Web 2.0 Crisis Communication (2009)

John Bell has a nice post here on crisis management related to the recent crisis communication issue that the pizza company Dominos had.

For those who didn’t know, the pizza company Dominos had two employees videotape themselves behind the counter making some sandwiches. They sneezed on the food, picked their nose, and stuck some cheese up their nose then placed it back in the sandwich.

After watching the Dominos Youtube incident evolve over several days, I would think that a lot of organizations that have their ear to the ground were taking notes and identifying some kind of social media crisis management plan.

The companies that will have the most trouble are those that don’t have their ear to the ground and have no idea of incidents like this one that involve their company.

The Dominoes video went viral and it was watched more than 800,000 times without anyone in the mainstream media really picking it up.

The crisis evolved over about a weeks time and after several days of silence, Dominos finally responded with a Youtube video from the President and some engagement with bloggers and tweeters.

Other than a few stories in the press, a few mainstream and some local, it never caught fire like people suspected it would. Nevertheless, the incident has had big repercussions for the company.

So crisis management in new media has not changed – it still requires a speedy response, honesty, and openness, we just need to be more in tune with the various social media venues.

The speed that social media is able to carry information via videos, blogs, and photos, has made crisis management harder.

You need to 1) identify the crisis, 2) make a plan, and 3) respond.

Identifying the crisis cannot happen unless you know it’s going on. Dominos did not even know the incident was going on until it was seen by hundreds of thousands of people. John Bell’s blog post explains the important of getting a listening post in place.

Some examples of this I can give are setting up Google alerts, identify your organizations keywords and do a search on them every day, figure out where your organizational members and customers are going to and monitor them whether it’s Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, or something else.

You should have a number of templated plans already in hand, but the ‘making a plan’ needs to happen quickly. By the time you find out about a crisis it is likely in viral mode and your response needs to be quick.

Finally, when you do respond, you should be honest and as transparent as you can be.

The Domino’s Youtube video was good but as one blogger mentioned, he spoke to the side of the camera and not to the viewer. Little details like what a person says and how a person says it needs to be thought of and critically critiqued prior to the release to make sure you have the best response possible.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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