April 16th, 2009

Reputation management for the YouTube era

by sage island

This week, a disturbing YouTube video posted by two disgruntled Domino’s employees quickly went viral. The video, titled “Disgusting Domino’s People,” shows the employees doing gross things to the food they would eventually serve.

The implications for the Domino’s brand are catastrophic. Though it was an isolated incident in one store, it spread throughout the country through various social media channels. Domino’s franchises on the other side of the country will most likely feel the fallout of this incident. It’s a scary reminder of the power of viral marketing.

While the impact is unavoidable, Domino’s acted swiftly to respond to the incident on YouTube. Today Domino’s posted this personal response from the company’s president, Patrick Doyle.

What can we learn from Domino’s response?

Act fast.

Domino’s issued a press release immediately, but it was two full days before they responded to the video directly on YouTube. Two days is a lifetime when it comes to viral content. The faster you respond, the faster you can steer the conversation.

Viral content lasts forever — so should your response.

The most effective response will reach out directly to the viral audience that spread the damaging content. Today’s YouTube statement was much more effective than Tuesday’s press release, and it will continue to reach customers even as the press coverage dies down.

Viral content lasts forever, but a press release only lasts through one news cycle. To ensure that the video will continue to reach their customers affected by the damaging content, Domino’s wisely included the title from the original video in their response and added “Domino’s Responds.” When people search YouTube to find the video they’ve heard so much about, they’ll also find a direct response from the company. Like the damaging viral video, this response will last forever.

Don’t just apologize, take action.

Instead of playing the victim and placing all the blame on the employees, Doyle clearly outlines the actions Domino’s will take to protect their customers in the future. Not only does he assure customers that the specific store has been sterilized, but he assures them that Domino’s is working to prevent this from happening again. “We’re re-examining all of our hiring practices to make sure that people like this don’t make it into our stores,” he says.

Make the last word a good one.

The last minute of the Domino’s response is devoted to displaying the brand in a positive light. Your response is your opportunity to get the last word in. Don’t waste it rehashing the negative press. Use it to remind your customers why they should trust you.

Unfortunately, social media and user generated content have made it much harder for brands to shield themselves from this type of damage. That’s why it’s more important than ever that you know and understand how to use social media channels to promote your company positively and protect your brand from damaging viral content. Through smart use of social media, you can shift the conversation to correct the damage just as quickly as it was done.