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Domino’s Pizza: A Look At the Timelessness of A Social Media Crisis Plan

22 Mar

Looking back on some of my favorite social media crises over the past years, I’ve noticed one very advantageous quality: a solid social media crisis plan is timeless.

Not because of the strategy itself, but because, although the platforms and the scenarios may change, one constant remains the same: we, as businesses, deal with people. And people don’t change. Trends change, ideas shift, but the classic characteristics of human beings do not. We have a need to feel connected to others, and we crave to be valued by those whom we support – brands included.

When we base our social media crisis plans on these truths and characteristics, the trends and platforms can change all they want, but our crisis communication strategies will remain timeless.

There’s one social media crisis that, through the years, has remained at the top of my mind. One that proves this theory beautifully. I’m talking about the crisis that Domino’s Pizza faced three years ago, and how both their successes and failures remain perfect learning tools for today’s companies developing their social media crisis plans.

Let’s take a look at the strategies and mistakes Domino’s Pizza implemented when they found themselves faced with a crisis-gone-viral back in April 2009. Read closely, because there are tons of take aways for you to benefit from!

Setting the stage
Back in 2009, before Domino’s Pizza ever had a social media presence, they found themselves launched into a viral attack when two employees in their Conover N.C. franchise uploaded a video to Youtube of themselves doing disgusting things to a sandwich before it went out on delivery.

As you can imagine, the video instantly went viral and Dominos Pizza was instantly launched into a full social media crisis unlike anything they could have ever imagined.

Domino’s response
They made mistakes, that’s for sure. But they also managed to launch a communication strategy that saved their brand from potential ruins. Considering that, at the time, the franchise had not yet launched their social media platforms or strategy, I’d say that the results of this crisis were close to a miracle – or at least a very good crisis communications firm who knew exactly what they were doing!

A look at both their mistakes and their successes, and how you can implement them into your own social media crisis plan

Develop a loyal following before a crisis strikes
Even though Domino’s didn’t yet have a social media presence, they were quick to be notified about the crisis thanks to their loyal fans. Had they not been notified, who knows how long it might have taken for them to detect and react to the crisis. In many ways, their loyal fans saved them.

Always release a first response
Although Domino’s immediately began to take action and correct the situation, they made the mistake of doing this behind closed doors – forgetting to let the flabbergasted public in on the serious measures they were taking to correct the wrongs that were committed. This simple silent mistake lead to additional outcries and attacks by their horrified customers who accused Dominos of ignoring the situation in hopes that it would simply disappear.

Had Dominos taken the time to say “We’re aware of the situation, we’re looking into it, and we will release a full statement once we know more”, this would have reversed all additional and unnecessary damage caused by those wondering where the heck they were throughout the crisis.

Note: A social media crisis will not go away on it’s own. It will continue to build momentum, escalating to a point beyond control.

Get your butt in gear
Once Dominos realized that the crisis was building momentum and increasing it’s viral exposure, they quickly set up a Twitter account to respond and reassure customers that this was an isolated incident and that they were in the process of taking the necessary measures to correct it. It may have come late, but once they realized their mistake, the important thing is that it came!

Leverage the powerful help of your still-loyal customers
Once they were set up with a Twitter account, they quickly posted an apology to their website, before their official statement was released. They then asked their Twitter followers to help them spread the word by retweeting the link. This helped to calm the storm until they were ready to release their official public statement.

Release an official statement
Dominos released a brilliant official response to the crisis that, in my opinion, is the very reason they were able to regain control of the crisis the way they did. Sure they suffered consequences to the brand, but not nearly as much as they could have – I mean, three years later the Dominos brand is still going strong. Within the video they:

  • Responded to the crisis on the same channel it broke out on
  • Optimized the video to be found alongside the offending video
  • Showed true sincerity and humanized the brand and the situation
  • Explained the measures they were taking to correct the unfortunate situation
  • Presented the actions they were taking to assure that this horrific situation would not have the opportunity to happen again
  • Showed by example just how seriously they were taking the crisis – they weren’t just all talk, they backed their words up with serious actions
  • Had their U.S president, Patrick Doyle personally issue the response video

This official statement is a true testament to what an official statement should be. Watch for yourself, and see if it doesn’t inspire new ways to strengthen your current crisis communication plan:

As you can see, Domino’s response to this massively severe crisis was so well handled that 3 years later you can still learn from both their mistakes and their successes. A crisis of this magnitude would have buried the franchise had they not responded to the attacks with such urgency, severity and humility.

Your social media crisis plan is such a vital part of your crisis communication strategy and as long as we continue to deal with human beings, it will remain timeless with only minor tweaks needed to continue to strengthen it as new platforms, strategies and expectations arise.

