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Employee Misconduct and Internet Video Create PR Disaster for Domino’s Pizza

April 15, 2009
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A day after a Web video showing two Domino’s employees apparently defacing its food, the pizza chain was looking for a reasoned response. Domino’s had located the employees and was examining its legal options, but was trying to stay below the radar.

What a difference a day can make.

After a blogosphere firestorm, the video went from 20,000 views on YouTube to 760,000, the errant employees have been fired and warrants were issued for their arrest. Domino’s has also posted a statement on its corporate Web site.

“The opportunities and freedom of the Internet is wonderful,” the statement reads. “But it also comes with the risk of anyone with a camera and an Internet link to cause a lot of damage, as in this case, where a couple of individuals suddenly overshadow the hard work performed by the 125,000 men and women working for Domino’s across the nation and in 60 countries around the world.”

The statement apologizes for the former employees’ actions and thanks consumers for their continued support.

Domino’s spokesman Tim McIntyre declined to comment for this story, adding that requests to do so were like “asking a victim to describe the crime scene.”

Only yesterday, April 14, McIntyre said the chain would not be posting statements on the company Web site for fear of alerting more consumers to a negative story.

He added that millions of people view the chain’s Web site every day, if only to order a pizza. Such an approach “would be like putting out a candle with a fire hose,” he said.

But a number of crisis experts are concerned that the company is doing just that.

I do think that decisive action needed to be taken and termination is the first step,” said Gene Grabowski, senior vice president at Levick Strategic Communications, adding that arresting the youths might not be the right next step. “The next thing they have to do is look forward and show customers and prospective customers what they’re doing to make sure this will never happen again.”

First and foremost is instituting a more stringent employee-training regimen and issuing a press release about it. He suggested that Domino’s consider tapping a former Food and Drug Administration official as a food safety czar.

The chain might also consider creating its own YouTube video, beginning with an apology and then describing the quality standards at Domino’s. The chain could drive awareness of the video through paid search engine optimization, its own Web site and Twitter. He noted that Mattel used the strategy successfully in the wake of the Chinese toy scandal of 2007.


Filed by Emily Bryson York of Advertising Age, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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