There’s a Time and a Place for Pizza…and for Crisis Management

Pizza and Crisis Management

There’s a Time and a Place for Pizza…and for Crisis Management

By Dina Ely

Pizza and Crisis ManagementOh, DiGiorno. What a week you’ve had.

In the wake of the Ray Rice video and ensuing controversy, the Twitterverse showed some true vulnerability and profound emotion with a trending topic #WhyIStayed. Domestic violence survivors used the hashtag to tweet incredibly honest and visceral stories about their experiences. The hashtag has been used more than 92,000 times, according to The Huffington Post.

And then there was DiGiorno.

DiGiorno’s reputation on Twitter has always been fairly good. They usually have their fingers on the pulse of Twitter trends and frequently play off hashtags and memes with great speed and clever wit. However, they made a massive mistake at the height of the #WhyIStayed trend. Not bothering to read any of the tweets actually associated with the hashtag, they simply tweeted, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.

Needless to say the response on Twitter was pretty fierce, and DiGiorno deleted the tweet and has spent the better part of the week replying to angry tweets with sincere apologies. Foot firmly in mouth, DiGiorno has had some serious damage control to do, and marketers and PR firms around the globe are using it as a prime example of the dangers of brands getting careless on social media.

Timing is everything on Twitter. The average tweet has a lifespan of 18 minutes. You have to think of something clever, tweet it, and hope it gets retweeted enough to make an impact – all in under 20 minutes. Some brands do it well, and others fail miserably. But just like there’s a time and a place for pizza, there’s a time and a place for being cute on Twitter. Sometimes it’s far better to pass on a potentially hazardous opportunity or at least cast the concern for that 18 minute lifespan aside and think things through before tweeting.

That’s the core message of DiGiorno’s debacle.

Had DiGiorno’s social media team taken the time to read the tweets associated with the #WhyIStayed hashtag – and even sixty seconds of reading would have told them it was NOT an appropriate hashtag to attempt to brand – the whole mess could have been avoided.

Some, like Katrina Sands, are arguing that this sloppy tweeting is a rising problem with brands, and that the apology “sorry, didn’t read the hashtag” is no more than a canned excuse that’s becoming very transparent.

But as Katrina also points out, DiGiorno didn’t take the route that many brands take, which is simply to reply to tweets with a single copy-and-paste message that they think will please everyone. DiGiorno has worked hard to personally address each complaint in what is actually a very impressive, and massive, display of crisis management.

This is the side of public relations that’s not so fun. It’s certainly not glamorous. But it’s one of the most important aspects of PR, because brand reputations can be utterly unmade in the blink of an eye. It’s up to PR pros to handle the crisis in a way that reverses damage that’s been done.

DiGiorno’s team has done a commendable job. It’s probably not been a palatable task and it’s probably taken an emotional toll, certainly on the person responsible for the offending tweet. But Twitter is willing to forgive and forget when a brand is seriously contrite, so DiGiorno will live to tweet another day.

We’ve witnessed plenty of brand Twitter gaffes, some for the history books, and there will surely be many more to come. After the initial cynical chuckles, what should remain most interesting to us as professionals using social media is how brands handle the aftermath. There are lessons to be learned in watching crisis management unfold before our eyes. DiGiorno has taught us that it’s possible to save face with a heaping dose of humility and a personal touch.