Welcome to another Q&A Monday, where I answer a social media crisis or online reputation management-related question asked by a reader.

Today’s question came in reference to Chris Anderson’s guest post of last week, titled Is It Possible to Quickly Remove Online Defamation About Your Brand?.

Jonathan Bernstein of Bernstein Crisis Management asks:

“What would you do in his “Scenario #1″ if the anonymous culprit then starts widely talking about being threatened by a private investigator, turning the culprit into a victim/potential martyr? That type of tactic tends to rally other online activists to an “attacked” culprit’s defense.”

This is a really great question, but before answering it, I want to make clear on one very important thing: the definition of defamation.

Defamation defined

In order to be considered defamation, the negativity circulating the web needs to in fact be false. For example: A negative review based on reality or an individual’s own experience is NOT defamation. However, a negative post containing slander or libel, therefore based on falsehoods aimed at damaging the reputation, character or good name of a person, company or organization, is in fact considered defamation.

Defamation defined, in this particular scenario described by Chris Anderson, the culprit is anonymously defaming the victim-brand in a determined attempt to damage their online (and offline) reputation. That said, the culprit knows that what they are doing is wrong and did so under what they thought was an impossible to identify anonymous identity. Once identified, or having the risk of being identified, more often than not, the culprit is more concerned about saving his/her own behind, rather than continuing to defame their target. Whether they continue to defame or not, the courts will not be in their favor and they risk some very serious legal repercussions – and they know it.

However, it can happen that the cyber-investigator’s pursuit does backfire and that’s why choosing to hire an investigator and having that investigator contact the culprit should be done after a very serious analysis of the situation, its options and the risk attached to each of these options.

When it comes to your brand’s reputation being attacked online, your first step should always be to hire an online crisis specialist who has different options available to them, including working with cyber-investigators and Internet defamation attorneys. Whichever strategy is chosen to defend your brand’s reputation, it will require strategic online crisis management and communications that focus on:

  1. Regaining control of the situation
  2. Continuing to connect and build strong relationships with your market
  3. Managing and protecting your online reputation

Thanks to Jonathan for the excellent question!
If you have a social media crisis or online reputation management-related question, send it over and I’ll do my best to respond to you via a thorough blog post.

Find out more about the online reputation management and social media crisis management services Melissa Agnes Crisis Management provides to our clients.