Every business should also be aware of preventive legal measures to manage brand reputation in the online environment. The Internet and the proliferation of social media platforms have transformed the marketplace. Information and opinions are instantly and widely shared, much of it with very little vetting or concern for the truth or the proprietary rights of others.

A business should monitor online postings to remain aware of what is being said about it and to protect its reputation and intellectual property. It should also be careful and have a well defined policy and practice of what posts are made by the company or its employees.

I previously wrote an article which is also on my website entitled “What’s in a Name? (And Is It Really Yours?)” wherein I briefly advised about protecting intellectual property business assets. Once they are secured by proper registration however, they must be diligently protected.

Although many social media sites prohibit the improper use of trademarks, copyrights and protected material of others, infringing pages and posts still exist which can harm a firm’s reputation. It is important to monitor social media platforms for misuse or unauthorized use of a company’s intellectual property. Abuses should be reported to the service provider to demand their removal. Not taking action if a firm’s trademarks or copyrights are used without authorization can appear as acquiescence.

Additionally, false or misleading statements can further harm a company’s reputation and good will. While there may be times that “taking the highroad” and not responding at all may be the best tactic in a given instance, continual acquiescence without any response may only allow the negative image to grow in the mind of the viewing public. A company should develop a strategic communication policy which includes how it will push its positive agenda and how it will combat ill founded negative commentary. Blustery “cease and desist” letters have their place but not on every occasion. Sometimes a more subtle “push back” which contains the truth is more effective.

While it is not possible to control what may be said about your business, it is equally important to police that which can be controlled, namely, a company’s own practice of using websites and social media. Just as a business should not remain rudderless without a well drafted business and marketing plan, a firm engaging social media should have a clear and accessible media policy which imparts the company’s core values and provides guidance to navigate the possible pitfalls of the social media landscape including the negative consequences which may befall to the firm and its employees when the policy is violated. If the company already has a policy in place, it is a good practice to audit it periodically to ensure it covers the main objectives and serves to protect the needs of the company.

Online posts should not contain false, misleading, defamatory or disparaging statements which could subject a firm to liability. Moreover, posts should be monitored to keep confidential or proprietary information from being shared. Items to be placed on the company webpage or in social media should be reviewed before going out and a select group of individuals within a company should be the only ones conducting such postings. If a third party media company is being employed, the social media policy and the core values and concerns of the company should be clearly conveyed. There should be a responsible individual within the firm to approve of any proposed postings.

The Internet and social media is a good tool to spread the positive image of a company provided there is a clear plan and careful monitoring of the online environment.  For more information Email our Office.