For those of you who don’t follow Digg trends or pay attention to the latest viral videos spreading like wildfire on YouTube, an interesting PR situation developed this week.
Two less than intelligent Domino’s Pizza employees shot a handful of videos at work, where they did some pretty disgusting stuff including purposefully sneezing on pizzas, shoving ingredients in their nose before placing them on the pizza and even cleaning the pots and pans with a sponge they used to clean their, well, nether regions. Then they put it on YouTube. Brilliant move. Here’s a clip… beware, this is pretty gross:
The video was posted on April 13th. Within 8 hours, it had racked up over 100,000 views, local news stations were running the story and several people reported that franchise to the health department. What did Domino’s corporate communications do? Well… nothing. Not at first.
Their initial reaction was to say the video was a result of a few bad employees at one franchise location, and that an official corporate reaction would “be akin to putting out a candle with a fire hose.” Translation: They didn’t understand how quickly viral video can damage a brand, and sticking to traditional PR tactics they didn’t want to legitimize the scandal by recognizing it.
Within 48 hours the video had hundreds of thousands of hits, the franchise was shut down by the health department, and the video was making national headlines. YouTube pulled the original down and the employees were fired (they also fled the area), but the damage was done. Several people re-posted the vid on YouTube, and as the story picked up steam, the google searches and YouTube views for the videos intensified. These are NOT images Dominos corporate wanted in people’s heads when they contemplated ordering a pizza.
So… two days later the Pizza PR team posted this video, featuring Dominos President Patrick Doyle:
So let’s brake down the video and do a little scoring:
– He’s clearly reading off a cue card. Mr. Doyle appears properly briefed about the YouTube process and how this all went down, but by not looking in the camera he doesn’t necessarily come off as genuine as he could. -1 point
– One of the first things he does is thank the online community for alerting Dominos to the situation. He doesn’t blame bloggers for re-upping the videos, as previous execs have done in times for PR crisis. +2 points
– He explains it was an isolated incident and that the “team members” claim it was a hoax. Doyle goes on to state that they have been dismissed and that the company takes this very seriously. He also claims that there are “felony warrants out for their arrest.” Not sure if that’s true (sneezing on pizza is a felony?), but it stretched credibility. 0 points
– “There is nothing more important or sacred to us than our customer’s trust.” – said with sincerity. +2 points
– Admits that this has caused major damage to the brand, and that 125,000 employees will be impacted by a few individuals. Thanks customers for “hanging in there with us.” +1 points
Conclusion on the video response: They Domino’s PR team could have reacted faster, but all-in-all they got a relatively well-done response piece up on YouTube and began heavily promoting it within days. They also got major news outlets to run a follow-up story on their response, framing the company as the victim and the incident as an isolated one.
Is the damage already done? You bet, but they reacted fairly quickly. So the lesson to be learned:
– If a negative video about your brand makes it’s way onto the internet, react SWIFTLY with a genuine response. TRUST the public enough to know that they’ll understand that some people are idiots.
– Thank the online community for calling attention to the story, DO NOT blame them.
– Have your PR team focus news coverage on the damage done to the good employees, and brand the perpetrators as the bad guys. Single them out so they take the brunt of the bad PR, not the brand.
– After the initial response, weather the storm. Let the story blow over when the next online story hits. Continued responses will perpetuate the story.
– Don’t do what Domino’s Australia did and use the scandal as an excuse to make a rambling video about new products and thicker rubber gloves. It totally kills credibility: