Chuck Gose: Welcome to Chuck Chats Crystal!
Crystal Batayeh: Thanks Chuck!
Chuck: We haven’t met before. . . that sounds so much like the beginning of a magic trick. It’s fun to do these chats with new people.
Crystal: Haha, we have not! This is a really cool way to talk to someone for the first time. Technology is pretty amazing.
Chuck: Past Chuck Chats guests have talked about adopting this style internally to interview their own colleagues but I haven’t heard if it’s worked yet.
Crystal: You know...with all the different types of employees we have (many not in one building) this could definitely be a useful tool. That’s something I’ll have to bring back to the team.
Chuck: You are the franchise communication specialist at Domino’s so I have a very important question for you. What is the best pizza one can order from Domino’s?
Crystal: Oh man. Great question.
I love New York style pizza. So my suggestion would be a Brooklyn Style pizza with our regular cheese blend, then add provolone, asiago, and parmesan. Cheesy and delicious!!!
Also, do not skip that stuffed cheesy bread. I really like cheese....haha.
Chuck: Apparently so.
I’m more partial to the buffalo chicken pizza but I can be persuaded.
Crystal: Mmm. Buffalo chicken pizza is also great. So is the California Chicken Bacon Ranch.
Chuck: You’ve been at Domino’s now for about 3 years. What surprised you, either good or bad, when you joined?
Crystal: Honestly, I think the most surprising part was how much everyone who works for Domino’s sincerely loves this brand.
When I started, someone told me pizza sauce ran in their veins. And I was like what?? But I totally get it now.
I have pizza sauce in my veins, too. We’re like a big old family.
Chuck: I think my cardiologist just choked on his cheesy bread thinking about pizza sauce running through their veins. That’s also really cool.
What are three words you’d use to describe the Domino’s culture?
Crystal: Hm, I would say accepting.
Everyone is so open to new ideas, so open to new solutions.
And it doesn’t matter what you do in the Domino’s system - whether you’re the CEO or a driver, someone will listen to you, someone will be kind, and everyone wants to know your story.
I have pizza sauce in my veins.
Chuck: Well look at that. Just now, I got an email from Domino’s encouraging me to donate to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. And as a thank you, I get bonus points in my account.
So it sounds like the company is also quite charitable.
Crystal: I’ve been lucky enough to work on the franchise communication for that campaign, so I feel pretty connected to it.
We love the kids, and really hope we beat last year’s goal!
Chuck: That’s a good segue to my next question about your role as a franchise communication specialist.
It’s easy to focus on the challenges so let’s talk about the good parts first. What are the things you love most about your job?
Crystal: I love that it’s always different!
I work with two other team members, and between us, we handle corporate and franchise communication. We work as liaisons with all the departments in the company to gather information on initiatives we then share to the different audiences.
I work with the marketing team for instance, so I get to tell franchisees about the cool national marketing windows coming up and any new products we roll out.
Chuck: A lot of communicators who are in the food and hospitality space work with franchisees.
What have you found that works to really get their attention?
Crystal: I think what works best is understanding them.
We try to get feedback from them as often as we can to figure out what’s best - timing, medium, etc. Short, quick and to the point stories in a weekly newsletter sent out Monday mornings are what we landed on. And keeping the language plain!
They need something quick and digestible. That’s what works best.
[Franchisees] need something quick and digestible. That’s what works best.
Chuck: Stick with me here on this pizza analogy. You said you have to keep the language plain.
Only kids like their pizza plain. What kind of toppings do you add to your communication to keep it interesting and fresh?
Crystal: So this is actually one of my favorite parts of my job. We try to add in humor and pithy-ness as much as we can. So the language is plain, the content is pretty short, but there’s plenty of personality, sass and (my personal favorite) a few good dad jokes.
Chuck: Everybody loves a good dad joke sprinkled in. Have an example to share?
