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Effective Communication Case Study Analysis

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Effective Communication Case Study Analysis

This case study will evaluate the effectiveness of the communication between the organization and its intended public by identifying the different publics involved, differentiating between the internal and external publics, and determining the impact the communications had on the intended publics. This case study will also identify the different PR communication tools and techniques that were used to inform, influence, and motivate the publics, and evaluate the benefits and risks of using these tools.

Defining Public Relations

Public relations originated with the beginning of communication and the need to motivate people (, 2006). The term public relations has been defined in a multitude of different ways; by organizations and people. In 1978 the World Assembly of Public Relations Association defined public relations as "the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest" (Turney, 2002). There are times when public relations are necessary in crisis management.


Wendy's, one of the nations leading fast food providers, faced a crisis in 2005 that thrust their company and public relations team into the media spotlight. Anna Ayala dined in a San Jose, California Wendy's restaurant and reported to have found a human finger in her bowl of chili. Ayala immediately went public with her story and threatened to sue the company (Seitel, 2007).

Effectiveness of Communication with Publics

Wendy's immediately took action and started their crisis management perfectly. The president of Wendy's, Tom Mueller quickly stepped in to the public spotlight to address the media. A toll free line was set up to receive leads and an extensive investigation began to rule out the suspicion that the finger came from an employee or a supplier (Seitel, 2007). Unfortunately, Wendy's lost sight of the true crisis. Although it was important for them to inform the public that the finger did not come from an employee or supplier, the true issue was the public's confidence in the safety and cleanliness of Wendy's restaurants and the quality of the food they served (Bernstein, 2005).

Had Wendy's been more experienced in crisis management; they would have clearly recognized and dealt with the root issue. PepsiCo handled a similar crisis when accusations surfaced that hypodermic syringes were being found in cans of Pepsi products. The FDA Commissioner David Kessler appeared on all the morning talk shows to confirm the company's long record of food safety and the fact that the syringe story was an obvious hoax (Bernstein, 2005).

Publics: Internal and External

There were several publics for Wendy's to address both internal and external. The internal publics were employees, shareholders, owners, and other vested stakeholders. External publics comprised of everyone outside the company wanted or needed to communicate with, being the media, their customers, their suppliers, and the community. Good-will can be created in an organization by focusing on employee relations, stockholder and investor relations, media relations, community relations, and relations with sources whom the organization interacts, affects, or is affected by.

Impact of Communication with Publics

Wendy's was immediately under scrutiny and sales began to drop by a reported 50% (Bernstein, 2005). Wendy's concentrated their efforts on the issue with Anna Ayala, but never took steps to reassure the publics that it was safe to eat at their restaurants, and it impacted their sales greatly. Had there have been greater emphases on conveying to the public that their restaurants were safe and the quality of their food good, the drop in sales may have been



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