The Domino’s Effect: Taking a Slice Out of Your Reputation

Posted on April 16, 2009 
Filed Under General

Remember the old commercial imploring parents to ask: “It’s 11 o’clock, do you know where your children are?” Fast forward to the age of social media and the new question is: “It’s on YouTube, do you know what your employees just did?” Such is the pickle that Domino’s is in after two employees earlier this week posted a video online showing an employee preparing a sandwich in less than sanitary conditions, telling the camera that the cheese had just resided in his nose.

The video was pulled from YouTube and Domino’s “eventually” responded to the crisis via Twitter, blog, Web sites, etc. Domino’s President Patrick Doyle posted an apology video on YouTube. Some media outlets criticized the company’s late response — meaning it didn’t respond instantly to the situation. All businesses are now held to a Herculean standard when it comes to response time in the new media space: get word out right away, control the message, make the bad news go away. It appeared that Domino’s did take a wait-and-see attitude at first (meaning in the first few hours). But we’ve all ordered in from restaurants like Domino’s so this particular video hit a nerve and Domino’s should have realized this with a quicker response. It is now on top of the situation, the employees were fired, and when the next social media story hits (any minute now), this story will creep under the radar.

I may be a PR traditionalist, but the video prank story raises for me a more important question that Domino’s needs to address. Employees at nearly every company in the world are the front-line brand ambassadors. If they don’t believe in the company they work for, then the company has a serious problem. These employees have tools at their disposal to ruin a brand or at least temporarily wound it. These two (ex)- Domino’s employees clearly didn’t care about their jobs since they were willing to risk them for a silly prank to get attention online. Why didn’t they care? That’s the question Domino’s needs to address next. In the YouTube video, Domino’s president said it’d be looking into its hiring practices. That’s a good start.

What would you do in Domino’s situation?

- Diane Schwartz

Comments

  • http://www.bulletproofblog.com Gene Grabowski

    Domino’s has not lost this battle, but the company needs to look forward and show customers and prospective customers what they’re doing to make sure this will never happen again. This will require reaching out to consumers where they have been getting their information so far. Go to http://www.bulletproofblog.com/2009/04/15/in-responding-to-food-safety-concerns-dominos-must-get-viral-as-well/ to see some practical suggestions.

  • http://www.mgppr.com Mike Paul

    Getting lots of media calls today for me to comment on this reputation crisis. Watch Inside Edition and more soon for updates. Call me next time for comments on crisis stories like these. Happy to comment for PR News. Keep in touch!

  • http://www.journalistforhire.com Jon Boroshok

    This serves as a wake-up call. As part of their PR and HR strategies, companies need written policies for all employees about Social Media conduct – what can and can’t be said or shown on all social media platforms.

    Part of the marcom strategy must also include educating management and employees on social media messaging and conduct from a PR standpoint. Social media moves too fast to allow a company to operate effectively in “reactive” mode. Guidelines must be proactive to prevent things like this from happening in the first place.

  • http://www.officezone.com Cliff

    Dominos has literally thousands of employees. I don’t believe it is necessarily true that the employees as a whole “don’t believe in the company” and that Dominos somehow drove these people do something stupid. A couple of guys making minimum wage and doing something stupid by no means indicates the company as a whole has problems. What business doesn’t occasionally have to deal with a couple of idiots?

    Dominos PR response, however, is another discussion entirely.

  • http://www.twitter.com/emjay08 matt

    Not many companies are prepared for an attack on their brand as powerful as this. This was mutiny! The Dominoes Effect will be a case study for SM crisis preparedness. How do you protect your brand from an internal attack with worldwide implications?

    Critics often demand apologies and explanations the second after a video goes viral or a story breaks without any real background (i.e. #amazonfail). People get up in arms figuring they know everything and the slander begins. This type of crisis was completely unique to Dominoes and they definitely needed to handle it carefully. I’m sure they worked as fast as they could given the circumstances they were handed.

  • Charles James

    Diane Schwartz may be a PR traditionalist, but she clearly doesn’t care (enough) about English since she was willing to use the singular ”it” to refer to the plural ”jobs.”

    (Sorry, Diane, I just couldn’t resist:)

  • dschwartz

    Ah, thanks for the edit! I just fixed it. I couldn’t resist either.

  • Bobbie Christensen

    Thoughtful article and comments. I wonder: What are the consequences to the employees, beyond being fired? If their actions seem “cool” to other Dom. employees, and if the only consequence is looking for another job, what’s to stop others from jumping on the social web band wagon?

  • Curt Pruden

    Bobbie,
    They not only lost their jobs, they were each charged with a felony.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/business/media/16dominos.html

  • Kathryn Sutton

    It is clear that Domino’s has a problem on its hands. With thousands of employees, it is impossible to control what they all do, and you certainly can’t control what they think. But as a company you can hire someone to monitor what they are saying about you. While Domino’s has said that they are going to re-examine its hiring process they may also need to hire someone to act as a media analyst and sift through all the YouTube videos, blogs, wikis and whatever else may be out there. It is definitely a wake-up call and shows the new power that social media holds.

  • http://vorgany.ru Юрий

    Я тоже врямя от времени такое вижу, но как-то ранее не придавал этому значения.

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