Monday, April 27, 2009

Lesson from Domino's: Don't Wait Yourself to Death

As Beth mentions in her post, “The Dark Side of Social Media?” communicators worry that the Domino’s episode will cause more companies to avoid social media. But this kind of crisis can happen whether or not you are using social media. Others are.

But your response can be much more effective and immediate if you are already using social media -- this is if you decide to respond at all.

So what do you do when your company is attacked online? If your organization has a large consumer base or perhaps a strong regional one, like a sports team, then this is really something you need to think about.

A PR representative from Domino’s told Ad Age early in the crisis that they weren’t going to respond publically yet, if at all, because they didn't want to "alert more people to the story." And, of course, by waiting, the Domino’s story became huge. Frankly it was easy to predict after looking at the video that it was going to spread. In three days, there were more than 1 million views of the main video on YouTube (there were multiple versions posted). That’s roughly 1 million people being disgusted by what they saw happening in a Domino’s kitchen.

At about the two-day point, Domino's hosted its video response. Doing its own You Tube video was a smart tactic. And while there were some production issues, the content almost hit the mark. The CEO said “we’re sorry” [check], he said “here’s what we’ve done about this incident” [check], and he said “here’s what we’re doing to keep it from happening again” [almost check]. The problem was the CEO’s focus was on the individual store where the video was shot. But those 1 million viewers were worried about their pizza no matter which Domino’s store it was from and employees were still feeling unheard.

There have been many commentaries offering ideas about how Domino’s should have responded. I’ll just say that a good rule of thumb is to find out where people are talking about you and join in to the conversation. In this case, Twitter was buzzing. There were tons of tweets sending people to the icky video. And there were tons of rumors. If people are talking about your organization negatively on Twitter then you need to be on Twitter answering accusations and dealing with rumors. If they are on Facebook, you need to there. See Beth’s other tips as well.

My lesson for today is don't wait.
• Don’t wait until the bad news hits major news media.
• Don't wait until you have all the facts straight.
• Don't wait until you know who is saying what.
• Don't wait until you have got the permission from legal.
• Don’t wait until you are an expert in social media.

Waiting can bring down your organization.

Participating and responding online can turn bad perceptions into good ones that last.