Libel, Slander & Defamation: How to Maintain Your Business’s Good Reputation

It’s true that we live in a litigious world. A brand or an individual’s reputation is valuable, and people will sue to maintain them. As a business owner, you need to make sure that you don’t make any missteps and tarnish someone else’s reputation. Not only could you find yourself in court, but it can also damage your brand’s reputation. You could find yourself in hot water by saying something intentionally inflammatory about another person or entity or saying something incorrectly by accident. If the other party takes offense in either situation, it can harm how the public and consumers view your brand. Think of recent high-profile court defamation cases. While there is a winner in court, all parties lose when it comes to their public persona and reputation. Here is a guide on protecting your business from defamation claims and mitigating financial fallout.

What Are Libel, Slander, and Defamation?

Libel and slander are both different forms of defamation. Defamation refers to the act of making a statement that damages the reputation of another party. If the statement is made in writing, then it is called libel. If it is vocalized, then it is slander. A statement of an opinion cannot be considered defamatory. For instance, if you give an opinion on the food at a restaurant, that is not defamation. However, if you say that you found a nest of ants in your meatloaf, which is untrue, that would be defamation. Regarding your business, the most common causes of a defamation claim are social media posts, advertising, or employees speaking in public.

Never Make Negative Comments

Of course, the best way to avoid a defamation claim against you is to have your business never say or communicate anything negative about any other person or business. This is especially true for content posted online, where it will have staying power. Defamation lawsuits can be very emotional reactions from those who feel they are harmed. If they think a wide range of people will read something and feel attacked by those statements, they are more likely to file a claim. Playing nicely with all of your competitors will help to prevent that.

Stick to the Truth

When creating a website or social media content, advertising copy, or being interviewed, always stick with facts. You cannot be accused of defamation if you tell what you believe to be the truth. Do not go off the cuff in an interview, or be very careful about what you say. There are some instances when you will want to compare your business favorably to the competition. This is fine, as long as your comparisons are truthful. Even something you print or say as a joke could be found defamatory.

Get Insured

Despite all the precautions you can take, there may still be a time when you are accused of making defamatory statements. You might be entirely in the right, but you might also want to avoid going to court and making a spectacle of it. Plus, sometimes mistakes happen, and certain things are blurted out in a spontaneous moment. You will be protected if you get the required small business insurance covering defamation claims. It will provide you with compensation for your legal costs and any judgments ordered against you. There is no reason to shut down your business over a mistake or a slip of the tongue. Insurance will protect you so that you can keep in operation.

Give Your Employees Training

Everyone in the world has a platform for communicating. Most people have several. Social media has opened up the world, and unfortunately, your employees could put you at risk. For example, if someone says something about a competitor or another entity online, they could be accused of defamation even if it was in jest. Provide all of your employees with training and knowledge to understand what defamation is and their risks and responsibilities when using social media.

Approve Everything Your Business Publishes

As a business owner, you don’t want communications to the public to have untruths, mistakes, or misleading information. For that reason alone, there should be a very small number of people who can post to social media, write and send media releases, and even answer the phone. Have someone sign off on the content before anything is published on your website or social media channels. That can be you, or it can be a trusted employee who was hired for that specific job. If you are thinking of publishing something particularly controversial, you can always run it by an attorney to ensure that it is not defamatory. This also includes comments on your social media. You have the ability to delete those that are offensive or defamatory. Failure to do that will lessen your brand in the eyes of your consumers and followers. Plus, if you do not remove or share or like them by accident, you could find yourself in legal hot water.

Fix Errors Immediately 

If something slips through and you get called out on it, then fix it immediately. Nothing is needed to linger and cause further damage to the offended party. Not only that, but it looks unprofessional if you cannot correct yourself. This will also show the offended party that you operate in good faith and perhaps did not mean to publish or speak the incorrect statement. Getting accused of defamation means that another party feels they have suffered damage to their reputation. Not only that, but your reputation can suffer as a result. Customers will hesitate to spend their money with a company that seems to lie and use underhanded tactics to bring others down. Unfortunately, we live in a time where using the courts to get satisfaction is very common. You could even find yourself getting sued even if you did nothing wrong. Protect the reputation of others and your own business by following these tips.
Show More