notes on a crisis

MediaWeek just published an article of mine, Notes on a Crisis, about what Domino’sdominos-logo and other brands can do to revive and thrive after a catastrophe.  The piece outlines three lessons learned from the 1990’s Jack in the Box food poisoning crisis.

I wrote the article in part because there had been so much chatter about Domino’s immediate response to the disgusting video posted on YouTube — whether Domino’s moved fast enough, whether a video response from the company’s president was the right approach, etc. — and yet, there seemed to be a lack of long-term perspectives on the incident:  Was the immediate response enough?  How can Domino’s address lingering consumer doubts about the brand?  How can Domino’s turn the problem into a positive?

While the importance of a swift and reassuring response to such a crisis cannot be overstated, the actions by the offending company in the following months and years are equally important.

Suzy Welch, Jack Welch‘s wife, recently published a book, 10-10-10, based on a decision-making approach that she has employed to “transform her life.”  When faced with a dilemma about what to do, Welch advises, “All it takes to begin are three questions: What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes?  In 10 months?   And in 10 years?

It seems this framework, which seems a really smart way of guiding decision-making, can also be applied to plotting a response to a crisis.  A company should ask, “What do we want people to know/think/feel about us in 10 minutes?  In 10 months?  In 10 years?

Importantly, the answers to these questions can’t all be about what/how the company communicates — a true and complete recovery takes much more than simply managing the conversation.

In the case of Domino’s, I argue the company should use this opportunity to address concerns people have had about is brand all along (food quality) and to assert leadership in the category.  The incident created the perfect storm of heightened consumer awareness and desperate internal stakeholders and so the company is ripe for bold, broad changes.

The Twitterati may have already moved on to the next hot topic, but the residual effects of such a crisis on customers, employees, and other stakeholders may last far longer.  I hope Domino’s rises to the occasion and takes some brand-building steps to fuel its success into the next 10 years.

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