What did you take away from Domino’s social media crisis plan and how will it help you strengthen your company’s crisis strategy? Share your comments with me below!

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21 Responses to “Domino’s Pizza: A Look At the Timelessness of A Social Media Crisis Plan”

  1. Morgan March 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    Hey Melissa,

    Wow, I had completely forgotten about that incident and it's probably because Dominos did handle it so well.

    This is a prime example of businesses never knowing what's going to happen and why a crisis plan is SO very important.

    Great tips as usual! :)

    • Melissa Agnes March 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

      Hey Morgan!

      This is one of my fav examples because everything – their mistakes and awesome moves – stay so relevant, and because this case is so jam packed with excellent tips, even more than I mentioned here (the post was getting quite long) if you pay close attention.

      Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the comment! ;)

  2. Ye Xu December 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Personally, I like Domino's very much. but when I found the news, I feel horrible and stop ordering the domino's. When the video was found, the company did not publicly respond to the video immediately, hoping attention would subside. But when it became clear by mid-week that the controversy was only escalating, Domino's executives acted. The company posted an apology on its website and asked employees with Twitter accounts to tweet a link to it. The company also created its own Twitter account, @dpzinfo, to reassure consumers that this was an isolated incident. I think it is a good way to use social media for crisis management. Domino's is still popular and I am trying to give Domino's another chance.

  3. Shermain February 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Having a solid plan in advance is key to managing any crisis. In fact, a great plan is the foundation of great success in all aspects of life. Thanks for sharing. I will be referencing this blog for my social media class at nyu tomorrow.

    • Melissa Agnes February 26, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

      Hi Shermain,

      You're absolutely correct that a great plan is the foundation for success in all aspects of life – and most certainly online crisis management is no exception.

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, I'm glad you enjoyed the post – and Im thrilled to be referenced in your NYU class, thank you!

      Melissa

      P.S. I also offer guest-lectures for University classes, if ever you're interested let me know :)

  4. Ramon De Leon April 27, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    I oversee six franchised Domino's Pizza stores in Chicago. We have been using the tools of Social Media since before the word existed. When the crisis hit in '09 the corporation did not even have a twitter ID.

    My social mention and blog alerts went nuts. Our proactive local response to the crisis actually led to a sales increase during the crisis. The loyal fans that helped build the barn came to our side went it was on fire. I spent almost complete days responding to local blog posts and tweets. I found many bloggers were using the crisis for their own SEO purposes and unresponsive when the local owners invited them into the kitchen to see how the business was run.

    When I put a local face to the crisis and personally responded to local posts I was reminded of a movie quote from the Joker in the Dark Knight:

    “I’m like a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one, you know, I’d just do…things.”

    Bloggers knew the corporation might not comment on their questions or posts but many were caught off guard when the local franchisee agreed with them and sent them a link to the history of the health dept visits. Now the focus was on the blogger and would they take the local up on his invitation.

    Would you believe this happened in Chicago?

    Thanks for the post

    @Ramon_DeLeon Twitter
    #RamonWOW

    • Melissa Agnes April 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your insights and experience with us, Ramon. The Domino's crisis of 2009 is still referred to today as one of the first social media crises to occur – especially to a big corporation. Your response and success managing the online side of the crisis is a great example for many.

      Sincerely,
      Melissa

      • Ramon De Leon June 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

        Forgot to mention we had a 6.34% sales increase during the social media crisis.

        • Melissa Agnes June 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

          Interesting. Do you mean directly during or as a result of, once the response from Patrick Doyle was published?

          • Ramon De Leon June 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

            As a result of our proactive local efforts we had a sales increase. Markets all over the world suffered but we bucked the trend. I was using Twitter before the brand and that jump start help our proactive efforts.

            @conversationage mentions this on their March '10 post

            Ramon DeLeon's customer video response was more effective than Patrick Doyle's statement after a Monsters, Inc. move at Domino's. True, they addressed two different circumstances. On the credibility and likability scale, DeLeon's is a good example that customers respond to sincere and passionate gestures better.

          • Melissa Agnes June 19, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

            Well put and thanks for sharing!

            I would actually love to interview you about it and publish it here on my blog. If you're interested please send me an email and we'll set something up:
            melissa@melissaagnes.com

            I look forward to hearing from you, Ramon!

  5. Camilo September 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Melissa,
    Thank you very much, it was inspiring for me to read your analysis of this case. By the way, I'm also preparing an exercise for my class on Consumer behaviour.
    Once again, thank you!
    Camilo Sánchez
    Bogotá – Colombia

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