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A reputation nightmare

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Friday April 17, 2009 )

The old saying goes the pen is mightier than the sword, but in the online world, a video camera is probably the more modern equivalent. The recent Dominos incident is another good example of why we need to closely monitor our online reputations.

In case you haven’t heard about it – a couple of Dominos employees thought it would be funny to shoot videos of food products being mishandled in a most disgusting manner and then upload the videos to YouTube.

Those videos have now been viewed hundreds of thousands of times and created such a stir that Dominos not only sacked the employees involved, but posted their own video in response.

Furthermore, there are felony warrants issued for the ex-employees arrest and the store where the incidents took place has been shut down to be sanitized.

The video response by Dominos was a great idea – using the same medium that brought the woe upon them; and fairly rapidly. It’s been viewed over quarter of a million times in the last couple of days.

I used to work in the fast food industry back before services such as YouTube existed and the web generally still wasn’t mainstream, but even then rumors that reflected badly on fast food chains were rampant and treated very seriously. I remember receiving a fax from head office about the most ridiculous and unbelievable rumor going around about the origin of our ingredients. I was directed to report any incidents of such rumor-mongering directly to head office so their lawyers could take action.

The directive seemed a little bit over the top at the time, but when you have a video such as the ones circulated in relation to Dominos, even if they were hoaxes in that the food wasn’t given to customers, a lot of damage can be done to a brand given the visuals and viral nature of the web – and it can happen literally overnight.

Good news spreads fast, bad news and lies even faster online.

If anything good comes out of the Dominos incident, its hopefully been a wake up call for people who feel they can post whatever they like on the web about a company and not be held accountable. Far too many people abuse the freedom of speech the web has provided us with. With true freedom comes accountability.

Many companies, large and small, work very hard to establish their brands and the fact that so much damage can be done by irresponsible people with way too much time on their hands is very unsettling. Unfortunately, with so much happening on the web, sometimes negative coverage can slip by an online business owner until it reaches a point where it’s visibly impacting their bottom line – and by that time, it can be too late.

What’s being said about your company? Pick up some tips on monitoring your online reputation.


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