Smart Response Critical in Crisis, IFA Panelist Says
Dominos Pizza was the first corporation to post a video on YouTube of its president, Patrick Doyle, responding to a hoax in 2009 that could have badly damaged the brand.
Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications at Domino's pizza for a couple of decades, has learned many lessons about crisis management that have only grown sharper since the rise of social media. A cardinal rule: “Your response affects your reputation as much as the incident itself,” he said at a panel on the topic Sunday at the International Franchise Association’s annual conference in San Antonio.
He cites BP’s Deepwater Horizon’s 2010 explosion and Gulf oil spill, in a bad way. The CEO was quoted saying “nobody wants this to be over more than me, to get my life back,” McIntyre recalled, “forgetting there were seven people killed,” families were grieving and oil was gushing into the Gulf. (That same CEO also infamously implied the spill wasn’t all that bad, saying “it’s a big ocean” and thus further sealing his speedy exile as spokesperson during the crisis.)
McIntyre has maintained for years a list of every possible thing that could go wrong at the pizza chain and what to do about it, listed in alphabetical order and broken down into sometimes macabre categories, such as “driver shot and survives,” or “driver shot and is killed.” He updates and shares the list with his team regularly.
Another McIntyre rule: “If it’s a crisis where someone got hurt, always lead with concern for the person who was hurt,” he advised, and said Chipotle failed this test during their recent food-safety problems, although he did not name names.
“There was a restaurant brand who spoke at an investors’ conference in January, who talked about what a hard year it was for them,” he said, meaning corporate management, while “totally neglecting the fact that hundreds of people were in emergency rooms and getting sick.”
McIntyre’s work on a Domino’s crisis in 2009, in the early days of the social media era, is a classic case on the right way to respond. Two employees posted a video of themselves on YouTube putting gross items on the food. McIntyre decided to put the president at the time of Domino’s USA in a video of its own—a first for a corporation to post a response on YouTube. “It sickens me that the actions of two individuals could impact our system,” Patrick Doyle said on the video, in an emotional response that effectively diluted the controversy.
“Sometimes the biggest ‘enemy’ is your own employee. Everybody wants to be famous or infamous—it’s the Kardashian effect,” McIntyre said on the panel. The International Franchise Association annual conference ends Tuesday.