You are on page 1of 9

John Ternieden Professor Ogden Comms 235, section 5 7 March 2011 A Slice of Dominos PR Fiasco In April 2009, two

employees for Dominos pizza posted a several videos of themselves on YouTube fooling around with food in the back of a shop. In the video, the employees could be seen putting cheese up their noses and then on the food and even whipping food on their bodies before using it. The video post on YouTube received almost one million views in 2 days before Dominos decided to act with a response. The online posts quickly became ubiquitous as blogs and Twitter accounts were filled with comments about the event. The employees were soon fired but the damage was already done because the public perception of Dominos had turned unfavorable within a few hours because of how quickly the news travelled online and how many people had viewed the videos. Before Dominos even had released an apology the videos had been re-edited and reshaped many times over and could be found everywhere on the net. The employees were later identified as Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer of Conover, N.C. The two were also arrested and charged with violating health code policies. Dominos spokesperson, Tim McIntyre, said that the company was preparing a civil lawsuit and added that the video had really affected Dominos customers. Even people whove been with us as loyal customers for 10, 15, 20 years, people are second-guessing their relationship with Dominos, and thats not fair (Clifford, 2009).

Paul Gallagher who is a managing director at the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller called the Dominos scandal a nightmare and added that its the toughest situation for a company to face in terms of a digital crisis (Clifford, 2009). Dominos fired the two employees and brought in Health officials to guide them in what they should do. They were advised to throw out all open containers which ended up costing the company hundreds of dollars. The two offenders were discovered thanks to the website The message post on the site allowed for people to make comments which led investigators to find Hammonds and Setzer. Hammonds released an apology stating that the videos had been a joke and that they never meant for it to be taken so seriously. The video was soon taken off YouTube for copyright reasons but the damage had already been caused because of the extent of social media. Dominos attempted to respond and fight back using the same methods as all the negative press they had been receiving. They created a Twitter account where people could ask questions and receive answers and Dominos CEO, Patrick Doyle, released a video on YouTube. The response by Dominos pizza came two days after the videos surfaced on the internet (YouTube Fiasco, 2009). They videos appeared on YouTube on Monday and Dominos learned of the videos the next day. I would have to say that overall Dominos response and manner of handling this crisis could have been a lot better. Dominos should have had more time oriented goals. They didnt react quickly enough as they underestimated the power of social and digital media, they didnt

send all the right messages in order to motivate their publics and they missed a few of the necessary channels to reach all of their publics. 1) What do we need to do to meet the challenge and overcome the problem? Dominos had a very unique situation on their hands. Because the crisis took place on the web, the company had to move fast in order to react because it the videos were being spread so quickly. The Goal Dominos main problem was that due to the videos released, people were losing confidence in Dominos which was leading to a decrease in profit. Dominos had to find a way of regaining their reputation and overcoming the negative press they had received. Objectives I couldnt find exactly what specifics objectives Dominos had in order to realize their goal but I could hypothesize a few. Firstly, I would say that Dominos would want to increase the publics positive perception of the company. The difficulty would be to find a way in which to measure this perception. It was stated in the New York Times that after this incident that the perception of the company turned very negative according to a website entitled YouGov (Clifford, 2009) which allows consumers to rate their brands. Similar results were found by Ad Age which also rated different brands (Kiley, 2009). So we could say that one objective would be to reverse the negative perception and have a 75 percent approval rating within the next two months. Also, due to the negative press there must have been a loss in sales, especially if there really was such a negative perception as YouGov or Ad Age claimed. For this reason, Dominos could also have had the goal to regain what they lost in sales within the next two months.

Thirdly, because the Times, blogs and other news sources had been unfavorable to them, they would need to seek a way increase the number of positive press by 50 percent within the next two months. All of these objectives have limited time to accomplish because it involves solving a recent crisis that gained steam because of the internet. Digital media evolves so fast that if Dominos didnt react just as quickly, they would be very far behind. 2) Who do we need to reach and motivate to accomplish that? Obviously Dominos main goal was to regain the trust of their customers. The spokesman for Dominos wanted to reach out to their longtime customers. He mentioned how because of this fiasco, costumers who had been with them for years and years, did not want to return there. They also wanted to reach out and motivate others who may have seen the video and who didnt go to Dominos for their pizza. I agree with both of these ideas. At the beginning I would have said that they wouldnt need to worry about reaching to their long-time customers because it would only be a younger demographic who would use YouTube. However, once the story was picked up by the New York Times, older demographics, like those long-times costumers, would have read the story and perhaps been swayed by what was written. Because the original videos were released on YouTube, Dominos would also have to reach out to those who typically visit that site. Though there is a wide range of viewers who visit the site, we can limit the range to those who are internet savvy and a younger generation. Because of this, Dominos would have to create a message that would appeal and motivate a younger generation who cares little about fast food loyalty.

