Your reputation, be it as an individual or business, is one of the hardest assets to maintain. While social media is nowadays an important channel for any business, this great tool can also be a platform for controversy and, at times, can lead to unbalanced criticism, or even misleading and untrue assertions. So what are the risks to be aware of and how well prepared are you for managing different scenarios?
In planning ahead, it’s important to anticipate where a potential risk may arise and how this could play out. Criticism might suddenly come from many directions, and snowball rapidly. At its worst, this negative commentary can quickly become harassment. Often there is one individual or group who stirs the pot, or prompts others to engage, and these parties can remain anonymous. Added to this, you might also encounter speculative reports and investigative stories by various media outlets.
Here, we consider two key actions you can take to protect your reputation:
- Firstly, you need to understand how the law can be used to bring the situation under control. That could be through defamation law, a civil action against harassment, or through recourse to the police and criminal law. Understanding the scale of what might be needed and what will be available to you is a first step.
- Secondly, whatever else you do, your in-house and external communications and public relations advisers need to be involved and work hand-in-hand with your legal advisers. Once gathered, your legal, PR and Comms team can agree roles and form a plan of attack, following a clear crisis communications strategy.
This strategy may include calls to journalists and editors, instigating complaint procedures with internet service providers, asking platforms to remove defamatory content, legal measures to identify anonymous persons, direct communications with persons making unlawful allegations, and other steps to prepare the ground for a defamation claim should it prove necessary.
As ever, being prepared is the key to managing such situations successfully. Having a strategy and plan in place for dealing with different potential scenarios will ensure you are equipped to manage any reputational issues effectively and quickly.
With extensive and wide-ranging experience in advising on all manner of reputational issues, including a focus on social and online media, our Intellectual Property team can help you with every step you take: from formulating a concerted response that will engage online media, legal recourse, or direct communication with journalists and other involved parties, to working with other advisers and taking a collaborative approach, or providing advice on urgent measures, plus medium and longer term options. We help you evaluate your circumstances and devise the right course of action.
For more insight into different ways to protect your business from reputational risks and minimise the impact of any potential issues, please visit our brand protection web page or contact Nick Cunningham and Charlie Bond.
About the author(s)
Charlie advises his clients on how to best protect, enforce and exploit their intellectual property (IP) rights.
Nick has a wide-ranging dispute resolution practice, with contrasting specialisms in telecoms standards, trade secret protection, copyright and defamation. He is also a qualified mediator.