What dirty politics can teach you about protecting your brand

by Ruth McGowan

What dirty politics can teach you about protecting your brand

by Ruth McGowan

by Ruth McGowan

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone: (Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi)

Like most Australians, you are probably becoming increasingly disillusioned by the behaviour of our politicians. It seems like it’s just getting worse. The latest sexist name-calling by a Senator just compounds the low opinions many have for those elected to public office. It comes on top of a year of affairsscandals and the citizenship saga.  *Sigh*

However, instead of just shaking your head at the dirty tricks – what if you could actually learn something useful from the dark art of politics? Something that could help you protect your brand and shore up your reputation?

Domain theft

Recently, a political dirty trick has shone a light on ‘your name’ domain theft. A tactic that competitors can use to deliver serious implications for your brand, your business or your political campaign.

Domain hijacking. If you haven’t heard of it before you have now. Read on.

Political dirty tricks

This is what happened. Last year, the former premier of NSW, Kristina Keneally ran as a Labor candidate for the federal seat of Bennelong. The by-election was announced when the former sitting Liberal member John Alexander, had to resign after being caught up in the citizenship bungle. Kristina Keneally announced she would challenge the seat.

However, both the candidate and her advisers, failed in one massive way before she even began her formal campaign. They failed to buy up the digital real-estate that could protect her brand.

On the day Ms Keneally announced her candidacy, Buzzfeed reported that “Domain registration records show the NSW division of the {Liberal} party took ownership of the website … at 11:30pm that night”.  They proceeded to fill this website with content unflattering to the candidate.

A dirty trick? Sure. But in politics, some people think that ‘anything goes’ in the battle to win votes.

Could it happen to you?

Dirty tactics like this can prompt you to think about the safety of your digital real estate. Do you own your domain name with either the .com or .com.au suffix?

As a political coach, I advise anyone considering running for public office to purchase their name as  .com and .com.au before publicly announcing their candidacy.  

In the end, it’s a lot cheaper to buy a couple of domain names than to have to pay money to purchase it back. It’s also cheaper than having to fight a court case to get back what is rightfully yours.

If you don’t own your name domain, is it time to buy? It’s a relatively cheap policy to protect against having your name and brand sullied by a competitor who has no scruples about playing dirty.

Fake news could hit you too

In a world of ‘fake news’ a competitor can set up a website in your name, fill it with unflattering stories or lies.

Unfortunately, people are gullible and many could truly believe what they are reading on a fake website about you is legitimate.

Hillary Clinton recently visited Australia and I was one of the thousands that were privileged to hear this global leader talk about her life and political campaigns. It was sobering to hear about the negative impact of several false news stories in the 2016 US presidential election campaign. Many people genuinely believed the fake news stories spread to discredit her. This included made-up stories such as Pope Francis endorsing competitor Donald Trump and allegations that Hillary Clinton had sold weapons to ISIS.

Besides fake news, there are other tactics that could affect your digital footprint. I’ve heard of businesses where competitors have purchased the domain name and then ‘cyber-squat’. They buy the name (or one very similar to the business name) but do nothing with it, in an effort to block potential customers trying to reach the genuine business online. Apparently, these cases are on the rise and can pose a real threat to businesses.

Protect your brand

Heard the story about the multi-millionaire who bought the property next door and then bulldozed it down? All to protect his sea view and deliver serenity forever without annoying neighbours blocking the vista?

Fortunately, the option to buy your domain name is a lot cheaper than buying the house next door but it can also deliver significant peace of mind.

Think of it as an investment in brand name insurance.

Take a lesson from dirty politics. If you are working in a tough business environment, consider that a competitor could buy a domain name similar to your name (personal or business name) and use it to malign your brand.

Your domain name is rightfully yours so protect against theft. You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone but don’t leave it until it is too late.

Ruth McGowan OAM coaches political candidates, community leaders and trains councillors. She also writes about women in politics and how to Get Elected! 

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