Crystal: I was trying to go back and find some good ones, but I think my favorite time was when we were rolling out Bread Twists.
I got to use headlines like Twist and Shout, Are You Bready? Doughn’t Worry, They’re Coming...
Chuck: You’ve made dads everywhere quite proud.
Crystal: Haha, life goal is now completed!
Chuck: People might be surprised to know where Domino’s is HQ’d. Do you think this has had an impact on the company culture?
Crystal: So I read somewhere recently that Michigan is called the pizza company capital?
Sorry to anyone from New York. I don’t know if our location has made that much of an impact since we have so many people who aren’t from Michigan, but I think “Midwest Nice” rubs off on everyone.
Chuck: I am a fellow midwesterner, now in Indianapolis, but grew up in Ohio. . . so I have a slightly different view of Ann Arbor.
Crystal: Oh boy...haha. Lucky for us both I am not one for sports, but Go Blue! (If anyone from Ann Arbor is reading this one day.)
The language is plain, the content is pretty short, but there’s plenty of personality, sass, and (my personal favorite) a few good dad jokes.
Chuck: Let’s get back to your role, shall we?
Crystal: Let’s do it.
Chuck: What are the primary channels you use to communicate with franchisees and is there a regular cadence?
Crystal: My team works the most with email and intranet.
Email is definitely a better channel for franchisees.
We’d like to make our intranet stronger so that they use that as well, but our weekly newsletter called The Rush is what’s best. It goes out every Monday morning.
Chuck: Is there a symbolic meaning to the name?
Crystal: There is! We call the busy times in Domino’s stores the rush. We try to help franchisees prepare for it, handle it, and crush it!
Chuck: You said email was the better channel. Is the data telling you this or your gut?
Crystal: Well, thanks to you fine folks at Bananatag, data!
It used to be gut, but once we started using Bananatag, it became concrete. Our open rates continue to be in the high 90s.
We also have anecdotal feedback from franchisees.
Chuck: And when you say make your “intranet stronger,” what are you thinking about doing?
Crystal: Well we’d like to take it from mobile-friendly to an app. We’d also like to simplify the content to news, a social media type tool, and a very strong search and document library.
Oh, and notifications. Those would be great!
Chuck: In the IC mobile app world, push notifications are huge but for some reason, internal communicators are often scared to use them. They feel they are being too pushy -- pun intended.
Crystal: I get that. I think they should be used sparingly. And that people should definitely have the choice to opt-in!
But I don’t think a daily notification with a quick summary of the most important things is pushy.
Email is definitely a better channel for franchisees.
Chuck: Agreed. As we come to the end of 2018, did you and the team accomplish some of your key goals for the year?
Crystal: 2018 was a big year for us.
We had our bi-annual franchise meeting in Vegas, where we invite franchisees and their team members across the world to come for two days full of information, company news, and of course, fun. We put on the biggest one in history!
We also conducted our bi-annual franchise communication research, which is always enlightening.
Chuck: Pizza and Las Vegas. . . two of my favorite loves. What did the franchise communication research tell you?
Crystal: It helped solidify a lot of the things we already knew. They like early morning communication that isn’t too frequent. They usually go to folks in the field with their questions. And, they really want a better search tool on the intranet.
Chuck: And other than continuing to build The Rush, plus fixing up this intranet, what are your plans for 2019?
Crystal: We’d really love to find a tool to help franchisees easily communicate the news we tell them, to their stores.
We’d also like to start telling more brand stories internally. We tell them the news, but we could definitely do a better job sharing the amazing stories that Domino’s team members have.
Chuck: That would be amazing and I’m sure you and the team will get there.
Other companies that have accomplished that certainly reap the rewards. Let’s end this chat the way we do all of the Chuck Chats. Share your passion around internal communication via emojis.
Crystal: 🤓 💌 🤝
Chuck: Thanks for being on Chuck Chats!
Crystal: Thank you so much! This has been really cool.