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Communication is an essential part of business strategy because it enhances coordination among people and business. The pillar of effective operations in a business context is appropriate communication strategy. Without effective communication strategy, a company will easily succumb to a crisis. On the other hand, the strategic management of a communication context of a business is detrimental to its reputation among customers and the public.
With the modern technology and popularity of the internet use, a company can succumb to negative publicity attributed to by viral messages in the popular digital media such as the social media platform. Domino’s Pizza became a victim of a negative publicity through a viral message. Two employees of the company uploaded to the YouTube an adulterated food made by the company. Because of the negative information contained in the video, Domino’s Pizza was faced with a crisis that affected its business operations and reputation.
Historical Background of Domino’s Pizza
Domino’s Pizza was the largest business organization that produced and distributed pizza across the world by 1997. In addition, the company was a second largest chain of pizza in the entire United States. According to Peeples and Vaughn (2010), the company had more than 4,400 stores across the United States during the same period. Furthermore, Domino’s Pizza had over 1,500 units in the foreign countries by the end of 1997.
The company’s annual sales by then were about US$ 3.16 billion, which made it appear among the top 500 private companies listed by the Forbes (Weiss, 2009). The company sells numerous products, which included thin crust pizzas, pan and deep-dish. Even though Domino’s Pizza had developed a great brand recognition and extensive wealth, it experienced a historic crisis, which attracted the attention of many researchers in the context of communication and its application in the public relations (Young & Flowers, 2012).
Communication Crisis at Domino’s Pizza
The problem of ineffective communication and negative publicity started when two employees of Domino’s Pizza uploaded a video into YouTube. The video uploaded in 2009 carried vulgar information about the company and its products (Peeples & Vaughn, 2010). It exposed the company’s employees engaging in several practices that violated health laws. The video exposed three main activities, which included serious violation of health laws. First, it depicted employees putting cheese into their nose. Second, they were shown blowing mucous on food, especially the sandwich. Lastly, they put a sponge for washing utensils in their buttocks.
The video became popular and immediately gained a viral publicity. Within a period of one week, it had more than one million viewers in the social media platform. The main news media also included the video in their business news. As a result, the public in the social media began to discuss the video. According to the investigation research conducted by Weiss (2009), many of the discussions about the video occurred on Twitter and Facebook, which are the major social media platforms. More than 15000 people gave their opinions on the two platforms concerning the content of the video. The situation created a crisis whose solution was based on a great communication strategy.
The video went viral and it was fast damaging the reputation of Domino’s Pizza among its customers, stakeholders and the public. Consequently, the company management had to do something to counteract the destruction. It created a video showing the company’s chief executive officer apologizing. The video was uploaded to the YouTube to counter the initial video. However, this could not help because it was too late. As identified by Aula (2011), the reaction video came 48 hours after the damaging viral had been uploaded. While the video was uploaded on Monday at night, the response video was uploaded on Wednesday. Initially, the company wanted to restrict the public from accessing the video on Tuesday but it failed to materialize (Peeples & Vaughn, 2010).
Irrespective of the quick efforts to avert the damaging aspects of the video, the company suffered reputation damage. The management did not issue a formal press to the major media houses. In addition, they objected the idea of hiring an expert to curb the crisis in a creative and effective manner (Young & Flowers, 2012). Nevertheless, the company opened a Twitter account to respond and deal with inquiries and concerns of its consumers.
Afterward, Domino’s Pizza reached a decision that would help to issue an apology video on the YouTube to reduce the tension that was already spreading in several mainstream media (Weiss, 2009). The crisis communication that faced Domino’s Pizza had dire consequences to its businesses across the world.
Analysis of Domino’s Pizza Communication Crisis
The crisis is an uncertain aspect that an organization can face at any time depending on external and internal activities. Communication crisis is one of the problems that can damage the company’s operations both internally and externally. According to Schiller (2007), four strategies can be adopted to respond to the communication crisis. First, when responding to a communication crisis a company should avoid the “no responses”.
Instead, it should provide consistent information by avoiding the issuance of contradicting statement to the stakeholders. In this context, all the information provided can be substantiated. Second, the strategy for a communication crisis should focus on stakeholders’ reactions. In this sense, the stakeholders are customers, shareholders, employees and the public. The words used to respond to such crises must take into consideration all stakeholders. Third, the information should be constructive and aimed at repairing the company’s reputation. Fourth, the management must create both physical and informational preparation when dealing with a crisis (Young & Flowers, 2012).
