Feb 22, 2024 - Business

How Lyft CEO David Risher communicated through the typo crisis

Animated illustration of a dial on a gas meter moving from left to right, with a thumbs down symbol replacing "Empty" and a thumbs up symbol replacing "Full".

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Lyft's very visible, high-profile mistake — a typo in last week's earning release that affected the stock price— warranted an equally visible and high-profile response.

Why it matters: Typically, companies in crisis limit a CEO's press exposure, issue a broad statement and go underground until the news cycle has passed.

  • Lyft CEO David Risher, on the other hand, was very vocal and successfully alleviated market concerns after the stock's wild ride in after-hours trading Feb. 13, shifted the public narrative and won major props internally.

Between the lines: Because the Lyft team avoided the "no comment" approach, they were able to move coverage sentiment in a positive direction, according to Muck Rack data.

  • A recent analysis of 200 news articles about tech companies found that replacing "no comment" with even a simple response increased sentiment by an average of 5% to 7%, according to a report from Valentine Advisors.

By the numbers: Favorable coverage of Lyft nearly doubled by the end of the week, according to a sentiment analysis by Muck Rack.

  • The rideshare company saw most negative coverage (42%) immediately following the incorrect earnings release.
  • Yes, but: Sentiment spiked in the days following, with it peaking at 73% on Feb. 16.
Sentiment of Lyft's recent media coverage
Data: Muck Rack; Chart: Axios Visuals

What they're saying: Lyft already had the attention of all of the business press, so it was smart to make the most of it, says one longtime communications executive who asked to speak on background.

  • "There was so much attention being paid to the mistake, but anyone who's reading the article about the mistake is also going to read that the company had an incredible quarter," the executive said.

After the clerical error, Risher gave on camera interviews to CNBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox Business and Yahoo Finance and managed to toggle between authentic and on message.

Zoom in: By going on national TV, owning up to the mistake and defending his employees and their performance over the last quarter, Risher also won a lot of favor internally.

  • "People truly appreciated it," said one former Lyft employee. "It showed what kind of leader he is and also showed that he's not afraid to take on difficult questions or discuss his vision for the company."
  • Plus, the investor audience appeared more focused on the company's performance than the typo. In fact, investor reports reviewed by Axios showed no mention of the error.
  • Risher also put his penchant for communications on display last year when he took to social media to help find a rider's missing cat, which increased goodwill among many riders.

The bottom line: In moments of crisis, sometimes it's best to opt for more communication, not less.

Go deeper ... Lyft's adventures in after-hours stock trading

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