A Timeless Social Media Crisis Plan – Domino’s Pizza

In Marketing, Social Media by Freddie Frampton1 Comment

Some things never change. Trends come and go, discoveries are made, ideas shift with time, and the economy rises and falls. However, through it all, one thing that doesn’t change is human nature. People are still people, and human nature is a constant through the years. People have an innate need to connect to others, and to be valued by those who are connected with them.

When your social media crisis plan is based on the constants of human nature, the plan can be timeless. Social sites will come and go, and technology will keep progressing. As long as your plan is rooted in the fundamentals of human nature, it can remain as relevant as when you created it.

One social media crisis that illustrates this timelessness is the one that Domino’s Pizza faced a few years ago. A crisis like this will never go away on its own – it can continue to escalate and build intensity until you take some action to resolve it. This case study provides useful insights for companies today that are developing their social media crisis plans. We will examine the strategies Domino’s used, the mistakes they made, and the successes they achieved.

¬†The crisis at Domino’s

In April 2009, Domino’s Pizza did not even have a presence in social media yet. However YouTube was the stage where their crisis took place. Two employees in one of their North Carolina stores made a video of themselves doing awful things to a sandwich they were making, before they sent it out for delivery. The employees uploaded this to YouTube, where the video quickly went viral. Domino’s was blindsided with an immediate and very public social media crisis unlike anything they had ever seen.

Domino’s response to the crisis

Domino’s a stellar job of dealing with what could have been a catastrophic crisis. They quickly implemented a communications strategy that managed to save their brand. Here are the steps that they took.

  1. Develop a base of loyal fans. Domino’s already had many loyal fans and supporters, long before this crisis broke out. This was crucial in their success, because it was some of those fans who notified the company about the video. If their fans had not let them know of the issue, it could have taken significantly longer for the company to find out, and the crisis would have grown in the meantime.
  2. They waited to release a response. This was a mistake. The company’s management began to take action immediately as soon as they were aware of the problem video. However, they started by doing this in closed door meetings, and did not make any public statement at the beginning. This mistake allowed the crisis to escalate, as customers who were shocked and horrified by the video accused Domino’s of ignoring the situation.It would have been better if they had released a simple statement to the public as soon as possible. This could be something very short, like “We are aware of this situation, and are investigating the problem. We will issue a complete statement as soon as we have more facts.” This would have eliminated the additional damage that was caused by people questioning why the company was not doing anything about this.
  3. Move quickly. Domino’s could see that the crisis was continuing to build, and the video was getting more viral views than ever. In order to provide fast communications to the public, they set up a Twitter account. They used this as a means to respond to customer concerns. They reassured the public that this was just one isolated case, and that they were taking steps to rectify the problem and ensure it did not recur. While their communication could have come sooner, they did get the message out.
  4. Leverage your loyal fans. Many customers of Domino’s remained loyal fans, recognizing this for the singular incident that it was. Domino’s was able to put them to use in getting the word out. The company posted an apology on their website. They then asked all of their followers on Twitter to retweet the link to that web page. This helped to get their apology spread to more customers.
  5. Release an official statement. Domino’s released their official statement on the crisis in a way that enabled them to regain control of the situation, and ease the fears of customers and potential customers. As a result, they were able to save their brand from what could have been a disaster. Here is what they did with the final statement.* Responded with a YouTube video – using the same channel where the crisis began.
    * Optimized their video so that it would be found next to the original problem video.
    * Their president, Patrick Doyle, personally did the video response.
    * They apologized sincerely, and showed humility about the situation.
    * They outlined the steps they were taking to correct the problem, and make sure it could never happen again.
    * They showed that they were taking real action, not just saying soothing words.Their official statement was done superbly, and is a big reason why the brand is still doing so well today. In reviewing how they responded to the crisis, you may find ideas that could improve your own crisis communication plan.

Summary of Domino’s crisis response

All in all, Domino’s Pizza handled this crisis remarkably well. Although they could have improved their response by issuing a public statement immediately, when they did produce their final response, it was done masterfully. This crisis could have caused irreparable damage to their brand, but years later, the company is still going strong. The urgency, sincerity, and humility of their actions and statements went a long way in reassuring the public.

Human nature is a constant, and as long as your business is dealing with human customers, your crisis management plan can remain relevant. You may want to tweak it now and then as social sites come and go, but the heart of your plan will be as valid as ever. Spend the time to create a solid plan, and you can keep it around for years.

About the Author

Freddie Frampton

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A progressive and operational, British National, strategist and trusted consultant with a rich mix of Business Development & Marketing experience spanning over 20 years of international work experience (Middle East and Europe) as a leading business professional in the hospitality industry.

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