Domino’s Pizza — a Classic Failure in Crisis Communications

This morning’s newspapers were filled with stories about two Domino’s Pizza employees videotaping a prank in which they do pretty disgusting things to a pizza they were preparing for delivery.  They put the video up on YouTube and the rest is history.  The viral community swiftly carried the story to a world-wide audience eager to spread the dirty word about Domino’s.  Too late, the company realized that the traditional response — send out a press release and hope for the best wasn’t going to work.   This is the lesson they learned.

The company has since opened an account at Twitter and the comments are beginning to turn positive.  But the damage to the company’s reputation will take a long time to heal.  And the company still isn’t using all the viral tools at its disposal — at the writing of this post, the company had nothing on its corporate website to reassure its customers nor a link to its Twitter account.  This may be a calculated decision, but they need to be in control of the message.  It is naive to think that customers and investors aren’t online getting the most up-to-date commentary on the crisis.  Shouldn’t the company’s official website be carrying the key messages the company wants to communicate?

Did Domino’s have a crisis communications plan in place for this kind of event?  As a company in the food business, didn’t they know that the potential for bad news — food contamination high among them — could turn into a reality they would need to address?

Savvy companies will stay tuned into the viral community 24/7 and be ready to respond at the speed of light — which is the speed at which news about a company circles the universe.

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  1. So true. US Airways handled the landing in the Hudson River in a similar way. They set up a Twitter account as passengers were shivering on the wings of the plane only to find it takes time to build a network of followers. These tools need to be put in place ahead of a crisis, not midair.

  2. I’d be interested to know your thoughts about whether companies should respond to negative chatter that appears in cyberspace during and after a crisis. When I read the reader comments following most newspaper articles (regardless of whether the story is positive or negative) the majority of comments seem to be posted by the most cynical, negative readers. And, even though the comments are supposedly monitored by the news outlet, some of the reader comments are way “out there,” often not even remotely based in fact.

    Do you think responding to the cynics, especially those who are spewing falsehoods, only lends more credence to their rants?