Dominos Pizza – The Rubicon of PR – When you had to get involved (+United & guitars)


The Dominos “YouTube Adventure” last week  – when a couple made a disgusting video of what they did in making a Dominos Sub – is I think a “Rubicon” moment.  Not just for Dominos, who had already put their toe into the river of Social Media but for every enterprise. (Excellent revue here  by Frederic Lardinois from Read Write Web on what happened + Stats + Dominos response + an analysis)

All your customers, voters, members, suppliers – the public are now linked. Newsworthy events that are good and bad will spread like wildfire. Look at the “Good” event of Susan Boyle – as of this date 20 million views in less than a week!

The Rubicon is that – whether you like it or not – the public are now linked so well, that anything said about you will now spread everywhere and very quickly. This linkage, and hence the speed and immediacy of the spread, can only get wider and faster. Maybe, in a few months, events that affect you will spread instantly to everyone. What will spread the fastest of course will be the bad things.

So the new reality is that it is what others say that will matter not what you say. So your reputation – your brand – the trust you have – is now not longer easily or directly controlled by you.

You have to be swimming in this river to have any chance of protecting your name.

As with Dominos – using the new social media tools is not enough. You will have to understand and become a master of how to live and do well in thus new world.

Compared to many today, Dominos were somewhat ready. But even then – I think because they had only installed the tools but not the culture – they were awkward. They were late in catching their problem. Late in a their response. Stilted in their response – they did not understand that a scripted response is not going to help much.

They were still operating the new tools with the old culture.

They gave their CEO a script. He read from the prompter and did not make emotional contact with the audience. But Dominos still did well compared maybe to you! For do you even have the tools?

But of course it is not just about the tools. The issue is that you can no longer control. So their new plan is of course the old plan – “let’s control the store”. Their key response is to ban video cameras from their stores! This means a ban on cell phones really and how practical can that be?

The only effective response will be to get into the river with everyone else and get really good at how to behave in this new river. It will be to become so engaged that the conversation can be affected or shaped. You have to be a trusted part of the conversation to do this. You cannot just barge in.

Dominos and you will have to unlearn and put away all of what made old PR work. For all of PR up to now has used “Message” – a tightly controlled and scripted response where the text is key. Now you have to use “Presence” – an emotional message where the authenticity of the humanity of the “speaker” carries the point. Volts versus Amps.

This River will soon operate at the speed of light. To protect your name, you have to be a major presence in the river now. You have to merge with the river so that your nervous system is acutely attuned to the slightest hint of trouble. The leverage is Trust. Only a trusted player in the river will have any chance of settling down the ripples.

To have the Trust, you need to be known. To be known, you have to be a person and not an institution.The people that represent you in this river have to be free people who can be trusted. They have to have won the trust of the river. If trouble occurs, they have to respond immediately without a script. They have to be empathic and not controlled.

This role is foreign to institutions who are all about control. The answer are not the tools but the culture.

The error is to see your participation in Social Media as having the right Tools. “We use Twitter!” is a meaningless statement. Hey you can give me all the tools I would need to fix a car and I still will not be able to fix a car. Worse you can give me an airplane to fly and I will crash every time. The people who work for you in this field have to be the real deal. You would not hire a CFO who did not know her stuff?

Why simply tell your existing PR folks who know nothing about this – in fact who hate it – to take over? All of how PR, Research and Marketing has been done until now will have to be unlearned. Traditional PR, Research and Marketing folks will feel very uncomfortable and will do what all prior paradigm leaders do when confronted with the real future. They will undermine and fight it. They have to. For this is their nemesis.

The context for this decision is that the old world is dying. Here is how Coke is responding:

ATLANTA: Coca-Cola has created a new office of digital communications and social media within its public affairs and communications department. Clyde Tuggle, SVP of corporate affairs and productivity at Coke, noted “mass media is declining in importance,” when introducing the new department in a memo to staff, which the beverage manufacturer shared with PRWeek.

“Our future success depends on our continued ability to connect people to our brands and our Company all around the world, one person at a time,” Tuggle wrote. “Our new office of digital communications and social media will help us become even more comfortable and effective in these new spaces.”

The new unit will work in collaboration with global interactive marketing, IT, and consumer affairs, as well as legal and strategic security.

Adam Brown, digital communications director, and Anne Carelli, digital communications manager, will have oversight of corporate digital and social media communications efforts. Both Brown and Carelli will continue ongoing training programs, such as “Training Byte” online videos, in addition to “more robust” programs through its new PAC Institute.

The ideas in the new world that will have to be learned anew include these:

  • Listen before you Speak – The New Tools allow you to hear the slightest tremor. Last week I Tweeted that I had done my taxes and that I had used QuickTax. Within minutes QuickTax had responded with a thank you. A week earlier I Tweeted that I had had a problem with accessing Ning. Within minutes a customer service person from Ning contacted me and worked over the weekend to solve my problem. If you cannot do this – you are not in the game. In future, most of your research will operate in real time without you having to ask any questions. Your new job will be to listen minute by minute and to have tools and people that can make sense of the stream. Not only to make sense of what you hear but also to shape the stream. QuickTax is responding to every mention good or bad. An early and a personal response, can settle a problem that could become a crisis. Such a strategy dramatically reduces your costs in research and brand management. Such a strategy dramatically increases your effectiveness and reduces your risks. More for less.
  • Participate not Pontificate – To be heard, you have to participate. To speak, you have to lose your corporate voice. You have to lose the official tone of voice. You have to regain a human voice. This can only be done if you allow your social media staff to be themselves. They cannot be the highly controlled drones that are the standard in the corporate or bureaucratic world – many people in your organization will not be able to lose this voice. They even use it at home. Simply training old staff will not be enough. For how can you have trained people in the Shetl to be Americans?  You have to live in the New World to become a citizen. To have the new voice is to be a native of the new culture that is the very opposite of the norms of the old country. As with immigrants, it will be the kids who will get it first and they will train the others. But the Bubbies will never get it. This aspect of having the new strategy work or not is the most challenging part of all of this. In the end it means, that the old culture has to die too. Maybe in the interim, you set your unit up apart from the rest and have it report to the CEO for protection. Clayton Christenson has a lot to say about this problem. For to respond to this new reality demands that you disrupt your culture. The most difficult of all acts for a leader.
  • Importance – Life or Death: This is not an add on or a side show as Newspapers found – This is all about whether you are going to live or die – As the Coke folks say but more gently than I – Mass Media is dying. So then is the entire Mass Media approach to PR and Broadcast – the God-like Voice and Moses with the Text of God from on high does not work. So how important is your reputation? How important is your business or enterprise? Adopting this new way is one of the most important decisions you will make. So also having the RIGHT PEOPLE to do this for you is the second decision you will make after deciding to cross the River. Ideally you have to have them report to the CEO. Ideally the CEO needs to become immersed as well. If I can do this, aged 59 and having spent most of my working life in institutions. Then so can you. The only issue is will. Do you have the will as a CEO to move into the future?


Caesar made the call by crossing the Rubicon to end the Republic and to begin the Empire. He had the will to stake it all. There was then no going back.

Actually it is society that has crossed the Rubicon. The new interactive and participative world is now here.

Will you cross too? This is a life or death decision for you. It’s also a winning choice. Many will not be able to make this choice. Their own culture will be too powerful. If you can, you have the advantage. The earlier you move, the better you will get at this.

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