Digital media is fast gaining its stronghold on businesses because of its popularity nowadays. Many companies communicate with their stakeholders in the business and get the attention of the customers through the digital media. This situation is especially true during a crisis period when the sale of their products is low. Public relations officers and other communication executives struggle to craft messages addressed to the customers to maintain their standing in the social media. In return, the stakeholders respond to these messages and an active flow of communication emerges between the organizations and the customers. In fact, video sharing sites like YouTube encourage the web users to serve as co-producers of messages. But the benefits of the digital media are not always helpful just like in the case of Domino’s Pizza. This food outlet became the center of public criticism when two of its employees uploaded videos showing the contaminated food on YouTube. This post became viral and the public demanded an immediate explanation from the management of Domino’s Pizza. The company assigned an internal team to come up with a crisis communication plan through YouTube and Twitter. What make this case interesting are the role that the digital media played on the crisis, and the strategy that the internal team developed to manage the crisis. The aim of this paper is to explain to the readers how organizations communicate with prospective and current customers. It also shows how a company shapes the communication strategies to engage the customers during critical times when the reputation of the company is at stake. With the use of a case study approach, this paper evaluates Domino’s decision to use the same medium that created the crisis to deal with the problem. Thesis: Does digital media plays an important role to communicate with the customers during a crisis period? Yes, digital media plays an important role to address a viral issue toward the customers during a crisis period.
The internal team assigned to deal with this problem faces the public that demand an immediate explanation about the incident. The team has to explain about the five videos uploaded by the two rogue employees contaminating the sandwich ingredients and blowing the cheese that came from their nose on a sandwich. The number of people who viewed these videos reached almost 1 million before they were taken out two days later. The goal of the company is to contain the situation immediately before it circulates to millions of people around the world. They should stop the spread of the viral news all over the world, and alert their customers against some irresponsible employees of the company who want to destroy their reputation. Its ultimate goal is to protect the company’s name and maintain the daily sales of pizza across the globe. The team is guided by some important guidelines in addressing communication crisis, such as listening to the people’s concerns and understanding the audience. They also include taking the audience as partner in solving the issues, communicating with openness, honesty and candor, and collaborating with credible sources (Gregory, 2009).
Strategy employed to accomplish the goal:
The first action of the management through its VP is surveying the situation and determining if the videos were original. He started communicating internally and externally with the senior management team, chief of security, and the company’s social media people. VP Mclntyre also collaborated with the popular organization “Good As You” that serves as the consumer watchdog to identify the employees who posted the nasty videos on YouTube. The following day, the management responded to customers’ queries about its knowledge on the situation. The public also wants to know what action the company would take to address the problem. Moreover, the stakeholders are pursuing why the company holds the issuance of an official statement about the situation. According to the Arthur W. Page Society, some basic principles are designed to serve as guidance for public relations professionals to address public concerns in the digital media. This society is a type of professional organization that caters to communication and public relations executives implementing the highest standards in professionalism. Some of the principles that apply to a dynamic learning environment include telling the truth, proving the claim with action, listening to the customers, managing for future concerns, treating public relations as a lifeline of the business, expressing the company’s true character by its people, and remaining calm, good-humored and patient during critical times. On the other hand, a company should take a situational strategy during a crisis. Basically, a crisis triggers an immediate pinpointing of responsibility to the management from stakeholders involving three aspects:
Whether that particular crisis has already happened in the past and will likely happen again in the future.
Whether the incident is controllable or uncontrollable by the organization or an individual.
Whether the crisis really happened within the organization or outside of the company’s jurisdiction.
