listening, reputation management

Listening and Learning from Domino’s Pizza

8 Comments 16 April 2009

Domino's Pizza, image by Adam Kuban

Domino's Pizza, image by Adam Kuban

Hasn’t every nonprofit or business had the “customer from hell?” I remember one client that kept threatening to sue our organization for every minute perceived slight: she wasn’t receiving the services she wanted, she thought our processes weren’t fair, or she didn’t get a spot in every program we offered. I can only imagine if she had been tech-savvy with a blog. Her posts could have gone viral, spread to our funders, our other clients, and local politicians. From there, it would have been no time until her discontent would have affected our funding sources, donors, and political standing. Did we have listening filters in place? NO. Should we have?


Domino’s Pizza is in the middle of a bad dream. They probably could not have imagined that two employees would create a video of themselves violating all sorts of health regulations while making pizza for delivery. (The employees claim it was a prank.) These two employees uploaded their video, and…guess what? It went viral. Within a few days, the video had been viewed more than a million times on You Tube. The astounding part to me is that Domino’s corporate had no idea that this video was out and garnering attention until a blogger notified Domino’s of the video.

The real takeaway for me is: why did a blogger notify Domino’s of the prank? Why wasn’t Domino’s Pizza listening?

As reported in the New York Times: “’we got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea,’ said a Domino’s spokesman, Tim McIntyre, who added that the company was preparing a civil lawsuit.” As further reported by the New York Times, “executives decided not to respond aggressively, hoping the controversy would quiet down.” Additionally, it was The Consumerist that tracked down the franchise location and employees, not Domino’s Pizza, and notified Domino’s. Domino’s should never have been blindsided; they should have had reputation management filters and screens in place. The result: “the perception of its quality among consumers went from positive to negative since Monday, according to the research firm YouGov…”

Wow. Domino’s missed the boat. Well really, they missed the video.

What happened?

1. They weren’t listening. Not at all. Until now.

There are enough cases of one blogger bringing down a company’s reputation a notch to warrant online reputation monitoring for every company.  I previously discussed one woman’s charge against a You Tube video ad by Johnson and Johnson.  The “Motrin Moms” campaign led J&J to take the offensive video off the air. Blogger Jeff Jarvis single-handily coined the term “Dell Hell” and drowned Dell’s reputation…until Dell started paying attention.

2. They didn’t respond immediately.

According to the New York Times, “as the company learned about the video on Tuesday, Mr. McIntyre said, executives decided not to respond aggressively, hoping the controversy would quiet down.” They should have learned from Dell. Dell didn’t respond in any timely way to Mr. Jarvis’ repeated complaints, which fostered other Dell consumers’ frustration, and eventually led to stock decline, executive firing, and customer abandonment. Read about the way that Dell has dealt with its reputation issues, and Sony has not, in this insightful article.

3. They let the citizen journalists and social media participants define the news story.

The video garnered one million views in a few days. It was discussed all over Twitter. Since Domino’s didn’t respond quickly online, they lost control of the story.

I’ve just finished an amazing book, Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online, by Andy Beal and Dr. Judy Strauss. (I’m sure they are listening online to me now.) They emphasize that brand control is shifting to citizen journalists and the obvious follow that companies do not control their own reputation anymore. They are right to say “search engines are reputation engines,” and we need to pay attention. Are you paying attention?

All of this brings up for me this point: No person or company is immune. Not even nonprofits.

Gather together your online monitoring toolkit and start listening. What are you hearing?

If you’re looking for a tips, tools and an overview, here are a few online and offline resources:

Radically Transparent, by Andy Beal and Dr. Judy Strauss. A comprehensive overview and do-it-yourself guide to reputation monitoring.

My earier post, Listening Tour, on how to set up a simple online monitoring system.

Dan Schwabel: Six Free Tools for Online Reputation Management

ReadWriteWeb: review of other free and paid reputation monitoring tools

Lifehacker: Using RSS and MonitorThis

Chris Brogan: Five Tools I Use for Listening

MissionCreep: 4 Methods and 40 Free Tools for Listening to Online Conversations

Interactive Insights Group: How to Search the Social Web – Ultimate Toolkit

Social Media Answers: Reputation Management and Monitoring Online



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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