Are the Social-Media-Inspired PR Crises Starting To Fall Like Domino's?

So, this week, the client in the unfortunate spotlight was 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.

6 comments about "Are the Social-Media-Inspired PR Crises Starting To Fall Like Domino's?".
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  1. Patrick Boegel from Media Logic, April 16, 2009 at 4 p.m.

    Why do I need a double play with 2 outs?

    I kid, I kid, this is a great read.

    @Mary, I don't know that I agree they missed an opportunity to do sufficient damage control. And certainly turning the tables when two of your employees taint the product on video is not something that is going to be done. You turn the table if the story got out of control or was misrepresented. No real time management was going to increase orders of Domino's pizza last night.

    Not dismissing the need to monitor and react, in fact I agree it absolutely must be done and should already be in progress. But I think we need to all be aware that some fires will burn before social media will put them out. In the moment damage control can be done when someone says something incorrect or misrepresents the company verbally or in some actions, but in this case the fire was not ripe for control. Not in the moment at least.

  2. L. H., April 16, 2009 at 4:29 p.m.

    Wow, memories of my fellow high school students bragging about spitting in bagel dough at the local bagel shop are flooding back . . .somewhere out there Michael Pollan must be cheering, another point for eating fresh and low on the food chain . . .am I off topic here? Sorry. Perhaps more than how to manage a crisis this highlights how difficult it is to prevent this kind of employee activity and how it is likely far more pervasive than people think - frightening. Does anyone remember the scandal when when the venerable Nate and Al's in Beverly Hills was shut down and LA instituted restaurant ratings? I think we'll see much more community policing in the future, and companies will have to not only manage to it but be grateful for it.

  3. Greg Linnemanstons from Weidert Group, April 16, 2009 at 4:54 p.m.

    This underscores the importance of response time and preparedness. Social media is a communication accelerator, and there is no cure-all for the potential harm that can be done. That means brands/companies with something to lose (everyone!) need to institute more complete listening and reacting protocols in advance of and in anticipation of all potential disasters, man-made or otherwise. S**t happens, and so we all need to elevate our skills and earn our keep by learning how to gracefully ride this tiger called SM.

  4. Molly Parsley from Pereira & O'Dell, April 16, 2009 at 5:15 p.m.

    I was watching Tim McIntyre's responses. I think he probably responded as fast as anyone can. A Monday email can easily sink into the Inbox abyss. It seems that he already knew what he was up against when he emailed the editor of Good As You with his reaction on Tuesday. And a big response would bring more attention to the videos - absolutely. Also, the President took the fall, apologized and expressed his personal concerns in a fashion that was sincere. He also did it via online video - the same format of how this mess got started. I feel the smartest thing they are doing is emphasizing the global workforce and that Domino's is the livelihood of 120K+ people. It's scary to think that these two monocellular fools could threaten that. Those poor souls are in another stratosphere of dumb.

    I would like to see Domino's come out ahead as they certainly got a jolt of crisis communications and a crash course in social media over the course of 72 hours.

    That said, I hope the person who posted the Domino's video put the apostrophe in the first "Dominos" in the headline - as long as you're protecting the brand, may as well go all the way :)

  5. Dorothy Crenshaw from Crenshaw Communications, April 17, 2009 at 10:38 a.m.

    I think that after a rough start Dominos did very well. Here's why: there are new rules when it comes to social media-inspired crises.

  6. Tommy Liu from Supercool Creative, April 17, 2009 at 3:37 p.m.

    Domino's did the right thing in creating a response video using the same medium as the offenders, but it should have came out sooner. Domino's tried to end this quietly, but the odds of that happening for a major chain is very unlikely. The video (which is part of a series of disgusting food depreciation videos from them) was on its way to become a viral video hitting all sorts of virtual newsstands.

    Tommy Liu > Supercool Creative > > - blog

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