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April 22, 2009


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First: Pizza Hut has not been a part of PepsiCo since 1997. Not to say that you can't compare the two companies social media strategies. But this makes a lot of your narrative awkward.

Second: Pizza Hut is not Following PepsiCo - found here http://twitter.com/pepsico - but the Pepsi brand. Which is a logical tie since they have exclusive beverage deal to serve Pepsi products.

I get your argument, but the lack of research dings the veracity of that argument.

- Bone

@Brady - yep you are right, they are two separate companies, was amending my post when you commented. However these two have a lifetime contract together and utilize "like" resources for promotional and marketing efforts at times. thanks for taking the time to point it out. my fault for thinking their lifetime contract together still means ownership.

Hi Li,

Thanks for your article on our new Twintern program. I appreciate your feedback and thoughts and have taken them all in to consideration.

I did want to point something out that seems to be causing confusion. The language in the NYTimes article for the job posting was an editorial take on the description and not our words. Please find the actual job description here: http://bit.ly/LbIFp. Tom Martin posted a correction to this topic on his site this morning.

Also, the Twintern will not be singlehandedly responsible for our interaction in the social media space - we'll leave that to our marketing experts. What they will be asked to do is chronicle their experience with us from an outside perspective and share that information in social media, including, but not limited to Twitter.

I agree with you on the point that we should get more actively engaged in coversations. That's something we're working on and hope that the Twintern can help us. Also, I agree that following just 14 people isn't enough. I'm open to suggestions here. Any recommendations?.

Like many brands, companies and organizations, this is a brave new world for us. I appreciate your patience and feedback as we figure it out.


Hey Chris,I'm really glad you reached out to me here on SMG. Saw that you gave Tom some great insights as well... I have a few additional questions.

1). I read the realease on PRWeekUS.com (http://www.prweekus.com/Pizza-Hut-Twintern-to-advance-PR-in-digital-strategy/article/131124). In it it states a few things that really make me wonder about Pizza Hut & it's foray into Social Media.

a) Is Pizza Hut really considering handing this Twitter account over to Pizza Hut's PR agency Zeon to handle after the Internship is done? If so, does Pizza Hut understand the repercussions of this move?

b) Your PR agency stated in the PRWeek article that Pizza Hut is trying to reach a college audience. Facebook is where that audience resides, because they don’t yet appreciate Twitter. How will your Twintern work within Twitter if the college age audience is not primarily there?

c) You’ve stated that for now it’s just really PR. So, I am curious if you are referring to PR as just media relations (i.e. pitching your social media concept of a “twintern” to get media attention) versus actually engaging all publics that might have interest in PH via online conversation.

d) Is Pizza Hut's social media efforts just a campaign, or will this be an ongoing social media implementation.

e) Will Pizza Hut be transparent about who Tweets for them, letting the audience know it's several people on the account?

While I read Tom's "correction" post, I don't feel he was wrong in questioning the ethics involved here. When this hit the NYTimes, most savvy marketers and experienced PR Folks know that this story about Pizza Hut's "Twiternship" was pitched to the media in such a way that it would get press. While somethings might have been taken out of context, Pizza Hut's agency was well aware of how it would be played. This truly did play more out as a PR Stunt, especially in light of how Pizza Hut as a whole has entered into the entire Social Media realm. Unfortunately, it really looks like Pizza Hut is relying on an agency who thinks Social Media is all about PR and how much buzz they can get for Pizza Hut, which isn't it at all.

Social media is all about conversations that lead to relationships that then lead to sales. Just like the local pizza shop owner, who works very hard at building conversations, learns his customers names, builds a trusted relationship, he gets referrals from them. That's what companies who come into this space need to understand that it's about conversations, not gimmicks to get articles in the press or links to sites that don't need links anymore.


A little late to the post. Great post and really good research. As you note, seems Pizza Hut's PR agency is a very good PR firm but has much to learn about SM.

Someone forgot to tell them that authenticity and transparency are rules 1 & 2 in the SM world. Try and pull the wool over SM'ers eyes and someone, somewhere will out you.

And thanks for the link over to my post, much appreciated.

