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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Why defining brand strategy is vital to capitalising on quick wins

Big brands were once protected from small brands by high barriers to entry. Big brands had the resources to employ big agencies, to crack big ideas and to invest in big campaigns. They had the luxury of time to debate strategies and work on long-term innovation pipelines. Retailers used to partner with big brands.

Troy McKinnna

Co-founder, Agents of Spring, Calm & Stormy

3 ways to leverage the talents of your team to avoid disruption

​According to the World Economic Forum in its most recent The Future of Jobs report, the most important skills for the future are not technical, task-oriented skills, but higher-order skills such as creativity, social influence, active learning, and analytical thinking.

Gihan Perera

Futurist, leadership consultant

CMOs, it’s time to stop squandering customer attention

Businesses continue to highly value the attention they buy through paid media, yet at the same time, many continue to disregard and under-value opportunities to connect with customers using their owned media.

Well written Vanessa!! Agreed with your view that human experience is marketing's next frontier. Those businesses who are focused on the ...

Clyde Griffith

Forget customer experience, human experience is marketing's next frontier

Read more

Great tips for tops skills need to develop and stay competitive

Nick

The top skills needed to stay competitive in a rapidly changing workforce

Read more

The popularity of loyalty programs is diminishing, though I'd say it is because customers are savvy enough to recognise when a loyalty pr...

Heather

It’s time for marketers to rethink their approach to ‘loyalty’

Read more

Thanks Nadia for sharing this blog. It has really useful and amazing information about Salesforce Commerce Cloud and digital engagement w...

Holly Smith

Adidas taps data and technology smarts to build personalised digital engagement with consumers

Read more

clearly someone who's jealous and only comments from the safety of being behind their keyboard

Peter Sibson

The purpose of purpose - Brand science - CMO Australia

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in