Posted on: 31 March 2015
Running a successful small business is challenging enough without having to worry about your reputation among customers and the media. However, with the proliferation of online social networks and customer review websites, you could be vulnerable to libel if someone writes a negative report about your company that contains false information.
If you are worried about dishonest individuals making claims about your business, the following tips can help you protect your company and mount a defense when defamatory comments threaten your bottom line.
Determine if the Claims Are Defamation
Defamation can take place in two forms: libel and slander. If someone makes an oral statement about your business in a public forum that is false and meant to cause harm to your business, they are committing slander, which is legally a civil wrong.
Libel includes false statements made in written form including pictures, signs or any other communication in physical form that is damaging to you or your business. Even an effigy that ridicules your business and conveys a false message can be considered libel.
Libel also includes false oral statements made on television and the radio. Statements made via broadcast media can reach a wider audience and therefore are categorized as libel not slander.
If the defamatory content about your business falls into the categories above, you should consider legal action. Laws that govern defamation are state-specific but follow general rules about libel and slander.
Monitor Online Social Networks
While it may add to your workload, you should be vigilant about monitoring social media networks about mentions of your business. In addition, be an active participant in responding to customer questions, comments and complaints on your Facebook page, Twitter account and other social media outlets. One comment thread with false information could turn into a threat to your sales if you do not take action.
Even if you simply take ten minutes a day to review your social media accounts, you could potentially offset the anger of an unhappy customer or clarify a misunderstanding among your followers.
There are numerous free and paid tools to monitor online accounts to help you avoid the wrath of customers who are angry and lash out with negative and false statements about your business.
Seek Legal Help
If you feel that you are a legitimate victim of slander or libel, contact a personal injury lawyer with experience in defamation. Slander and libel are considered personal injury because they harm you or your company's reputation. You can bring a civil lawsuit against an individual that commits slander or libel.
Defamation lawsuits can be complex. If your case involves slander, you must prove that the false statements are harmful to your business. As a small business owner, you may also suffer undue emotional pain and suffering resulting from defamation.
If the defamatory information was posted anonymously on a website, a lawyer can help you uncover the source of the false information while pursuing a case. The lawsuit will be against a "John Doe" until the identity of the perpetrator is uncovered.
Top-notch lawyers will be well-versed in state libel and slander laws as well as federal legislation that could affect your case such as the First Amendment.
Protecting your company's reputation in the local community and online is crucial for your continued success. While it may be an uphill battle to prove how the illegal acts of slander and libel negatively affect your business, you do not want to stand by and watch dishonest individuals destroy what you have worked so hard to build by spreading lies.
If you dig in, hire a lawyer and win a civil lawsuit, a court may award you monetary damages to help your business recover from the effects of defamation.Share