A new front has been open -for several years now- for company managers and senior executives: the management of their online reputation. Some time ago, the main risk for these leaders in relation to their reputation was in the dissemination of information through traditional media, such as newspapers, magazines, radio or television. The advent of the web and new communication technologies in our society opened up a new stage for reputation management, now on a global level, to be taken into account.
Therefore, companies and leaders are faced with the need to find new actions to protect their online reputation, although there is a factor that remains at the top of the pyramid of performance: a good communication strategy and coordinated action between the different sectors or persons involved.
What can companies and managers do to protect their online reputation?
- Having a specialized communications team which is present in decision-making as far as reputation is concerned.
- To protect your online reputation in regard to information that has been made published in any traditional medium, there are legal resources and laws depending on your country of residence.
- The right to be forgotten is another resource that exists currently to protect your online reputation. We’re talking about the right that the owner of personal data has to ask search engines such as Google or Yahoo to block or remove said data if the affected parties consider it to be improper, outdated or excessive.
- Go to the courts if the reputational damage is potentially serious. It’s not a simple decision, and therefore it is recommended to make it with those responsible for communications, the legal department and the affected parties themselves.
As you can see, before any action to reverse a complicated situation involving a corporate leader or a company, it is essential to have a legal team that specializes in online reputation that, along with the communications team, designs the legal and public strategy to carry out in order to remove the information which is considered harmful to the company or its leaders.
We must not relegate the protection of our online reputation, since in the future it can be very detrimental to the business or to the career of the person who was affected by certain comments online.
Legal departments have tools and resources to preserve their executives’ right to honour. However, prosecution is not always the best option.
Protection of reputation and the right to honour have changed radically in the digital world. The immediacy, impact and supposed anonymity offered by the Internet is a perfect formula for corporate leaders to be criticized or attacked by some of their actions. Given such circumstances, it’s important for us to know which legal tools exist to protect the right to honour on the web and when should we resort to a legal tem.
The solution to the latter is not a simple issue. It is necessary to study every case and make decisions that are best suited to each one of them. It is essential for there to be a good coordination between the legal department and the communications team.
The first step is to generate a good communications plan, besides acting preemptively. If this does not produce good results, lawyers must decide which path to follow. You can try resources such as the “notice and takedown”, a complaint mechanism enabled by websites and social networks to remove injurious or defamatory content. An injunction, as well as the right to rectification, the courts, or the right to be forgotten are other useful resources.
It’s all a matter of timing
The right to rectification is one of the most commonly used tools, although it might not always be the best option. In this case, lawyers have to bear in mind that there’s usually a deadline for exercising it, so you’d have to assess its real effectiveness.
As for possible actions in court, taking either the civil or criminal path, in the most severe cases, this will always be the most appropriate tool. However, even if there’s an adequate legal framework to protect a person or company’s reputation, there are legal factors that may hinder effective judicial protection, such as the delay of processes, the impossibility of provisional execution of the judgment, low compensations and media coverage.
One of the last options to protect your online reputation is the right to be forgotten. This type of right to rectification -applied to the Internet- allows you to block, out of the list of results obtained after searching for the name of a person, any links to sites, published by third parties, which contain information concerning that person. This option may be interesting, but you must keep in mind that this does not make the information disappear, it only makes it more difficult to find on the Internet. Moreover, the right to be forgotten is not always enforced by platforms when it comes to information that is not obsolete or remains in the public interest.