Thursday, April 16, 2009

DOMINO’S DIDN’T HAVE TO FALL

Domino’s Pizza, one of the nation’s largest pizza chains, was victimized by a prank pulled by two employees of a franchise who tainted sandwiches (I’ll spare you the details). These two geniuses thought it would be hilarious to film their acts and put the video on YouTube. In short order, the video was viewed more than a million times and discussions were spread throughout via Twitter.

An email to bloggers from Domino’s spokesman, Tim McIntyre, was quite telling. He wrote, “We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea.” This comment suggests that Domino’s hadn’t been fully prepared for the emergence of such a crisis. (Note to CEOs: Do you have a crisis plan? If so, check your crisis plans and update them to include attacks via social media, if necessary.)

How did Domino’s handle the situation? From where I sit, badly. Mr. McIntyre said that Domino’s executives decided not to respond aggressively, hoping that the controversy would quiet down. While the company had been made aware of the videos by Monday evening via a blogger, it took them until Wednesday to get a Twitter account as well as a YouTube video of the CEO in place to respond to consumer concerns.

What should Domino’s have done?

First, the CEO should have been front and center addressing the issue within minutes of learning all of the details and formulating a response designed to allay customer concerns, regain their trust and defend the brand. All media – social as well as traditional channels – should have been aggressively employed.

Second, the company might have benefited from calling in independent authorities (e.g., health testing services or government health officials) to inspect and vouch for the efficacy and safety of Domino’s kitchen practices in every single location.

Third, Domino’s might have called in a former cabinet official (preferably one linked to health matters) or a noted domestic doyenne like Martha Stewart to spot check Domino’s kitchens at various locations. Their findings could be released quickly and through a host of media channels.

Finally, the company could have scheduled and publicized training and/or retraining sessions for all employees, to demonstrate the company’s commitment to and concern for the wellbeing of its customers.

Social media has changed the way we learn about and respond to crises. While news of a crisis can spread quickly, relevant companies can use these approaches to quickly respond and prevent further damage to their corporate reputations. There is no need for any business to be “blindsided” – particularly a household name like Domino’s – when in this age of transparency, it should have been “prepared.”

Technorati Tags: Makovsky + Company, Domino’s Pizza, franchise, Twitter, YouTube, Tim McIntyre, crisis, crisis plan, social media, blogger, government health officials, corporate reputations, business, communications, public relations

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