Five Things I'd Tell Go Daddy's CEO Right Now
Yesterday, I wrote about Go Daddy CEO Bob Parsons, who is in the midst of a major PR crisis after shooting an elephant in Zimbabwe and releasing a video of the kill.
(Click here to see the original story and the video).
Despite the uproar, Mr. Parsons has remained defiant. He’s stubbornly insisting he was right, even though that very insistence is damaging his brand.
It’s unlikely that Mr. Parsons will hire me to help guide GoDaddy.com through this reputational crisis. Nonetheless, I’m going to offer him – for free – the five things I’d tell him right now.
1. I Get It. You Feel Unfairly Maligned. You feel that you were doing the right things for the right reasons. If you want to protect your brand, none of that matters. Being “right” and winning this major reputational struggle are two very different things.
2. The Public Isn’t Buying Your Story. You say you killed the elephant to prevent crop raiding, to feed hungry villagers, and to raise awareness about global hunger. But by posing with a giant smile over the dead elephant’s remains, you undercut your story. Your smile made it look like you killed the beast as a personal thrill. I don’t know if that’s true, but it doesn’t matter. It sure looks that way to a lot of people.
3. You Don’t Look Altruistic. You Look Opportunistic. If you were acting with the noble intent you claim, the public is confused why you would release a “vacation video” of the elephant kill set to AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.” And by distributing neon “GoDaddy.com” caps to starving locals as an apparent branding opportunity, you looked crass and disrespectful, as well.
4. This Is Bigger Than PETA. In your most recent tweets, you’ve taken to attacking PETA. You previously blamed this uproar on a “politically correct cadre.” You’re underestimating the breadth and depth of public revulsion. Your response thus far has been akin to BP’s Tony Hayward saying his company’s oil spill was “tiny,” compared to the size of the ocean. You’re doing yourself a disservice by minimizing the crisis.
5. You Need to Decide Your Primary Goal NOW. If your goal is to defend your honor, you’re going to lose this PR battle. If your goal is to minimize the damage to your brand, you’re going to need to change your strategy. Now. You’re not on solid ground here. The longer you fight, the longer this crisis will live. The quickest way to end this crisis is to cede some turf. It’s okay to say you were acting with pure intentions, but didn’t realize how offensive it was to so many of your customers. Give some money to charity. Comp the next three years of the Humane Society’s websites. Say you will no longer hunt elephants.
Finally, I would tell Mr. Parsons this: “Sir, you’re a Vietnam Veteran. You’re a successful entrepreneur. Nobody doubts your strength. I think you’re under the impression that admitting you may have inadvertently done something wrong here would be perceived as a sign of weakness. It’s not. Executives who admit responsibility quickly often do more to establish their strength. So for the sake of your company’s reputation and your own, I hope you’ll act, and soon.”
Disclosure: My company has about ten domains registered with GoDaddy.com. I have not yet made a decision to move my websites. I would like to give Mr. Parsons an opportunity to reflect and change course. If he does that, I will likely remain his customer. If he does not, I will likely move my sites to another hosting company.
Related: Go Daddy’s War on Bloggers
Related: April 11, 2011: Crisis Communications Lesson: Why I Finally Quit Go Daddy