Taking the stakeholders’ attributions, an organization should respond through a four-step strategy: observing the events, interpreting the information for relevance and accuracy, choosing the best strategy among other alternatives, and implementing a practical solution. This four-step strategy should be in line with the principles and best practices in business. With these guidelines on hand, the President of the company, Patrick Doyle, issued an apology to the public that he uploaded on YouTube the day after (Young and Flowers, 2012). Domino’s Pizza engaged the public in the social media as part of the company’s risk management procedures and policies. It also incorporated the social media in scanning the environment, taking it as a way to determine the correct channels, and using the social media to deliver updates to the stakeholders. The company did not create a strategy based on the consumers’ attributions and allegations. Patrick Doyle’s decision to upload his recording on YouTube is based on the medium itself. In line with the first principle in the best practices theory, telling the truth, the VP wants to tell the truth by conveying that the incident is an act committed by two persons with the aim of having fun. He further explains that these persons do not represent their brand, and that they do not represent the thousands of people working with Domino’s all over the world. In the same way, the truth that the President wants to emphasize is that the company as a whole did not do this nasty act. They want to apologize and aim to get back the people’s trust. But in the course of being open, honest, and candid about the case, the company should take the responsibility. However, this aspect can result to some legal risks, such as copyright claims and freedom of speech. To lessen the burden and still follow this rule, Domino’s collaborated with watch dog organizations. Moreover, they tried to get the sympathy of the public by observing and interpreting the events with the people as their partner. In essence, since Domino’s hesitated to act at once following the best practices in conducting business and the principles that deal with crisis in business operations, it failed to neutralize the problem at an early stage. Many people started tweeting about the company’s inaction on what was happening, and asked what it plans to do about the viral videos (Gregory, 2009).
Measurable Success Factors:
The management of Domino’s Pizza acknowledged the crisis by uploading a video in the company’s website on the day after the breaking news was posted in YouTube. But the message did not reach millions of spectators through this social medium. According to VP Mclntyre, the crisis team has already crafted a social media plan at that time. However, they did not want to simply jump into the arena without having the right strategy on hand. The irony is that – they have a plan, but they are going to apply it only after a week. But since the news was spreading quickly overnight, the team ended up jumping in during the crisis and not at the time that they planned it. After looking at the public’s tweets, the management decided to speed up its social media plan. They decided to respond with a viral video and change the course to YouTube. Their response had all the elements needed for an effective crisis communication. The company’s president apologized to the public and issued statements separating the company from the troublemakers. After announcing the prosecution of the culprits, he mentioned the steps that the company is taking to address the issue. This strategy of fighting the crisis through the use of YouTube is the culminating point of their approach toward a crisis. Since the problem happened online, the company has decided to face it online, and on the same site that the breaking videos were uploaded. The strategy of Domino’s did not only demonstrate concern for its customers, but also understands the importance of communicating to a target audience in the venue that it wants and on the space that it prefers. This strategy also shows that the company can manage any communication crisis that may come in the future. Consequently, this strategy and decision broke the ground and sets up a new approach in dealing with crisis communications.
Digital media plays an important role not only in promoting the business and its products, but also in dealing with a communication crisis with customers. The crucial lesson that the marketers learn in crisis communication is the aligning and extending of the Situational Crisis Communication Theory with the principles and best practices in business operations, and the integration of the digital media.
Analysis of the End Results
In the case of Domino’s Pizza, it created an effective leverage on the use of social media, by using the same site used by the pranksters. The writer of this paper believes that the company emerged as the winner in its strategy to transparently communicate with the customers to address the situation. At the beginning, Domino’s suffered from the vulnerability of being criticized. However, the end result shows its ability to effectively deal with the crisis communication by taking into consideration the importance of social media in this digital age. By standard, the attributions of stakeholders influence the company’s strategy to reduce the damaging effects. In Domino’s case, however, the stakeholders’ attribution did not influence the company’s strategy. It is the social medium where the crisis occurred that influenced the management’s decision to use the same channel (YouTube).
Young, C. L., & Flowers, A. (2012). Fight viral with viral: A case study of Domino’s Pizza’s crisis communication strategies. Case Studies in Strategic Communication, 1, article 6. Retrieved from: http://cssc.uscannenberg.org/cases/v1/v1art6
Gregory, S. (2009, April 18). Domino’s YouTube crisis: Five ways to fight back. Time Magazine. Retrieved from: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1892389,00.html