Dunkin' Donuts brews up strong social response to Boston bombings

Massachusetts-based coffee chain finds perfect social media response by remembering that it's a community member

When Dunkin' Donuts executives were deciding how to respond on Twitter and Facebook to the Boston Marathon bombings, they acted like what they are - members of a grieving Boston community.

As the community pulled together to care for the wounded and support each other, and local, state and federal agencies began a massive manhunt for the bombers, local and national companies had to figure out how to respond on social media.

For instance, executives had to decide whether their company should tweet about the incident, and whether new marketing campaigns should be postponed.

The Dunkin' Donuts restaurant chain based in nearby Canton faced these questions on the day of the bombings, as well as during the following week.

The company's social media effort, fraught with potential social pitfalls and blunders, worked so well that industry analysts are pointing to it as an example of what companies should do after such a tragic event.

"As a company with proud Boston roots, our hearts are with those who were affected by the tragic events at the Boston Marathon," said Jessica Gioglio, the social media manager for Dunkin' Brands, in an email. "We felt that it was important to express this sentiment to our social media community."

Dunkin' Donuts, with restaurants on street corners all over New England and beyond, was already handing out samples of its wares at the Prudential Center Plaza during the marathon, and had employees both running and cheering on the racers.

Just after the bombings at the finish line on April 15, Dunkin' Donuts tweeted, "Our thoughts are w/ the victims & everyone affected by the explosions at the Boston Marathon. We grieve with all of Boston & the country."

Then the company went silent on both Facebook and Twitter for three days.

After that, the coffee chain tweeted, "We're proud to announce a US$100,000 donation to the One Fund Boston to help those impacted during this difficult time." The tweet linked to a press release announcing that Dunkin' Donuts shops throughout New England were collecting One Fund Boston donations from customers.

The company did not resume its normal Facebook and Twitter marketing campaigns until Sunday, April 21 - six days after the bombings.

Alex Hinojosa, vice-president of media operations for EMSI Public Relations, said companies that use social networks for marketing purposes are in a precarious situation during a crisis. The companies need to make sure everything they tweet or post is well thought out, he said.

To do that, Hinojosa and other experts recommend that companies create a social media crisis management plan to guide them once a crisis comes.

And a crisis management plan is exactly what Dunkin' Donuts relied on.

"Our policies are detailed and situation-focused, but the key theme is that you must have a cross-functional task force of subject matter experts," said Gioglio. "Have it outlined in your plan who needs to be involved and approve the appropriate course of action during a sensitive situation."

She added the company's crisis management team includes workers from different departments. During a major crisis, an even wider group is gathered to offer counsel.

"It's important to hear different opinions and determine if and what type of response is appropriate," said Gioglio. "This is important because all external-facing communications should be consistent, yet personalised for the channels they're going out on."

She noted that no employees or restaurants were physically harmed by the bombings.

"We put a considerable amount of thought into our Facebook post and tweet, and are proud that it came from the heart, as we were experiencing these tragic events with the Boston community," said Gioglio. "We felt that it was important to keep our post simple and heartfelt out of respect for our community."

She also pointed out that immediately after the bombings, the company stopped all planned social media communications.

With people focused on sharing stories and their support for those impacted by the bombings, Dunkin' wanted to put all national campaigns on hold and show their respect with social media silence.

Gioglio said there's nothing she wishes they had done differently.

"When posting, we expected to see a range of responses to our posts," she said.

"We reviewed all of the responses carefully and took it as a learning opportunity to see how our consumers wanted our brand to act and offer support in these situations. Overall, we believe the recommendations and responses from our social media community were in line with the actions we took."

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Is your content marketing missing the mark?

Does it ever seem like the content you create falls flat on its face or that the leads you’re generating aren’t worth following up?

Dan Ratner

managing director, uberbrand

​ Creating a purpose-driven brand

So you want to be a brand with purpose. But what does it actually mean to build a brand with real meaning?

Paul Chappell

Partner and managing director, Brand + Story

Customer experience crisis: Proactively mitigating the risk of broken promises

Last Friday, three weeks after United Airline’s spectacular customer experience disaster, customers received a letter from the company’s CEO, Oscar Munoz.

STOP STEALING BUISNESS CLASS TOILETS from A380, new 787's and A330's!!!!Thats what you call customer experience ONE toilet for all Busine...

Joe

Qantas CMO: What it's taking to evolve our customer experience

Read more

Dare i suggest that a "CEO" role in a peak industry body like Think Brink is not really much of a leap from CMO because it is also a mark...

Sventana

CMO to CEO: Think Brick chief reveals what it takes to make the jump

Read more

Grate post, thanks for the post.No matter what your business is, if you do no not rank among the top most search results of Google, Yahoo...

Rahul

Image intelligence:10 must-see infographics for marketers

Read more

Thank you Shane Blandford for carrying my Smarketing vision into KM !

Peter Strohkorb

​CMO Interview: Why aligning sales and marketing drives innovation at Konica Minolta

Read more

Thanks for helping me putting those threads of thoughts together. Simplification and connection - neat idea.

Mark Bayly

Tips from IAG on how to craft human-centred design

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in