Updated: Feb 7, 2022
Our friends at VWV - A leading UK law firm, who also assist with Reputation Management, have kindly shared some of their helpful tips, from a legal perspective, on managing a reputation through crises.
Ben Holt, Partner at VWV Bristol suggests that whether you are a business or an individual, your reputation is paramount to your success.
Should an incident arise however, are you prepared to deal with a bad online reputation effectively to limit any further damage?
Here are their 7 Reputation Management Tips:
Don't ignore the situation
Keep any policies up to date
Beware of reporting obligations
Speak the language of third parties
Work out claims and consider strategy options
1. Don’t panic!
Do not be pressured into making a statement on the spot or feeling the need to give a detailed response to initial enquiries. First statements to the press are almost always bland for very good reasons. If the incident is serious enough to result in legal proceedings, your initial response may impact upon those. Also be careful about providing any details in statements that you have not yet fully verified - in the early stages your own investigations into the issue will inevitably be ongoing and you will want to avoid including something in your statement that later turns out to be untrue or inaccurate.
Ensure that your internal team is organised and on message. Make sure that enquiries are directed to the relevant individuals to ensure consistency in your response.
3. Don’t ignore the situation if your reputation is at stake
Clamping down on offensive material will limit the risk of it being duplicated, and taking action quickly can help to limit the nature and extent of any damage caused.
Consider putting together a draft response or press statement. If the incident attracts wider attention, you will not be given much time to consider your response. This will also be helpful for planning the message that you want to send out. It may have an effect on your wider strategy for handling the incident.
If you are hosting user generated content which is causing offence to a third party, taking prompt action can in some instances avoid liability altogether.
4. Keep your policies up to date
If you are a business, ensure that your relevant policies and agreements are up to date, for example to reflect use of social media. This would typically include staff employment contracts. Take opportunities to remind employees of the content, to emphasise that they are there and must be taken seriously.
5. Beware of reporting obligations
Be aware of any obligation to report incidents (and the timing of such reports) to insurers. If you are not sure whether you have insurance, now is the time to check so that you know who to call upon and what to do if a crisis arises. Cover can range from legal expenses cover for taking legal action, to specialist "reputation management cover" that can give you access to urgent PR advice or support if needed. If you are regulated, you may also need to report matters to your regulator, and at a very early stage to avoid the regulator finding out from elsewhere.
6. “Speak the language” of third parties
When liaising with a third party host of online content, speak their language and point out breaches of their own terms. This may particularly have more sway for hosts outside of the UK.
7. Work out claims and consider strategy options early on
As soon as you become aware of a potential issue, consider seeking specialist legal advice. They regularly advise clients on commercial and legal strategy and can assist in seeking to remove offensive material from the internet, unmasking those who hide their identities and with associate issues.