Social media baptism for Domino’s Pizza

Yesterday was quite a day for Domino’s Pizza‘s leadership and the communication team.

It was a day during which the number of people who viewed a nasty video posted to YouTube by two rogue employees approached a million,  thousands of others posted comments online, and the company became embroiled in a huge and very fast-moving crisis of reputation and trust.

I wrote at length yesterday about this rapidly-evolving PR crisis, updating the post during the day as events developed. I didn’t embed the offending video directly in that post; it’s just too disgusting.

I did link to it, though, and kept an eye on YouTube during the day as the view count steadily increased:

  • 562,627 views (8am)
  • 636,000 views (11:15am)
  • 690,000 views (1pm)
  • 728,816 views (3pm)
  • 745,679 views (5pm)
  • 930,390 views (9:30pm)

It’s astonishing growth in just one day; combined with all the general commentary and  Twitter talk, I think that’s one video you could definitely apply the word “viral” to.

I’m sure views exceeded a million since my last check last night but I can’t tell this morning as the video has been taken down: if you go to the original location on YouTube, you’ll see this message:

This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Kristy Hammonds.

Kristy Hammonds is one of the two employees who made the video and who is presently under arrest along with her colleague.

However, I’m sure it’s out there somewhere on the net, discoverable if you look for it. And if you really want to see what it’s about, Consumerist has their own copy along with two others made by those two Domino’s employees (now ex employees).

So what was Domino’s doing while fires were igniting all around them? Not much in public other than a statement on their corporate website (the content has changed since it was first posted yesterday: see my post of yesterday for the original content), but clearly quite a bit of planning and preparation behind the scenes.

That planning and prep resulted in a video by Patrick Doyle, President of Domino’s USA, in which he apologizes to customers and outlines what the company is doing to address consumer concerns resulting from the rogue employees’ video.

This is one video I’m more than happy to embed directly.

The only advice I’d offer Mr Doyle and his communicators is this: look straight at the camera next time you do a video like this. It will make you appear more sincere and give me a sense that you’re speaking directly to me rather than looking at (and so speaking to) someone else out of shot.

But this video is very good indeed, an appropriate first direct response (and means of responding), in my view, to the events of the past few days.

Along with the new Twitter account someone at Domino’s started yesterday, it shifts the initiative to the company and demonstrates that they are paying attention and are actively engaging to address all those concerns so many people have articulated online.

It’s a good beginning.

Among the many mainstream media commentaries about this affair that have sprung up over the past 24 hours, the New York Times has a great assessment of this kerfuffle and a good perspective on what it does mean for the company and its brand.

[…] In just a few days, Domino’s reputation was damaged. The perception of its quality among consumers went from positive to negative since Monday, according to the research firm YouGov, which holds online surveys of about 1,000 consumers every day regarding hundreds of brands.

[…] The Domino’s experience “is a nightmare,” said Paul Gallagher, managing director and a head of the United States crisis practice at the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. “It’s the toughest situation for a company to face in terms of a digital crisis.”

[…] As the company learned about the video on Tuesday, [Tim] McIntyre [Domino’s VP of Communications] said, executives decided not to respond aggressively, hoping the controversy would quiet down. “What we missed was the perpetual mushroom effect of viral sensations,” he said.

In social media, “if you think it’s not going to spread, that’s when it gets bigger,” said Scott Hoffman, the chief marketing officer of the social-media marketing firm Lotame. “We realized that when many of the comments and questions in Twitter were, “What is Domino’s doing about it”, Mr. McIntyre said. “Well, we were doing and saying things, but they weren’t being covered in Twitter.”

Plenty of food for thought.

(We’ll be discussing the Domino’s crisis in today’s episode of the FIR podcast.)

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