An increasing number of businesses and persons in Australia, including many of our clients, are the subject of allegations being published in the mainstream media, or on social media, that are inaccurate or, at worst, fabricated. Any such publicity can be disruptive and damaging and spread globally in an instant – often destroying a reputation or brand built over decades.
Unfortunately, given events over more recent years in the USA and elsewhere, a rebuttal with a simple “This is Fake News!” is likely to be less effective than it may have been in the past. Saying “No Comment” is also unlikely to hold water.
What does FC Lawyers recommend?
First and foremost, plan ahead! You need a PR crisis management plan in place.
Importantly, in the first instance, the plan needs to:
- align with existing strategies designed to protect you and your business, including your reputation and brand;
- detail the lines of communication, in particular the identity of the person internally responsible for making decisions and giving instructions; and
- identify the go-to lawyers and PR team who have expertise in crisis and issues management.
If a story is so obviously fake that no-one will believe it in any event, it may be prudent to do and say nothing. To do otherwise might unnecessarily draw more attention to it. In fact, it may not even amount to defamation if it does not lower your reputation.
However, if a story is likely to cause reputational damage or other harm, we recommend that you, as a matter of priority, engage with your lawyers and PR team. The PR team will determine the messaging and the lawyers can in the first instance use the law to persuade publishers to retract or correct the story or, in an extreme case, take injunctive action to halt the further publication of the story.
Given the real potential for disruption and damage, time is of the essence.
Whilst it is important to act quickly, an over-reaction may be worse.
A PR crisis need not be a disaster for you or your business. Your response is critical and may not only win respect and admiration but also assist in bringing necessary change and improvements in your business.
It is critical to be prepared. Thinking “It won’t happen” is shortsighted.
How can FC Lawyers assist?
FC Lawyers can assist you and your business to be prepared and, in the event of a potential PR crisis, assist and advise in managing the crisis and, where possible, avoiding a disaster for your and/or your business.
Contact our team today to discuss your legal needs.
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