You nailed it as usual, Li.

You care a lot about SM strategies and getting it right.

As an aside, Pizza Hut pizza tastes like booty (sorry, guys but I'm from philly and hometown pizza smokes franchise pizza every time. Shoutout to Vino's Pizza in Whitemarsh :-)

But, the irony is, I could see Pizza Hut having an AMAZING SM campaign if it is done right.

OMG, this has the potential to blow up at a level unseen since Starbucks handed out free coupons for coffee ... lol, this is going to be great!

Hi Li,

Thanks for your questions and interest in our Twintern announcement.

To answer your questions:
a) Our first priority is to listen to our customers and actively incorporate their feedback on how we communicate and connect with them. Right now, Pizza Hut is still testing things out when it comes to Twitter. We’re having ongoing conversations with our customers through all of Pizza Hut’s social media sites to find out what they want to hear and how our Twintern will best serve them. Our agency helps monitor conversations, which companies of all sizes should be doing in real-time. In addition, Pizza Hut is taking steps to actively participate in these conversations and the Twintern will play a valuable role in serving as a voice for our brand.
b) While social media, in particular Facebook, is an efficient way to connect with college students, we have a broad demographic (moms and families, for example) who may want to connect with us outside of Facebook. With a diverse, integrated Web presence, we’ll be able to meet our audience where they prefer to have their conversations. We have been successful on Facebook to date (with more than 944,000 fans: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/PizzaHut?sid=2c0331a07a7bb48231c672c4d3c0fcd6&ref=search) and want to expand our communications efforts to other sites (e.g. Twitter) where dialogue around the brand is growing among all audiences.
c) As mentioned previously, connecting with our customers and listening to their feedback via social media is something we do believe in at Pizza Hut, which is why we are bringing an authentic voice on board to help with our social media efforts. We realize we still have much to learn about engaging customers in social media, which is also what attracts us to networks such as Twitter – the ability to learn and adapt in real-time to what people recommend and share with you. The communication goals are twofold – 1) giving people an engaging and fun way to find news and information from Pizza Hut, and 2) creating two-way relationships with our customers, built on trusted conversation.
d) We are building out our social media presence and recognize that it requires resources and time to participate in various networks and conversations. In these early stages of implementation on Twitter, we’re discovering what works best from both customer and corporate perspectives – listening to audience feedback and adjusting our communications based on that feedback. We don’t view it as a traditional campaign, but more of a larger Pizza Hut commitment to listen to our customers and provide value to the conversation.
e) We plan to always remain transparent about who is tweeting on behalf of our brand. Right now, it’s me.

If you do have additional questions, feel free to give me a call or connect with Pizza Hut on Twitter (via @ or DM). I appreciate the time you took to evaluate our efforts and will consider your feedback, as with all our customers, in how (and what) we communicate moving forward.


Chris, I don't think anyone was really questioning the validity of starting a twitter campaign, in fact I'm sure most web savvy folk think its a good idea. The question was why would you put an intern behind the helm of a marketing tool that has global reach? Does the intern understand your brand's goal?

Valid feedback, and I do see where you’re coming from. I actually just responded to Joseph Jaffe’s column in AdWeek who had similar doubts, and this is the one thing we’ve seen some criticism on in marketing blogs. The funny thing is, the target we were going after - college students - have only had positive things to say about the program. In fact, we received thousands of applicants for the position.

Our Twintern will absolutely not be given sole responsibility for maintaining our online voice. In developing this plan, we knew we wanted to have a strong presence on Twitter (and no, not because we’re simply intrigued by the recent mainstream capabilities of the technology – we began drafting our plan long before Oprah entered the Twittersphere) however, we wanted a person who could dedicate 100% of their time to communicating with our followers. Hiring a person who is truly excited about innovative technologies and can really connect with the Twitter audience, made logical sense. The person we select as our Twintern will be an integral part of our marketing team, however, he/she will not be the only person behind our social media strategy.

@ Chris Fuller: Thanks for clearing that up :)

This is a really nice post Li! I've been finding it amazing how much impact Twitter is having everywhere.

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