Crisis Comms Lesson: Why I Quit Go Daddy

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’ve written about Go Daddy CEO Bob Parsons a lot over the past couple of weeks. He’s been under fire for killing an elephant while on vacation in Zimbabwe, smiling in a photo over its dead body, and posting a “vacation” video of the kill online.

Upon seeing the video, thousands of people were outraged enough to immediately cancel their hosting accounts with Although I was similarly upset by the video at the time, I decided to wait a week or two before making any decisions. I wanted to see how Mr. Parsons handled his corporate crisis before making any immediate moves.

Among other things, he handled his crisis by:

  • Angrily blaming this crisis on PETA (I’ve never been a member of PETA, but was still offended)
  • Stating he would continue hunting elephants
  • Threatening websites with copyright infringement if they didn’t pull down a still photo of him posing with the elephant, despite the fact that he proudly released the photo in the first place. That threat is  legally questionable, since “fair use” usually allows use of such a photo when paired with news or analysis.

Key point:

In crisis communications workshops, I almost always point out that the event that precipitates a crisis is not necessarily the biggest problem during a crisis – rather, it’s the response to that event. Mr. Parsons’ needlessly antagonistic response is a perfect example of that lesson.

In GoDaddy’s reputational crisis, there are three primary groups of customers:

  • 1. People so outraged that they immediately canceled their accounts
  • 2. People who didn’t like the video but were taking a “wait and see” approach
  • 3. People who didn’t care

Mr. Parsons was going to lose the first group and keep the third group, but good crisis management would have given him the power to keep the people who, like me, were in group two. I suspect he lost a lot of us.

The biggest problem for Mr. Parsons is that he allowed this crisis to become a referendum on the very competence of his company. If the company can’t handle a crisis well, I can’t help question whether they can be trusted with my website and blog, two of my company’s most valuable assets.

In the end, I decided that they can’t.
Note: My refund from GoDaddy for the pre-paid portion of my account was $772. I can’t imagine that will hurt the company much. But that amount multiplied by thousands of accounts was surely a high price to pay for a lousy crisis response.

Related: April 2, 2011: Go Daddy CEO Steps In Elephant Dung

Related: April 3, 2011: Five Things I’d Tell Go Daddy’s CEO Right Now

Related: April 8, 2011: Go Daddy’s War On Bloggers