Domino’s Impending PR & Social Media Fiasco: The Questions I Want Answered

Posted: April 14, 2009 in Crisis, PR, Public Relations, Twitter
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

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Comments
  1. Shadow Figure says:

    Trust me, Domino’s is on Twitter. And monitors it closely. They have chosen to not add fuel to the fire by issuing a slew of ‘official statements.’ Everyone knows these employees will get fired and store-level management will get stern reminders to monitor in store behavior. While Domino’s doesn’t have an active voice on Twitter at this time, they are constantly monitoring the Twitter universe and even proactively respond to individual customers as warranted.

  2. Kristen Kouk says:

    Bravo! Very well put! Would you consider this a crisis moment for the entire fast food industry? You imply that in your post, but I don’t think this one incident will slow down the rest. Especially Pizza Hut 🙂

    Kristen Kouk
    http://www.BlueBirdPublicRelations.com

  3. ibidibid says:

    To: Shadow Figure: They’re hiding in the shadows? Now? Don’t want to fuel the flames? If you actually speak for this company then I truly pity the future of this brand. Controversy at this level doesn’t just evaporate because you hope it will. It grows. It becomes a movement. And the taint it brings doesn’t remove easily. Customers don’t want a slew of “official statements”; they want one comprehensive, non-slippery response- with additional meaningful comments, as warranted.

    When will big brands -who think they’re too big to respond properly and substantively to aggregates of consumers- learn that the dynamic between customers and merchants has forever changed.

  4. Rachel Kay says:

    Aerocles, I’ve been saving this all day to read and was really thrilled I did. Your post really asked some valuable questions about how to approach crisis communications in this new world of social media. I, like you, was horrified to watch those videos, and my first instinct was that Tim and I shared the same passionate disgust when I read his statements.

    But you are right – he treated it as some abnormal fluke that had nothing to do with the brand itself. Maybe it was too no-good teens who committed these vile acts but I guarantee you the mere mention of Dominos for the remainder of this year will conjure up soiled sponge sandwiches for millions of consumers.

    While I agree they don’t need to fuel the fire with 18 different apologies that go on for the next week – they certainly didn’t do anything to convince me that Dominos is a sanitary place to eat after I tweeted about my horror to my Twitter followers. Hmm – maybe they just aren’t concerned that I am repulsed. I hope to hear more from Tim in the days to come.

  5. Jen Wilbur says:

    I looked for Dominos on Twitter myself, and all I found was the Australian office account (@Pizza_Dominos) with the last Tweet pointing back to headquarters in U.S. – “A video circulating involves Domino’s LLC (US) not Australian employees.This is serious misconduct & Dominos is taking appropriate action.”

    Boy, they better get a hold of their brand.

  6. Heather says:

    Thank you for the post David. You bring up valid questions on the age old “NO COMMENT” issue. Maybe Tim and team need to look to others industry leaders such as Scott Montey at Ford, who have handled major crisis communications with speed and transparency. PR 101: No Comment is the worst comment. ATM, Answer the question then transition to the message.

  7. In this day of youtube videos and twitter accounts, I almost wonder why companies are not making people sign some sort of workplace privacy agreement that gives a corporation the ability to sue an employee for defacing a brand by posting a video online that goes against company policies.

    As a PR professional who worked in fast food for 5 years in HS/College, I am absolutely appalled by the lack of management because I used to be management. At the same time, if your employees don’t feel pride in the workplace, they have no motivation to keep high standards. Which also goes back to the management issue. Looking back, I am grateful that I grew up right before social media exploded, so I had the chance to make some stupid mistakes without them going viral.

    Domino’s and the industry as a whole needs to take a stand against irresponsible employees and management. If people are help more accountable for their actions, they will be more cognizant of how their actions affect others.

    Also, I personally think that putting bodily fluids into food should be a crime. I hope these individuals get snot in their next sandwich to see how it feels.

  8. rosie says:

    i like this guy’s idea: http://www.pr-squared.com/index.php/2009/04/terrorized-into-excellence

    he says dominos should put up webcams in each location (i say maybe only key markets?) and have them streaming to a website so that people can see their sandwiches/pizza being made.

    it doesn’t seem *that* fiscally improbable, right?

  9. […] about Pizza Hut & Domino’s and their various Social Media Exploits, I know. But after the Domino’s Debacle and the initial Aftermath, I couldn’t help but gauge how they’ve since handled their digital […]

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