Penance, Pizza, and Public Relations: The Best Reputation Management Lesson You Can Learn From DiGiorno Pizza

My mom always said that when you hurt someone’s feelings, you have to say you’re sorry…and you have to mean it.

By now, it’s likely you’ve seen the infamous DiGiorno Pizza tweet gaffe that appeared to mock victims of domestic violence on Twitter by using the conversational hashtag #WhyIStayed.

DiGiorno-Pizza-WhyIStayed-Blunder-e1410272937785I’ll admit, the minute I saw it, I was beyond appalled, especially on the heels of Spirit Airlines exploiting the tragedy of the theft of naked female celebrity pictures as an excuse to promote their “BARE FARE” sale.  My first thought was to question how it’s possible that there is so little common sense in the people who are the public faces of these companies online and via social media.  And I’ll tell you, even though I had already vowed to never use Spirit Airlines, and I rarely eat DiGiorno pizza, these marketing mistakes turned me off the brands even further – and I didn’t think that was even possible with Sprit Airlines.  Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom with a brand, the bottom falls out again.

But I was wrong to lump DiGiorno in with Spirit Airlines.  It wasn’t the same mistake.  Spirit Airlines knew exactly what they were doing and initially acted without apology.  DiGiorno, on the other hand… they didn’t research the conversation happening around the hashtag of #WhyIStayed.  Okay, yes, it was still beyond stupid as a marketing mistake.  And, yes, it should have never
happened.  And, yes, it upset people, justifiably.  But at the core of it, it was a mistake of ignorance, not a mistake of intent.  I’m sure that one of the biggest things the DiGionro brand managers learned from this experience is to always research what a hashtag means before using it, and to pay attention to a conversation before jumping in with a sarcastic quip.

But the most important lesson to learn from all of this came after the mistake was made.  DiGiorno didn’t respond to this issue the way that other brands have in the past.  They didn’t shut down their Twitter feed.  They didn’t ignore the mistake.  They didn’t deny it ever happened.  digiorno-whyistayed-tweet-hed-2014For every single tweet they received expressing outrage, shock, bewilderment, and disgust, they responded – personally.  They answered the questions posed in the tweets, they cited things the original twitter user had said, they had a real conversation with those who follow or were trying to interact with their brand.  They kept it real and genuine, to the very last tweet.

digiorno-apologies-2-2014And that response method will probably make this blow over faster for them.  They kept it public, and didn’t appear to try to sweep anything under the rug. They didn’t issue some halfway “we’re sorry”  blanket apology and leave it at that, either.  They admitted the mistake and realized that, while they had offended a lot of people, each person was offended in their own way, and therefore deserved to be responded to directly, in a one-on-one format.

That’s a respectable response when you make a mistake, and that’s what makes it forgivable.  If you don’t believe me, just ask my mom – she never steers me wrong.