Damage control in the digital age

Dee Dee Jacobs, SBJ Web EditorTwo high-profile incidents last week are serving as a lesson in the new age of damage control for businesses everywhere.

Domino’s Pizza took a major PR hit when an online video surfaced showing two employees defacing food as they prepared it in the kitchen (I’ll spare your stomach and skip the specifics). The employees, who were later fired, claim it was a joke.

But it didn’t matter. In the 24 hours that Domino’s waited to address the situation publicly, the video racked up hundreds of thousands of views, and discussions about it permeated Twitter.

Domino’s execs got the hint and responded by posting a YouTube video starring President Patrick Doyle. They also created a Twitter account to answer direct questions from customers.

In another online debacle last week, Amazon took flak after some gay- and lesbian-themed books were pulled from the Web site, instantly spurring accusations of censorship. The Twittersphere was awash in negative comments.

The retailer issued a statement, calling the incident a glitch.

Domino’s had the right idea, even if it took some convincing. The company recognized that the best way to deal with the situation was to face it head-on and join the online discussions. Amazon chose a much more corporate route, effectively letting its naysayers control the online conversation.

It’s all a lesson in public relations – or digital public relations, as a Los Angeles Times article calls it. The old rules of damage control just don’t apply anymore.

The power that your customers hold in a single 140-character post is undeniable. Don’t try to fight it – use it to your advantage! The L.A. Times article suggests securing your own domain names in various online environments (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and building a community around your brand. If a crisis happens, you’ll be ready.

What do you think?

  • How do you think your company would have handled a situation like these?
  • Should Domino’s or Amazon have reacted differently? How so?
  • Has your opinion of Amazon or Domino’s changed?

Let me know in the “Responses” area below. Or, join Twitter and tell me. Follow SBJ at sbj.net/twitter.

2 Responses to “Damage control in the digital age”

  1. 1 Tina Wann April 23, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Wow! I’ve been sick all week and it looks like I have missed a lot. I actually just read an article recently about the importance of companies stepping up, admitting that they messed up, and taking the hit. In the end, they get more respect. The way Amazon handled their situation only causes a lot of sighs and eye rolls for the most part. Now…I’m off to google this so I can see this Domino video with my own eyes….something I will probably regret later. ha ha

  2. 2 Frank Shipe April 23, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Another excellent article by Dee Dee.

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