Apr 23, 2009
Your brand has been bashed, now what do you do?
Posted by: Marian Salzman In: branding
Online brand-bashing is a reality all companies face, just ask Domino’s. Companies can help guard against it by opening up an honest dialogue with consumers and by maintaining transparency, but if in fact they get hit, they had better react fast.
I started this discussion among industry colleagues and consumers (we are all consumers, after all) via Facebook, Twitter and HARO, and my research shows opinions about the best courses of action fit into six groups. These form vital checkpoints for defending and ultimately enhancing reputation.
Be There Fast. Awareness and Presence: It’s vital for brands and corporations to be present where conversations are taking place (e.g., social media), so they can track, troubleshoot and respond quickly.
How did Domino’s handle the situation? From where I sit, badly. Domino’s spokesman Tim McIntyre said executives decided not to respond aggressively, hoping the controversy would quiet down. While the company had been made aware of the videos by Monday evening via a blogger, it took them until Wednesday to get a Twitter account as well as a YouTube video of the CEO in place to respond to consumer concerns. —Ken Makovsky, My Three Cents
#1: Rapid response. Find the people who are spreading the misinformation. #2: Feed them accurate info (targeted messaging). #3: Listen and measure results. —Jason Selss, Communications Director, Remarkable Search, via e-mail
Suck It Up. Acknowledgment and Apology: When something bad happens, it’s vital to acknowledge it quickly and to apologize sincerely. Stalling and shifting blame are counterproductive and will raise further ire among consumers.
In our 20 years of research on how leaders build trust, we found that there are four ways in which trust is built: by being Reliable, Open and honest, Competent and Compassionate. We call this the ROCC of Trust. Domino’s took a good first step with its YouTube video by expressing remorse and being open and honest about the situation, taking responsibility for it instead of hiding behind two incompetent employees. —Karen E. Mishra, Assistant Professor of Marketing and Advertising, Meredith College School of Business, via e-mail
Don’t Hide. Transparency: Reputation problems can be both prevented and remedied by thinking and acting transparently. The corporation must be ready for public scrutiny—because it can occur at any time.
Domino’s may wish to invite some influencers to witness the entire process: food selection, logistics, hiring, storage, making of the pizzas, etc. —Brad MacAfee, Partner and Managing Director, Porter Novelli, via e-mail
Remember Desire. Marketing: The established disciplines of marketing still apply. And a reputation crisis is actually an opportunity to win customers back and draw attention to the right things.
If Domino’s really wanted to be creative in its response, record a video of chef Gordon Ramsay conducting one of his notoriously pedantic inspections of the kitchen in question. With Ramsay’s seal of approval, Domino’s customers would feel comfortable ordering pizza again. —Andy Beal, founder of Trackur.com and co-author of “Radically Transparent: Monitoring & Managing Reputations Online,” via e-mail
I’d put messages targeted at existing patrons first (pizza box tip-ons, in-store posters), followed by paid mass-media messages targeted at patrons who may have reservations about ordering from Domino’s (coupons for discounted pizzas, incentive offerings to drive orders to local locations). —Noel Griese, APR, author of “How To Manage Organizational Communication During Crisis,” via e-mail
Talk Sense. Tonality: What a corporation or brand says is very important, but so is how it says it. Serious events demand a serious tone that matches the mood of consumers but doesn’t amplify it.
The video response from Domino’s president struck the right tone and included all the right elements for moving forward—restating the facts, punishment for the culprits, making sure it never happens again and asking for brand forgiveness. … Brand terrorists are all around us. It is how companies respond that makes the difference between success and failure. Domino’s will do just fine.” —Leslie Gaines-Ross, Chief Reputation Strategist, Weber Shandwick, via e-mail
Be One. Solidarity: Provided a brand or corporation hasn’t alienated people beyond repair, it should ally itself with the common cause of customers, employees and other corporations with similar interests.
I just watched Domino’s video response and found it effective. Focusing on the independent owners and thousands of employees who may lose their jobs if people stop ordering their pizza […] is the right message in these “times are tough” times. People are aware of the horrible things that can happen due to wild Internet postings and urban legend rumors and can be sympathetic, if this is positioned as a rogue incident. —Elise Goyette, via Facebook
Perhaps they might want to put up a Web site where people can send in specific questions and concerns. People nowadays don’t simply want to be told, they want to take part in the process. As is often the case, in the midst of controversy, there is opportunity. Lots of people are thinking about Domino’s right now, so let’s get them thinking for us. What ideas can you think of that would make our product better? Maybe it’s time for some changes and new direction. Now’s the time to act. —Dan Collins, APR, ABC, PR professional, via e-mail