful content over traditional marketing materials, which means PR leaders have a strong opportunity to spearhead storytelling and thought leadership efforts that motivate customers in ways regular marketing can’t.” 

Ophelie Janus, Global Head of Thought Leadership at Siemens, who is quoted in the study, says thought leadership provides a unique opportunity to bring the business/customer relationship closer. 

“Every business decision ultimately boils down to ROI and trust,” Janus says. “In this context, thought leadership plays a crucial role. Consistently and repeatedly delivering credible yet actionable insights to customers, during and outside sales cycles, offers a unique opportunity to strengthen trust. It involves giving customers a clear sense of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, along with a strong sense of how to capitalize on them.”

Communications Partnership Addresses Gun Violence

What happened: The Ad Council announced a new coalition with healthcare systems and hospitals to address the public health crisis of gun violence.

Together with the National Health Care CEO Council on Gun Violence Prevention and Safety, the Ad Council is orchestrating a group across the advertising, healthcare, marketing, media and tech industries to develop a campaign to elevate the issue of gun violence in America and its impact on youth. 

The coalition seeks messaging to shift away from divisive, politically-charged conversations to focus more on public health approaches that have proven effective in combating this issue. The Ad Council says the program will use relevant data to provide citizens with a comprehensive understanding of the actions both gun owners and non-gun owners can take in their homes and communities to protect others and save lives.

The Ad Council notes the importance of teaming up with healthcare organizations because most of them have seen the effects of gun violence on communities firsthand. From healthcare workers treating gun injuries to first responders seeing the initial impact, their point of view will be essential to shaping campaign messaging and strategy.

Communication takeaways: Michelle Hillman, Ad Council’s Chief Campaign Development Officer, says leveraging the organization’s convening power and track record for communicating complex issues in a nonpartisan way appeals to partners. 

"When we work together, we can have exponential impact, pooling our creativity, strategy, resources, and expertise, and directing it all to move the needle on this critical issue,” Hillman says. “This group, representing some of the nation’s largest health systems and hospitals, will provide insight and expertise for the campaign. As healthcare providers on the frontlines of this crisis, these partners are instrumental in bringing urgency and credibility to this issue."

Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal