Crisis Management: Go Daddy’s 4-H Club

by PR Coach on December 28, 2011

Go Daddy Girls

Bob Parsons & his Go Daddy Girls

If there’s one thing a company doesn’t need in a crisis, it’s the four Hs.

No, I’m not talking about the original 4-H agricultural club so popular in the 50s and 60s whose motto was head, heart, hands and health.

That would hardly describe GoDaddy.com Executive Chairman and Founder Bob Parsons.

I’m talking about headstrong, hubris, head-in-the-sand and hellfire. Each of those words fits him like a glove.

As a result, it’s not been a banner year for Go Daddy which now appears in full crisis management mode.

Headstrong Does Not Make Good PR

Go Daddy has always thrived on creating shallow controversy for its own marketing purposes. It has promoted its brand with a series of cheesy print, Super Bowl TV and online ads flaunting the assets of its provocative Go Daddy girls.

Go Daddy ads Despite its 14-year success, it’s generated its share of criticism and controversy and it’s modus operandi seems to be “there’s no such thing as bad PR.”

Can You Spell Hubris?

Enter March 2011, when then-CEO Parsons got embroiled in a running battle with critics, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and customers by insisting that his hunting of endangered elephants in Africa was somehow okay. Many denounced his position, loudly boycotting the company and some registering or moving their domains elsewhere.

He was so full of hubris he makes Macbeth look like a prom queen by comparison.

The bad PR continued as he refused to moderate his stance or apologize to those he may have offended. It would have been such a simple solution and fundamental crisis PR response.

Guilty of head-in-the-sand public relations.

Hellfire, Bad PR and Lost Business

The bad PR has continued right through the end of this year. Ill-advised support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) led to claims the company supports Internet censorship in the US.

The recent bad PR has raged on the Internet and has lost the company more than 37,000 domain registrations in protest even before a planned Dec 29 boycott of the company. A flip-flop and apology on SOPA have failed to turn down the heat.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see how even the simplest crisis management could have avoided each of these issues. That kind of smart crisis PR does not seem to reside in the DNA of some marketing-driven companies.

Other than Netflix, there was no better example of the impact of bad PR on a business in 2011.

Avoid Crisis PR 4-HsThe crisis PR lesson? Avoid the Go Daddy 4-H approach to crisis management at all cost.

The investors who bought into Go Daddy for $2.25 billion in July 2011 included KKR, Silver Lake and Technology Crossover Ventures. They must not be pleased. Maybe, even tempted to tell Bwana Bob to head for the exit and do not pass go, Daddy?

What do you think of Go Daddy and it’s public relations? Is any PR good PR? Comments welcome below.

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Author: Jeff Domansky

Photo credits: GoDaddy.com, Wikipedia

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