Insights / public-relations

Go Daddy Learns a Valuable Public Relations Lesson

Domain registrar Go Daddy has been the topic of conversation since its open support of the SOPA bill. For those who don’t know SOPA—or  Stop Online Piracy Act — is a bill that supporters claim will stop people from stealing or pirating content such as music, movies and books online. Opponents claim that the bill will give the government complete control of content on the internet by making it incredibly easy for courts to shut down any website that is suspected of participating in copyright infringement. In addition, it would require internet service providers as well as search engines to block access to offending sites.

In the past, Go Daddy has been criticized for using racy ads featuring scantily clad women to sell internet domain names, but after showing support for the bill Go Daddy has spurred a new slew of protest and controversy. Its support has resulted in more than 70,000 domains pulled out within two weeks and a boycott  on December 29, 2011 from a popular internet forum, Reddit.

In response to the social outcry, Go Daddy CEO Warren Adelman stated:

“Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation — but we can clearly do better. It’s very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this. Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it.”

This public statement received even more negative response as people thought it was a hollow gesture as well as an attempt to reverse the very significant damage. Those switching from Go Daddy have started to actively post on Twitter and Reddit about how many domains they are moving over. The most noted of these is Wikipedia owner Jimmy Wales who announced that Wikipedia and Wikia would be transferred off of Go Daddy in a tweet. “I am proud to announce that the Wikipedia domain names will move away from GoDaddy. Their position on #sopa is unacceptable to us.” He then added, “Wikia is also moving several hundred domains from go daddy. Which registrar has quality and price right?”

Political opinions aside, the Go Daddy situation is a huge PR crisis, and it is clear that Go Daddy did not handle the situation properly.

First, before publicly choosing to voice an opinion, Go Daddy should have considered the possible outcomes of its decision, and most importantly, what its customers would think. If Go Daddy had thought this situation through and decided not to take a stance on the issue altogether, it still would have 70,000+ domains registered under the company.

Second, branding is an issue with Go Daddy’s stance. Through racy commercials, Go Daddy has aimed to brand itself as an edgy and highly liberal company. Its support of a censorship bill seems to go against its on-the-edge advertising campaigns and free-thinking agenda.

Third, Go Daddy really needs to use social media as a means of crisis management. After an evaluation of its Facebook and Twitter it seems like it is trying to avoid the issue altogether, only mentioning SOPA in one post in each medium and even deleting people’s comments on Facebook.

Instead, Go Daddy should utilize Facebook and Twitter as a way to connect to its audience, set the record straight and maybe even seem genuine about the issue at hand. Wikipedia’s CEO got it right when he used Twitter to his advantage, tweeting that his company is switching from Go Daddy.  Twitter and Facebook have become incredibly powerful mediums which companies need to utilize, especially in crisis management.

Some take away points from this are to always think a situation through before taking a public stand, ALWAYS consider your customers first, stick to the values of your brand and don’t forget about Twitter and Facebook as key direct communication channels!