New Media effect on Crisis Communications: A fresh look at BP & Domino’s Pizza crises

 

2000px-Dominos_pizza_logo.svgAs a twenty-something public relations professional, I am aware of the role social media plays within an organization. Social media has transformed how organizations communicate their messages. It has forever changed the way organizations respond to consumer needs, and it will continue to help build business-to-consumer relationships.

I, along with the rest of the digitally savvy millennial generation signed up for Twitter just months after it was launched. I grew up surfing YouTube videos and I could re-design my MySpace page with my eyes closed.  Needless to say, I always stayed up to date with the latest digital trends and I would have been the perfect employee for Domino’s Pizza in 2009.

Companies like Domino’s Pizza and British Petroleum suffered major setbacks and badly bruised egos after  their ill-prepared responses to viral crisis situations. In case you’ve been under a rock for the last five years, here’s what happened:

In 2009, two Domino’s Pizza employees filmed themselves preparing sandwiches for a delivery. Instead of following proper health-code standards, one employee put cheese up his nose, nasal mucus on the sandwiches, and violated many other standards while a fellow employee provided narration. The video was seen by millions of disgusted viewers before it was taken down. How could Domino’s allow millions of people to see this before reacting? It was quite obvious that they lacked a crisis communication plan. 

In 2010, British Petroleum (BP) responded to a massive explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico with little sincerity.  This was one of the greatest environmental disasters in history. Eleven BP employees were killed, many were injured, and millions of wildlife species were damaged if not killed. Once again, lack of a crisis communication plan was evident.

Enter Amna Husain, graduate teaching assistant and master’s student at Wayne State University. Husain is preparing to present a recent case study she worked on regarding crisis communications in social media at the Central States Communication Association Pre-conference in Madison, Wis., this April.  Husain and partner, Jessica Archer, reviewed scholarly articles on crisis communication, mainstream media coverage, and reviews by industry experts to analyze the responses with relevant communication theories as well as offer recommendations for better crisis communication practices. I sat down with Husain to get a better understanding of the study.

Of all the case studies out there revolving around crisis communications, these two stuck out to Husain. See why she picked Domino’s Pizza & BP below.

So what went wrong? Husain points out exactly what could have been improved upon in each companies’ communication.

  1. BP took several days to come up with answers as to how many gallons of oil was being spilled.
  2. BP CEO’s insensitive remarks. Ie: “This spill is very small compared to the volume of the ocean.”
  3. Domino’s delay in awareness of the situation at hand. It took Domino’s three days to respond.

Do you have any recommendations for these companies? What would you have done differently? Post your comments below.

2 thoughts

  1. Thank you for an informative article ! This is the first time I have heard of the Dominos employees doing something like that. But, I was not surprised that you found this out considering how easy it has become to post any and everything. Social media has made it difficult for everyone to feel that it is a positive more than a negative. For instance, I have a Facebook account that I use. I do talk with friends, take/comment on photos, etc. However, my main reasoning for having this account (now that I am a young adult) is to let my family members who are long-distance know “what’s going on?” Back to businesses, social media should be a learning experience for businesses to take action quickly. Some businesses have a plan on how to respond to media crisis and just don’t take initiative. how to formulate such a plan in the event something does happen.
    I totally agree with how poorly the crisis of the BP oil spill was handled. It was as if the company had no idea when they should have known EXACTLY what was going on to inform the general public. Thank you again for such a great article !

  2. Thank you for an informative article ! This is the first time I have heard of the Dominos employees doing something like that. But, I was not surprised that you found this out considering how easy it has become to post any and everything. Social media has made it difficult for everyone to feel that it is a positive more than a negative. For instance, I have a Facebook account that I use. I do talk with friends, take/comment on photos, etc. However, my main reasoning for having this account (now that I am a young adult) is to let my family members who are long-distance know “what’s going on?” Back to businesses, social media should be a learning experience for businesses to take action quickly. Some businesses have a plan on how to respond to media crisis and just don’t take initiative. Other businesses are still learning how to formulate such a plan in the event something does happen.
    I totally agree with how poorly the crisis of the BP oil spill was handled. It was as if the company had no idea when they should have known EXACTLY what was going on to inform the general public. Thank you again for such a great article !

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