How the Reputation Management Company Properly Handles Defamation
Having your online reputation tarnished can induce a panic spiral. Reputational damage today feels more permanent than ever before. Nothing is ever truly lost on the internet, and it’s easier for people to find “dirt” on you, whether deliberately or accidentally.
Indeed, knowing that people might accidentally stumble upon false and defamatory statements about you or your business is especially concerning. These are the people you might want to do business with – people who aren’t out to get you but will back away if your online reputation seems sketchy. So, you’ll need to know how to address defamation quickly to avoid losing potential customers.
At The Reputation Management Company, we have years of expertise in helping clients deal with defamation. Here’s our complete guide on everything you should know about this complicated issue and how we can help you cope with defamation and restore your online reputation.
What is Defamation?
In law, defamation is making false statements that tarnish the reputation of another party. It includes both written (libel) and spoken (slander) statements, which can occur online.
We’ll cover legal responses to online defamation later – sometimes it’s necessary, but there are other responses to consider first. At The Reputation Management Company, we know that legal action should never be your first step when dealing with online defamation. First, we’ll help you understand the reasons behind the defamatory statements.
Defamation doesn’t necessarily have to be deliberate. Verifying information we find online can be difficult. A blogger might find an outdated resource containing false information about you (e.g., a customer review from someone with an ax to grind) and repeat its contents in their high-traffic blog.
This would pose a serious problem for your online reputation and constitutes defamation, but it doesn’t mean you need to sue the blogger. It’s much more affordable and effective to work with The Reputation Management Company and remove the issue “softly.”
Consequences of Online Defamation
What happens when you’re defamed online? Everyone is terrified of damage to their online reputation, from 16-year-olds with a hundred Twitter followers to multi-billion corporations. A buzzword that strikes terror into the heart is being “canceled” or hung out to dry for the world to see on social media. Let’s address that.
If you’ve experienced online defamation, it’s extremely unlikely that you’re about to be canceled. This is typically reserved for:
- Very high-profile figures and corporations
- Internet personalities with a (formerly) positive reputation among younger, more left-leaning audiences.
Lower-key figures tend to avoid the ire of the infamous “Twitter mob.” Unless this applies to you, the consequences might be that:
- Your organization hears about the defamatory remarks, and you lose your job or position;
- Individuals in your personal life find hurtful or defamatory remarks about you online, and it affects your relationships;
- People you’d like to interact with (on a personal or business level) find defamatory remarks about you when they search for you online.
Let’s be clear: it might not be in the public eye, but these are severe and extremely hurtful consequences. If you’re unable to tackle and disprove defamatory remarks, it’s not just your online reputation that can suffer. Depending on the nature of the remarks or allegations, your “offline” life can be permanently affected by defamation.
How The Reputation Management Company Helps Restore Your Online Reputation
First, The Reputation Management Company will listen to your situation and help you understand the scale of the damage. This is key to building a proportionate response.
Suppose someone’s written a blog post claiming that your restaurant uses ingredients that are past the best-when-used-by date. In that case, it’s probably a lot easier to remedy than if someone’s accused you of harmful or even criminal behavior against them.
The Reputation Management Company will take the most proportionate response first and advise you on when to escalate from there. Unnecessary escalation is always a bad idea, as this can bring far more attention to the issue, which is what you want to avoid at all costs.
Here are the steps The Reputation Management Company will take to help you combat defamation.
1. The Soft Approach – Make a Polite Request
The first and most important step is to get in touch with the person publishing defamatory statements. The Reputation Management Company will help you write a request in good faith and takes the right tone. This includes:
- Being polite – people respond poorly to aggression or accusations that they’re trying to hurt you (especially if they’re not!) Taking a polite, neutral tone shows that you’re a reasonable party with a genuine concern about what they’ve published.
- Staying reserved – your initial correspondence shouldn’t give anything away. It should only address the false statements, note that they are false with a simple explanation and correction, and ask for them to be removed. If you’re dealing with a malicious party, the more information you give them, the more they’ll have to use against you.
- Making the correspondence useful – if you get a positive or sincere response from the individual, politely inquire where they found the false information. Following the breadcrumb trail is important to fully restore your online reputation – The Reputation Management Company has the tools to help you achieve this.
- Pointing out the harm – what’s a tiny bit more false information on the internet? Gently point out that your online reputation is suffering due to the defamation and that you stand to lose, financially or personally, as a result. We’ll help you subtly suggest that you’ll be forced to take the matter further if they don’t correct it.
- Helping them with removal – advise them that the statement needs to be removed and retracted. Search engines will still pick up on the false text if a simple retraction is issued. The retraction needs to be at the top of the article, and any negative reference to you, in the headline or otherwise, should be fully removed. You can also advise them that they can add a “no index” tag to the page’s HTML, which will prevent search engines from seeing it.
This is the single most effective way of having defamatory statements removed. Often, people have got their information from an incorrect source and will be happy to make amendments. It also helps you find the source of information and take further steps if needed.
2. The Medium Approach – Take Legal Action
If they don’t want to cooperate, it’s time for a reasonably-worded letter from your attorney. Showing them that you’re willing to go to court is enough to get most people to comply – legal battles are expensive, and the loss of earnings they might incur from de-indexing a web page is far less than defending it.
At The Reputation Management Company, we’re well-versed in defamation law. We can help you understand whether legal action is appropriate. We’ll liaise with your attorney and construct a watertight argument proving that:
- False statements were made
- These statements were made in public to third parties
- At least negligence or even malice was behind the statements being made
- You’ve been harmed financially, personally, or in another demonstrable way
Hopefully, a letter from your attorney will be enough. If not, winning your case will give you a court order, meaning that they must take the statements down – Google must also de-index them in this case.
3. The Hard Approach – Have It Taken Down Manually
Speak to the manager(s). This can be a tortuous process, but companies you can speak to include:
- Their domain host
- Search engines
- Social media companies
- Their web host
You need to read each company’s guidelines and be able to prove that the party defaming you is breaking them in some way. This sometimes includes defamation but might also include copyright infringement or nefarious SEO practices besmirching your online reputation.
At The Reputation Management Company, we can help you research these guidelines and advise you on the best course of action.
4. Make a Succinct Response
If it’s not going to go away, it’s a good idea to have your side of the story out there. Leave it as close to the offending content as possible and not in a place that increases the chances that someone might discover the dispute who was previously unaware (e.g., on your website).
State that you have taken all reasonable steps to have these defamatory and false statements removed but that the other party has ignored your requests. Be straight and to the point – don’t start ranting, or you’ll look worse.
5. Bury the Headline
The Reputation Management Company can help you create content that drives the negative information down the search engine rankings.
You can flood Google’s front page with neutral stories and divert traffic away from the source of the defamation by:
- Performing extensive keyword research
- Working with high-traffic blogs
- Creating high-quality posts that associate your name with more positive things
If you can’t make something disappear, you can make it small enough that nobody notices. Place flags around the offending content noting that it’s false and that you’ve taken reasonable steps to have it removed. Then give people something else to read, and don’t keep poking the bear.
Online Reputation Management: Making it the Other Party’s Problem
It’s the other party’s responsibility to make corrections. If they won’t, they have to defend themselves in court. Flag it as false. Don’t make your statements central to your online reputation and identity.
Having defamatory information about you removed can be challenging and exhausting, but it can be done. To learn more about how The Reputation Management Company can help with defamation, get in touch.