Reputation Management in a digital world: why bother when the cat is out of the bag?
A single defamatory statement on Twitter can now reach a global audience within minutes.
Republications, shares, retweets: under the Defamation Act 2013, these are rarely a basis for a separate cause of action any more, leaving you with the option to go after a single impecunious publisher. Even if cease and desists, or injunctions, are issued by a defamed party, the internet normally ensures that the damage is done long before anyone starts taking down problem posts.
Readers may recall the “Hadrian’s Wall” case which injuncted the English press from reporting on a particular celebrity sex scandal . . . the same scandal that was freely reported in Scotland only a few hundred miles away. The injunction was fundamentally ineffective in a digital world in which distance and jurisdiction is largely meaningless.
It is not always possible to stop it, but you can change the dominant version of events
It all sounds a bit grim for anyone with an expectation for privacy or honest media coverage, but all is not lost.
There is significant value in a prominently published apology, or a court ruling against the publisher. Legal action can achieve both, and a well-prepared PR campaign with a crisis action plan can ensure that the truth becomes the dominant version of events. Damage can be kept to a bare minimum.
Courts will readily require defendants to publish detailed apologies (often in wording chosen by the defamed party) and pay significant compensation. Proceedings can also incentivise defendants to apologise even before a ruling is issued, and settle. This is because courts will often apply substantial discounts to damages awards based on early offers to make amends. The corollary is that if your defamer refuses to apologise, their damages bill can be increased significantly. The Monroe v Hopkins case which we discussed in a previous post is a good example of this.
A well-prepared reputation management strategy that incorporates legal and PR strategies is critical. Swift legal action in combination with a positive PR campaign can neutralise the damage your reputation has suffered, and compensate (as much as possible) for any loss caused.
Sound frightening? With excellent legal advice, it doesn’t have to be. Get in touch with our expert Chris Haywood..