Archive for the ‘Crisis’ Category


I’m not typically one for ‘lists’ or ‘tips’ but given the potential for brand crises engendered by instantaneous & social media, every company, big and small, public and private, needs to know the basics when it comes to handling consumer criticism, negative press, and averting the looming crisis.

[Disclaimer: Ronn Torossian is my boss and the CEO of 5W Public Relations.]

Ronn, well versed in Crisis Communication, brings us the following 5 tips, upon which I’ve expounded a bit, and added one of my own.

  • It can be tempting to immediate respond to negative comments and criticism, but a thought out, well crafted response has a much better chance of mitigating any potential crisis, even if it takes more time than you’d like.
  • If you feel you must respond right away, the best thing to do is to explain, as sincerely as possibly, that your audience’s voices are heard and that remedying whatever issue is plaguing them is the sole focus of your attention at the moment. Details can come later.
  • In today’s world of instant communication and social media, big brands should actively be monitoring ALL media, especially, social platforms & the blogosphere, both for general consumer feedback, and to keep apprised of any potential crisis. Motrin and Domino’s are recent examples of brands that failed in this arena. They had an underdeveloped or no established presence in the social media realm and were thus unable to negate their respective consumers’ concerns before they snowballed into a full-blown PR Crisis.
  • Every business and brand should have a crisis contingency plan. This includes a list of friendly media outlets to contact, a predetermined spokesperson to be the voice of the company, and a clear and succinct message as your bottom line. All employees, receptionists to Senior Vice Presidents, should be apprised of the proper protocol.
  • Choosing the media outlet that serves as your vehicle for response in a crisis can be as important as the actual message you deliver. Some brands are apt for TV, others, print, and still others, online platforms and bloggers. Be cognizant of which outlets have been amicable in the past and with which and whom you have relationships. If bloggers are the ones rioting against your brand, it’s you may be enticed to take your message to them directly, but such a move could end up providing them with more fodder with which to attack you.
  • A crisis is not the time for risky maneuvers or innovation. Stick to your principals and remind your consumers and customers why they value your brand in the first place.

Taste The Poop

Brought To You By The One & Only Gawker…Click Here For The Full Story

See Here For Ken’s Complete Coverage – Adage Solves The Mystery

UPDATE: ADAGE’S KEN WHEATON REPORTS: THIS VIDEO WAS PRODUCED BY PLAYBOY, NOT QUIZNOS

“Watch the video until the end and you’ll see that it was produced by Playboy. Or, you know, pick up a phone and call Quiznos (or, in my case, have someone else pick up a phone and call the sub shop). According to Quiznos spokeswoman Allison Riley, the company had nothing to do with the video. It didn’t produce it. It didn’t pay for placement. Nada.”

Special Thanks To: Emily York & Maura Hernandez

New York Times’ Stephanie Clifford reported this morning that Pizza Hut will be hiring a College Student to Twitter on behalf of this ‘Yum! Foods’ Subsidiary. (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/20/business/media/20twitter.html?_r=1)

My Take: This is an obvious response to last Domino’s Fiasco. Come on…It’s not just a coincidence; they’re clearly trying to capitalize on their primary competitor’s PR debacle.

But is it a good idea to hire a college student to twitter on behalf of a big multinational brand like Pizza Hut? Can a college student really be trusted as the voice of any company? This isn’t reacting to last week’s social media PR Crisis, it’s practically begging for a repeat! Experienced PR and Communications professionals, can be trained in Twitter vernacular – why the college student? Is this whole thing a PR stunt, in and of itself? I hope for their sake that it is, and that this Twintern can’t just tweet whatever pops into his/her head

Second Mistake: IMHO, there’s no such thing as a “Social Media Campaign” or Twitter Campaign.” An active presence on these platforms is one that must be ongoing, perpetually linked to the brands movements. Not something that should change hands every few months. As Laura Halsch succinctly puts it, it’s a “Good idea to start listening and contributing. What happens to the account when the summer ends though?”

Amber Naslund aka @AmberCadabra says, “You have to start somewhere, and I support baby steps very much. But engaging in SM is a long term thing.

I’m not sure what to say at this point, only because, Pizza Hut’s real intentions are unknown here. If they plan on having a supervisor look over the shoulder of the intern 24/7 – well, what’s the point? If they’re going to trust the intern with the reputation of the company…well, I can’t really bring myself to believe that they would actually do that, given how easy a single tweet can bring down even the most established of brands.

What do you think? Is this a good idea, a step in the right directions? Is Pizza Hut asking for trouble? Are we just not privy to their real, big picture, plan? If that’s the case, please speculate – what do you think they really have in mind?

