Social Media and Crisis Management. No. Just no.

So I responded to a question on LinkedIn – see. I AM hip. And savvy. I DO know something about social media and I DO quite like it – I just don’t think it’s going to save the world of PR and Communications. No matter what Anthony Hilton says (PR Week April 23 2009). Sadly, I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about, which is a shame.

Anyway, I had a go at social media – again – and whinged on – as usual – about how you can measure it, but not evaluate it and thus it’s all fine and dandy if numbers of hits and views are your bag, but if you want to know what people have ACTUALLY DONE in reaction to your content, then social media does not deliver. End of.

The hapless soul who’d been on the receiving end of my jaded rant (a jaded rant, I may add, that is absolutely 100% correct, every time) came back with another question, which got me thinking. Here’s the question and my response:

“I am curious: What do you think about brands using SM as a tool to deal with a crisis? Similar to what Dominos is doing now with the YouTube videos, Twitter account, etc. Is this a smart tactic?”


I’ll go back to what I said earlier – one shouldn’t ignore social media, but I don’t see it (at the moment anyway) as a serious tool for ‘front foot’ PR/comms campaigns. If you want to publicise your brand or product, or want to enhance corporate reputation and – importantly – you want to be able to evaluate (not measure) the results, then social media, for all sorts of different reasons, is not your first port of call.

But when you come to bad news, ‘back foot’, reactive stuff, then social media is real trouble, as Dominos found out. And because you cannot evaluate it, they’ll never know – apart from impact on sales – what the damage is. My gut feel is that it’s a flash in the pan, it’ll be forgotten and Dominos will continue as normal.

That being said, while they cannot control the spread of a message through social media and nor can they, effectively, counteract it, they did make some stupid errors.

Firstly – why did their employees (or their franchisee’s employees) see fit to post a video on YouTube anyway? I’d make sure that it was company policy to ensure that every single employee knows what the Dominos’ Code of Conduct is and, more importantly, what can be expected if it’s broken. There clearly aren’t enough controls in place.

Second – if there’s something wrong with their food hygiene processes – why is this and how can it be rectified. Prevention is better than cure.

Third – why did it take them so long to react? And when they did react, why did they use Twitter and not a media announcement to all media? If it’s that important, why didn’t they take out print advertisements to put their side of the story?

I’ll repeat myself – because of what social media is, and because of the way that people who use social media react to ‘Big Corporate’ content (they ignore it, or are deeply suspicious of it), a Big Corporate response against user content is always going to be a loser.

In addition, let’s not forget, a lot of their customers are not going to be ‘hip’ to social media and thus, while they’ll be exposed to the hype and title-tattle arising from social media (via friends and family) they won’t be exposed to the company’s message because it’s not been disseminated to their diet of traditional media.

I suppose the point is that, in times of crisis – no matter where that crisis arises – do not ignore social media, but do make sure that your message gets to the widest audience possible, as quickly as possible. And that can only (currently) be achieved through traditional media outlets – traditional media is your priority, social media is secondary.

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