There's plenty of places to get details about the pizza chain's burgeoning PR crisis, so I won't go into detail here except to share a bit of information from AdAge.com's article: Two Domino's employees, identifying themselves as Kristy and Michael, posted a video in which they "besmirch a pair of sub sandwiches and the pizza chain's reputation. Michael inserts pieces of cheese into his nose and waves pieces of salami behind his backside. Both the salami and the cheese are placed on the sandwiches." In other videos posted to the Internet, Michael sneezes on cheese sticks and wipes his bare backside with a dish sponge.
According to AdAge.com, a Domino's spokesperson said the company "is looking into what can be done to prevent this in the future, but there's only so much a marketer can do." The company decided not to issue a press release or post a statement online fearing that "a strong response from Domino's would alert more consumers to the embarrassment." While I agree that issuing a press release to combat a negative and viral Internet threat is like fighting a forest fire with a garden hose, I believe there is a way to fight fire with fire. This Social Media disaster demands an equally social response!
No, the answer isn't for Domino's' to produce their own videos. It's not that official videos--ones that demonstrate the care given to food safety or with an apology and denial from Kristy (who has already claimed that the tainted ingredients were never distributed to customers)--are a bad idea. But anything Domino's says officially to try to combat the negative PR will be met with some level of suspicion. "Of course," consumers will think to themselves, "Domino's corporate staff thinks all of their rules are followed, but what really happens when their young, part-time kitchen staff are left on their own in the 8,000 stores they have worldwide?" Of course, that's the insidious image that has been planted in the back of consumers' brains by Kristy and Michael's video--what happens when the bosses aren't watching?
No, the million-dollar idea isn't an "official" response. In a social and interconnected world, the way to fight situations like this is in a social and interconnected way. Here's how to turn this PR problem into an opportunity: Be authentic and social by asking other employees to post their video responses. Domino's shouldn't guide those responses, issue talking points, or even ask that these be positive. Instead, Domino's should challenge their 125,000 employees to share their thoughts online and in video form. How did Kristy and Michael's clips make other employees feel? What did they think when they saw their peers' behavior? What message would they like to deliver to those two?
If a hundred or a thousand Domino's employees--ones who look not like corporate suits but instead are exactly like Kristy and Michael--were to speak with a different message, the problem could not only be resolved but could actually become a marketing opportunity.
While Domino's could train their cameras on their employees, tell them what to say, filter it, edit it, and polish it, doing so would drain their employees' words of their authenticity. Instead, encouraging their own employees to share their own thoughts in their own words is the authentic response necessary. Might some employees say the wrong thing? Sure, that's authenticity at work! My guess is that most employees, when encouraged to do so, will instead demonstrate the care and commitment they have for their jobs, the food, and the customers, which would create a wave of buzz, attention, awareness, and goodwill.
The only way to fight Social is with Social! As my friend and Fullhouse peer Cindi Thomas says, "Focus on the Social, not the Media!"