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Reputation protection and social media/fake news

28 December 2018

The American business magnate and philanthropist Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.”

Organisations invest significant resources into building up their reputations with clients, their business peers and with the business community as a whole. However, they can destroy it all with a misguided statement or endorsement, or by allowing their social media platforms to become vulnerable to attack. What is more, it is often extremely difficult for companies and brands to recover from these avoidable mistakes.


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Jonathan Tait

You should assume that somewhere someone is looking at your profile, your website, your brand. For businesses, that someone is often a competitor. Competition is healthy, but it can also be the source of unwanted attention.

It goes without saying that the content that you share should reflect the values that your organisation or brand wants to project. Creating a social media strategy can help to ensure that the content that you post is engaging, is safe and promotes your brand’s values.

One trap a lot of companies fall into is to reply to negative comments/reviews made about you or your organisation. Therefore, it can be a good idea to create a social media escalation policy within your organisation which makes clear who should respond and in what way.

Sadly, hacking is more prevalent now than it has ever been and accounts being hacked appears to be a daily occurrence. The results of hacking can have a devastating effect on an organisation and cause substantial damage to the brand that the company has created.

Fake news has become a war cry for some, however, you should not underestimate the risk to your business at the hands of fake reviews or fake news. There have been a number of fake stories spread about which have tarnished the name and reputation of individuals and companies alike. For example, widespread coverage of offers purported to be sent by Starbucks and pub chains refusing to allow their staff members to wear Remembrance Day poppies were all uncovered as fake news, but not before significant reputational damage had befallen these companies.

It is not just national chains that are vulnerable, local business are not safe from this alarming trend either. There have been numerous fake reviews posted on various sites reviewing restaurants, delivery services, high street boutiques, all of which have been uncovered as fake, but in some instances it was too late.

Larger organisations may have the manpower and the resources to monitor and respond to the spread of fake news, but what can smaller entities do to protect themselves? It is important that you ensure that your organisation is fully prepared for such eventualities; failing to do so will undoubtedly result in greater damage being incurred.

Think very carefully before engaging with a protagonist directly either through social media posts or comments, by correspondence, or through a “cease and desist letter” issued by a solicitor on behalf of your business. Once it is out there – it stays out there.

A frequent tactic of the protagonist is to immediately post your email or your solicitor’s letter on line, usually with adverse comment that may or may not be accurate, and often adding in the Twitter accounts of tabloid newspapers. What you have written will then in turn be judged by social media users and not necessarily from an informed perspective. Keep any reactive posts or correspondence factual, avoid emotional responses and, if possible, include some narrative that (truthfully) portrays your approach as reasonable.

Paul Motion, Partner: / 0131 222 2932

“The level of service has always been excellent, with properly experienced solicitors dealing with appropriate cases" Legal 500

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