Are the Social-Media-Inspired PR Crises Starting To Fall Like Domino's?
I probably don't even have to recap this, but, in case you've been spending your time instead watching Susan Boyle sing on "Britain's Got Talent," you must know that two Domino's employees (well, they used to be Domino's employees) uploaded a video of themselves doing disgusting things to the ingredients before putting them in people's food, and this created a crisis for Domino's. (The video is no longer available, incredibly, because one of the perpetrators has made a copyright claim to YouTube. In a world gone mad!)
But, hey, clients, it could just as well have been your brand -- as the executives in charge of Motrin and Tropicana well know. (Granted, each of these instances is quite different from the others, but, on some level, a PR crisis is a PR crisis.)
I actually don't think it's fair to take Domino's to task too much here for not already monitoring social media channels so it could get more out-in-front of this -- it's still early. When you're deeply involved in this business, it's too easy to remember that others are not. But, my patience on that will soon wear thin. If we're still in the first inning of social media, we're clearly at the bottom of the first, with two men out, runners on first and second, and a hitter who routinely hits into double plays at bat.
By the top of the second, it's time to stop having sympathy for companies that have no clue as to what the blog-, Twitter- and YouTube-o-spheres are saying about them, and even less sympathy for companies that don't have any awareness of how to use these channels to their own advantage. Even if social media has unleashed the sometimes ugly, venal side of human nature, the beauty of it is that the tables can be turned, rapidly, by the companies themselves. As a former practitioner of PR, I would have died to have the avenues there are today to put my company's voice out there, unfiltered by the traditional, uncontrollable distribution channel: the media. I bet that when Domino's set up its Twitter account yesterday, someone at company headquarters marveled at how simple it was to do so. (In fact, some news accounts covered Domino's creation of a Twitter account as though it had done something far more involved, like go into the hamburger business.)
Of course, if you've been following this saga, you also probably know that Domino's has issued a video response. The company is learning. And though I would have loved it if Domino's U.S. president, Patrick Doyle, had learned to look directly into the camera, the tone was absolutely great; the outrage passionate and real. This is powerful stuff, whether it's the sickening power to destroy a chain's reputation or the unprecedented power to resurrect it.