Prevent, Manage, Recover, Repeat: 3 Stages of Crisis Communications

What began as a tasteless prank quickly snowballed into a monumental reputational crisis for Domino’s in mid-April. The scene: One pizza-chain employee prepares sandwiches in the most unsanitary manner imaginable (think snot, flatulence…enough said) while another records him on a video camera narrating the entire process.

The game could have ended there, but the duo, which later claimed the food was never sent out for delivery, uploaded the video to YouTube, where it instantly gained traction among millions of viewers. Within days, the Domino’s brand was under fire and the PR team scrambled to rebuild its damaged reputation—but not soon enough, many experts believe; the company didn’t publicly respond immediately to the video in the hopes that attention would wane on its own. When it didn’t, execs finally acted, posting an apology on the corporate Web site, creating a Twitter account and issuing a taped apology from Domino’s USA president Patrick Doyle on YouTube.

The jury is still out on how long term the damage will be for Domino’s, but the event already serves as a textbook example of how quickly unexpected crises can take out a brand. Which is why communications teams must be well-versed not just in crisis management during the immediate aftermath, but also in two other equally (if not more) important stages: preparation and recovery.

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