Cautionary Tales from the Candidates

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Ah, election season. So much to entertain, and so little to take seriously. Yet even amidst the hilarity and absurdity, there are useful lessons to be found. Chief among the most obvious at this point is the very simple but important advice you’ve often heard from us (and no doubt from others): Secure the web domains (and Twitter handles) for your firm’s name and all the variations you can think of now, even if you don’t need to use them yet.

Why bother to spend the time and money to nab these web domains before you’re ready to make use of them? Because if you don’t, somebody else will. And that, as an awful lot of the 2016 presidential candidates can tell you, can be a BIG problem.

Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz, for example, will be happy to tell you that it’s important to secure relevant web domains early. Neither one did so, and now people who go to the web addresses they assume represent the candidates are informed how many workers Carly laid off at HP and advised to support President Obama and immigrant reform, respectively.

Then there’s JebBushforPresident.com, which is devoted to a discussion of LGBT issues, and HillaryClinton.org, which allegedly delivers malware. Type in Paul Ryan’s name and you’ll land at an online guitar store, which isn’t quite as destructive but doesn’t help the candidate make his case, either.

Buying the domain name isn’t very expensive at all, but failing to do so can turn out to have horrifying costs. Just ask the D.C. folks who didn’t bother to claim WhiteHouse.com. For many years, the URL that most people assumed would lead them to the official White House website instead took them to a porn site. Whoopsie! Second graders and civic-minded adults alike found a big surprise when searching for online information about the executive branch until 2004, when the site was sold. (The correct address is whitehouse.gov.)

Sometimes the internet-savvy opposition is behind the trouble. Numerous less sophisticated web users were tricked into donating to fund campaigns against the candidates they supported by clever Republican operatives, who set up fundraising sites using the candidates’ names, pictures and campaign colors.

Other times it may simply be someone who sees an opportunity to earn some money. Dozens of URLs that might interest the major candidates have been claimed by domain squatters who hope to earn a little money selling them back to the campaigns. Or, as the case may be, a lot of money: The asking price for ElectHillary.com is $295,000 and ReElectHillary.com is available at $275,000. JebBush.com is currently being offered for $250K. Prescience pays off for those who thought to nab the key sites in time!

Chances are, your firm isn’t about to declare candidacy for high political office but you face the very same vulnerabilities when it comes to web domain names and social media accounts. It’s important to register your name and all its permutations. You should also hit all the major platforms as they rise in popularity and claim your firm’s name, whether you’re interested in using the platform or not. Who knows, you might change your mind and want it later. Just as important, you’ll prevent anyone else from taking the name and gaining the ability to cause confusion in the marketplace, at best, or commit fraud or otherwise wreak havoc at worst.

Prudence dictates that you head to GoDaddy, HostGator or any other reputable domain name registrar and buy the rights to your firm’s name and the most common variants of it, including initials and other forms you might possibly want. For only a few dollars you can register as the official owner of the name, and you’ll pay an annual fee to keep each name locked down. It’s a whole heck of a lot cheaper to do it now than to deal with the expense and collateral damage caused by confusion, pranksters or malicious mischief committed in your name.

Originally published on bbrmarketing.com.

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Sarah Warlick

Sarah Warlick founded Proof Positive Content to provide professional service firms with high-quality content that resonates with their target audiences. Sarah's writing appears in books, on the websites of over a dozen Top 100 Accounting Firms and in Accounting Today, Forbes and other leading publications, but usually under another name. Ghostwriters rarely get the glory - their clients do!

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