Buying Corporate Gripe Site Domains: Effective PR Defense Mechanism?

RaganTV.com has an interesting interview posted with Paula Berg, media manager at Southwest Airlines. She explains how Southwest buys domain names that may be used by hostile consumers to denounce the company or it’s execs — these kinds of sites are also known as “gripe sites”. Per Paula, “[For] $10 or $15, what’s the harm? It can prevent some PR crisis down the line.”

My take is this can become a slippery & expensive slope. The best way to quiet an angry mob is to listen, then promptly & efficiently react — I’ve found that more often than not, they’re right. Having a company engage in the discussion on the gripe site might actually be perceived as more credible since the conversation is happening on community turf. At best, buying gripe site domains might make the conversation slightly less findable.

Thoughts?

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  1. #1 by Valorie on November 3, 2009 - 3:01 pm

    I think more often than not you’ll find companies buying up domains in this manner not only for the protection against gripe-sites, but also to protect their IP and brand image in general.

    It seems companies are having to increase their domain portfolios exponentially as a defense mechanism instead of as a proactive move towards marketing their products. That’s how we wind up with portfolios > 2,000 individual names as common corporate practice.

    More listening and thoughtful responses to customers are certainly needed in many cases, but I don’t think even that will stop the trend of domain buy-ups. There’s more at stake than exposure of angry customer comments with the trademark infringements and other domain-related IP crimes that have become so common.

  2. #2 by DiTucci on November 3, 2009 - 3:34 pm

    Totally agree. To add something you taught me: By listening to your angry mob, you have the opportunity to turn them into happy customers who will then turn around and say good things about you.

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