GoDaddy’s Elephant in the Room

Buzz is nothing new to internet domain host, GoDaddy. This time, however, the controversy is not over a racy Super Bowl ad, but over videos of the company’s chief executive, Bob Parsons, hunting big game.

Last month Parsons posted a video of him killing an elephant in Zimbabwe along with a photo of the dead animal on his blog. He then tweeted about it, setting off a firestorm of bad publicity.

This immediately sparked a backlash from animal rights organization, PETA, who is calling for a boycott of GoDaddy until Parsons agrees to abandon the annual hunts.

Parsons is unapologetically brushing aside the criticism, calling the remarks misinformed.

“I think that most people, when they see this video, will understand what’s happening,” said Parsons. “These people are on the brink of starvation; they need their crops and need to eat. Elephants are not endangered and probably there are too many of them. A lot of people are up in arms about this. Their hearts are in the right place but they don’t understand the situation. If they’d go on one of my trips to Zimbabwe, they’d understand.”

GoDaddy’s competition is now firing off deals for GoDaddy customers to switch to their companies, including free domain hosting, discounted transfer rates and donations to charities that protect elephants. Poaching GoDaddy’s customers is a smart way for smaller firms to take advantage of the negative PR surrounding Parsons and the company.

As communications professionals this story brings about the important message to keep your audience in mind. If Parsons would have kept his hunting excursions to himself, GoDaddy clients would not be in the sites of animal enthusiasts.