The use of instructional information when a crisis emerges gives the management the necessary power to deal with the negative publicity. In this context, they develop an ability to create constructive information and give warning signals. The need to adjust the information in terms of convincing power and significance will be essential in helping the stakeholders and customers deal with the psychological effects created. The activities entailed in repairing the reputation must consider all the aspects of the stakeholders and customers as well as the public. Failure to consider the effects of the crisis response information to the consumers made the strategy of Domino’s Pizza fail (Weiss, 2009).
Instead of focusing on the damaging information uploaded on the YouTube, the management of Domino’s Pizza could have focused on a new marketing strategy aimed at improving its brand image and reputation. The effort of quality improvement to avert a crisis, according to Schiller (2007), must put into consideration various factors such as unpredictability, urgency and significance of controlling threats.
It is very hard to engage the public in a counter argument through social media platforms. Many people have tended to engage with the negative information more than they do with the information meant to correct the crisis. Therefore, instead of dueling on the crisis, the company could have developed a marketing strategy meant to divert the attention of the stakeholders, customers and the public.
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As pointed out by Claeys and Cauberghe (2012), the immediate response to a communication crisis is saying the truth. In the context Domino’s Pizza, the management did not want to say the truth immediately and that contributed the significant destruction of its reputation. Facing the public and proving the real accounts surrounding the destructive information is essential. That way, the company will reduce the keen interest of the public on the viral content.
The truth that the company’s top manager wanted to convey was that the content was stage-managed by two employees whose aim was to make fun. In the response video, the chief executive asserted that the company did not use the Domino’s Pizza brand (Weiss, 2009). Even though it was the truth, it came a bit late. In addition, the information was presented in a manner that signified an apology instead of giving the truth.
Another strategy that the company had used to curb the crisis was to isolate the two employees from the company. To begin with, Domino’s Pizza was an international company that employed more than 10,000 people across the (Peeples & Vaughn, 2010). In this case, they were two employees who decided to tarnish the name of the company and thousands of workers who have been working hard to enhance the company’s successful.
They proved to the public that it was not possible for the company to indulge itself in such undesired practices (Aula, 2011). It explains why Patrick Doyle had to apologize for the mischievousness of the rouge employees who were irresponsible. Consequently, the company made a significant effort to repair the reputation. The main problem was that the response came too late, especially for an event that occurred on the social media.
The crisis at Domino’s Pizza could be used to analyse the manner in which contents are created on the social media platform in two ways. The first content includes facts while another one contains opinions. While the factual content had no sentiments, the content with opinions had sentiments and emotional aspects in it. The information containing facts is normally used to counteract the opinions that exhibit people’s feelings about an event (Young & Flowers, 2012). Based on the incident, many opinions tweeted were negative and they could have significant effects on the company if they were not dealt with accordingly. As a result, the company used the apology as a strategy to solve the crisis.
Communication is an essential part of any organization because of its role in linking the entity with the public. The information given to the public by the organization’s management or its employees can have either positive or negative influence depending on its nature. With the age of technology and the social media platform, a sensitive piece of information can go viral within hours. For instance, Domino’s Pizza suffered negative publicity through the video uploaded by its two employees to YouTube.
When such negative information is released to the public, the organization has the mandate of ensuring that they respond to the information effectively. Through their communication strategy, the company said the truth and apologized to the public about what the rogue employees did.
Aula, P. (2011). Meshworked reputation: Publicists’ views on the reputational impacts of online communication. Public Relations Review, 37(1), 28-36.
Claeys, A., & Cauberghe, V. (2012). Crisis response and crisis timing strategies, two sides of the same coin. Public Relations Review, 38(1), 83-88.
Peeples, A. & Vaughn, C. (2010). Domino’s “special” delivery: Going viral through social media. Arthur W. Page Society Case Study Competition in Corporate Communications, 45. Web.
Schiller, M. (2007). Crisis and the web: How to leverage the internet when a brand takes a hit. Adweek, 48(10), 16-24.
Weiss, T. (2009). Crisis management- Domino’s case study research. Trendsspotting Blog, 34. Web.
Young, C. l., & Flowers, A. (2012). Fight viral with viral: A Case Study of Domino’s Pizza’s Crisis Communication Strategies. Case Studies in Strategic Communication, 1. Web.