They’ve been fired, yes. And rumors abound, and appear to be valid, that the expert camera woman is indeed one Kristy Lynn Hammonds, Registered Nurse Sex Offender (see:http://ncfindoffender.com/details.aspx?SRN=016454S11). So now what? @PRdude suggests that they are prime candidates for a VH1  Reality TV, and while I wouldn’t put it passed the network that airs ‘Rock of Love: Bus’ & ‘For The Love of Ray Jay’  to feature Ms. Hammonds in a new series sex offenders finding true love…I don’t think the public will appreciate it. Ad Age reporter @kenwheaton Wonder’s how the Publishing Industry will react to her record. My Thought – These two employees are infamous. They represent any and every Fast Food worker you’ve ever seen or will see. The next time you walk into a Pizza Hut or McDonald’s, you’ll see Krusty Kristy Lynn and Spongebutt Nopants, and you’ll wonder “Is there spit on my burger?” Whose nose have my french fries been in?”

Because, what’s really happened here is that all the fears and assumptions we’ve held about the uncleanliness and horrific things we assumed went on behind the scenes at our favorite greasy haunts – they’ve now been confirmed, validated, and broadcast to the world. This is not just a crisis for Domino’s but for the all Fast Food outlets. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were an industry wide campaign, united or individual, directed at assuaging these public concerns.

Which brings me to the future of the two ex-employees. They are the scapegoats, already tried and convicted in the public’s mind for, not just what’s been caught on video, but every disservice or disgusting behavior suspected of their counterparts, but unproven. Then again, VH1 continues to surprise me, so maybe we will see “Can You Love A Sex Offender” primeir this fall…who knows?

By now, I’m sure most of you have seen the videos of the two, infamous Domino’s employees as they play “hide the bodily excretion in the food.” This is nothing short of appalling, disgusting, horrible. But it’s not really surprising. Anyone who’s ever worked in a kitchen or restaurant has seen similar acts, I’m sure, if not worse. In fact, even most who haven’t had the pleasure of working the food service industry have probably imagined, or feared, at one point or another, the various distgustitudes that take place in fast food kitchens. We just choose not to think about them.

By the by, if you have yet to see the videos you can find them here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFxqC8hZ_xs and http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2009/04/video-let-the-dominoes-appall.html)

They have circulated through blogs and all forms social media, just now knocking on the door of traditional media outlets, causing quite an uproar, and leading many to turn their backs on one of the nation’s leading pizza chains.

Domino’s Communications VP Tim McIntyre recently spoke out in regard to the impeding crisis with a brief response, as predicable as it was irrelevant. To paraphrase ‘We’ll find them… they’ll be fired…they don’t represent the rest of Domino’s”

But, as a PR, um…person, and as a consumer, I’d assert that these were never the questions being asked. Of course they’ll be fired. We know that these are only two of the many individuals employed by the franchise.

The real questions here are:

How will you, Domino’s, convince your consumers that the same behavior doesn’t occur in the rest of your stores?

How will you distance yourself from the complete lack of hygiene and customer service now inexorably associated with the Domino’s Brand?

We’ve seen this with Taco Bell, but there it wasn’t blatant human misbehavior that causes the eruption of fear and outrage. It was tainted lettuce.

Mr. McIntyre, I’d like you to explain to us, not what you plan to do to these employees, but how you let it happen in the first place and how you can prevent it from happening in the future.

First of all, where was their supervisor? Isn’t there supposed to be a manager present who is charged with controlling employees? And PLEASE don’t tell me that one of these employees was the manager.

And secondly, and this is directed toward all fast food chains, how do you plan on preventing this type of behavior? If you have any chance of re-instilling confidence in your brand among consumers, you have to prove to us that you are taking measures to ensure we are not subject the misanthropic whims of your underpaid and overworked workers.

Until then…I know I’m going to avoid fast food for a while.

Another thought, per coworker and friend @Elliotschimel“Wouldn’t it be great if this were all just a stunt by Pizza Hut?”

Which brings me to my biggest question – Where the Fuck is @Dominos? The VP responds on one blog…but the brand is completely absent on twitter, where the marjority of the commotion is centered and where the most potential lies for mitigating the fallout. Bad Move Dominos.

Honestly, Domino’s should have been on twitter long ago, joining the likes of Starbucks and Dell in active consumer engagement and brand monitoring. Perhaps this illustrates, reminiscent of the #motrinmoms debacle, the Crisis Communications trumps ‘ongoing  conversation’ as the best reason for big brands to maintain a presence on sites like Twitter.

But even if they grappling with the question of how effectively to use the site, which is arguably the only excuse for their continued absence, they should have created an account as soon as these videos hit. They should have had representatives responding to blog posts and concerned twitters, horrified and shouting boycott. They should have offered assurances and explained what they are doing to fix the situation. But as of this update, 4:13pm, on April 14th, 2009 – @Dominos is still an unregistered twitter handle, just begging to be brandjacked. I know I’m tempted…aren’t you?

Scratch That – Not Unregistered, just dormant. @Dominos & @Dominospizza – no tweets, no response and probably not even affiliate with Domino’s – Just a Twitter Squatter Who thought of brandjacking them  before I did. Props Joey.