Besides these two main groups, I would also add a few other important publics. Dominos would definitely have wanted to get in touch with the media, especially because of the story run in the Times. Another very important public that Dominos did reach out to was the health department. Because of the violations of the health codes, the store in Conover could have had some serious problems imposed upon them by the government. Dominos would want to reach out to them and ensure them that they were taking this serious and were looking to comply in order to resolve the issue. 3) What messages do we need to send them to obtain their cooperation What They Did Like was stated earlier, Dominos goal was not only to maintain a positive reputation but also to regain the support of their customers, and to attract potential customers who had really been put off by the video clips. Dominos chose to send the message that they werent going to tolerate what had been done. They promptly fired the employees and sought legal action. They then chose to focus on their reputation by bringing the publics attention to the many, many workers good workers that they have. I partially agree with this message. I do think it was a good idea for Dominos to help people understand that this was an isolated incident and would not affect the quality of their foods. Also, disposing of the contaminated foods, even at the loss of lots of money, proves to their customers their devotion to sanitation. I even believe the decision to fire the employees was appropriate as it shows that the company wont tolerate anything that will hurt the quality of their goods and put their customers health at risk.

What They Missed There is a message that should have been the primary focus but never was. Without finding a way to assure the public that this wouldnt happen again, costumers would also have the concern that perhaps the same things were being done to their pizzas by other employers. It wasnt just the customers of Conover, N.C., who were concerned over the quality of food and upon the removal of the two employees there all would be solved. Doubts now existed everywhere and all Dominos employees were seen as possibly doing the same things. Dominos should have assured the public by some means that things were being done so that this would never happen again. 4) How do we most effectively send those messages so the public chooses to perceive them and act upon them? Dominos decided to reply to the videos using the same methods as were used to create the controversy. This means that in order to respond effectively, they would need to use digital and social media. They started with a reply on YouTube. This method would allow them to reach that younger demographic who had originally seen the videos. I would agree that this would be the most effective way to reach their key publics because it was this very same mean by which their reputation was attacked. Dominos also understood that the demographic who used YouTube would also been involved with blogs and social media. Their idea to use social media sites like twitter allowed them to reach those same demographics. Also, this method ensures that publics who choose to follow the tweets or watch the videos to perceive them will most likely be interested. The internet allows us to choose our content, not to have it forced upon us. For this reason, Dominos could be sure that people were seeing their message based upon the number of hits they received on their videos and people following their tweets.

Something different that I would have done would have been to issue a press release. Dominos did release a video response addressing the YouTube videos but they didnt release a full statement to the press (YouTube Brand Scandal, 2009). Even on their website under news, there is no mention of the situation (2009 Press, 2009). At first I could understand them not wanting to draw more attention to the story but eventually, when the story it the Times, it would have been good to respond in that way. Trying to avoid it or hide it from their customers would end up hurting their credibility. It follows what we discussed in class about truthfulness and transparency. Ivy Lee stated that the public will eventually find out the truth and so it would have been better if Dominos had released a full statement to the press and more information concerning the even on their website. If Dominos was looking to reach an older generation, they would have to extend their reach beyond YouTube viewers. A press release would have allowed them to reach the very same audience that saw the original article in the paper. They should have used print media in their strategy to reach this older generation. Some would argue that it would have only made more people aware. Though that may be true, The Times is a national newspaper, which means that the story was important and reached a lot of people. Therefore, Dominos not responding would make people question what Dominos was doing to solve this problem, if they were doing anything at all. Final Overview Overall, Dominos tried their best to deal with a crisis that was unique and one which they greatly underestimated. Though they did have the right publics in mind, they didnt use all of the right channels to reach them, they missed some important messages that needed to be sent, and they didnt react fast enough.

Works Cited Barreto, M. (2009, April 16). Dominos Pizza YouTube video scandal: What to learn from it. In 7 Lab News. Retrieved March 5, 2011, from CLIFFORD, S. (2009, April 16). Video Prank at Dominos Taints Brand. The New York Times on the Web. Retrieved February 23, 2011, from Domino's Employees Incite YouTube Brand Scandal (2009, April 15). In Marketing Vox. Retrieved February 28, 2011, from cause-youtube-brand-scandal-043809/ Domino's Investor Relations: 2009 Press (2009). In Domino's Pizza. Retrieved March 1, 2011, from Dominos Pizza YouTube Fiasco: A Lesson in Online Crisis Management (2009, April 17). In KahnMedia. Retrieved February 23, 2011, from Kiley, D. (2009, April 15). Domino's Pizza Youtube Video Lesson: Focus on Standards, and Pack Your own Lunch. In Business Week. Retrieved February 29, 2011, from _youtube_video_lesson_focus_on_standards_and_pack_your_own_lunch.html Male, B. (2009, December 17). The 15 Biggest PR Disasters of the Decade: Domino's YouTube scandal (2009). In Business Insider . Retrieved February 23, 2011, from

Update to our Valued Customers (2009, April 15). In Domino's Customer Care. Retrieved February 24, 2011, from Walters, C. (2009, April 13). Domino's Rogue Employees Do Disgusting Things To The Food, Put It On YouTube. In The Consumerist . Retrieved February 24, 2011, from York, E. B. (2009, April 20). What Domino's Did Right -- and Wrong -- in Squelching Hubbub over YouTube Video. InAdvertising Age. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from