Head of Media Disputes Emily Cox recently provided top tips to Luxury London for CEOs, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) navigating social media use. The full article is available to read on the Luxury London website here.
The rise of social media has proved to be a double-edged sword. While undoubtedly a valuable tool for growing your profile, publicising your business and connecting directly with followers, all of which can, in turn, lead to lucrative opportunities, one thoughtless comment or insensitive post can turn the tide very quickly. Judgments and comments made on social media can impact the standing and business prospects of parties just as significantly as any legal ruling.
“There has been a large increase in so-called “twi-bel” cases being heard in the courts, and with everyone constantly online, defamation and privacy cases involving social media will only continue to increase,” Emily explains. “For HNWIs concerned about damaging posts, it is also important to be strategic when dealing with these and to use litigation as a last resort. Objecting to a particular photograph, tweet or article can sometimes attract more headline attention to the content than if left alone.”
Can you avoid social media?
With the potential pitfalls it represents, it’s understandable that some public figures and high-profile CEOs may be tempted to stay off social media altogether. However, says Cox, the prevalence of these platforms in modern life means this can be just as damaging, with a lack of digital presence often considered suspect and leading to questions about the motivations for staying offline.
So, if non-participation isn’t an option, how should HNWIs and public figures protect themselves from cancel culture? “Prevention is undoubtedly better than a cure, so HNWIs should pause and be mindful about any content they put into the public eye – whether that is on their own website, on social media or in interviews,” says Cox.
“Avoid making jokes or flippant remarks on social media about serious issues, or without knowing the full facts of an issue, even if it seems quite benign, and remember that simply ‘liking’ posts or re-posting other people’s content could be seen as making a statement on the subject, even if you do not say anything specifically yourself. This could even result in a claim for defamation, if what you ‘liked’ is proven down the line to be a false and negative statement about another person.”
“There is a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ element to this. While it is not necessary (or feasible) to comment on every issue, HNWIs should consider what subjects align with their personal or professional brands, or philanthropic interests. In cases where an HNWI is known to be active in a particular area, it would likely be seen as more problematic to stay silent. The key is to be strategic about the issues that HNWIs make statements about. In all contentious cases, we would advise that statements are run past PR/lawyers, to ensure that any legal or reputational risks are mitigated.”
Should I hire a social media manager?
A good social media manager can be invaluable for growing your brand and creating connections on your behalf but, at the same time, it is important to remember that whatever they post is under your name and will be attributed to you, regardless of the circumstances under which it was posted.
“It is important for the person named on the account to have full awareness of what is being posted. If they like, retweet or share someone else’s post on your account, this can amount to defamation by you,” advises Cox. “There should be an agreement in place which details what kind of content is to be posted and that all posts (or types of post) have to be approved by the person named on the account, to avoid the risk of someone posting something that could actually harm their reputation.”
If all your preventative measures fail, Cox recommends instructing a reputation management lawyer as soon as possible, particularly in cases involving alleged criminal activity, blackmail, privacy and harassment.
“The best way to manage situations like this is for PR and legal representatives to work together to coordinate a strategy, and involving lawyers from the beginning also potentially reduces the costs of any action taken,” says Cox. “There are a reassuring amount of tools available to lawyers to prevent and mitigate reputational issues causing an HNWI to be cancelled e.g. pre-publication engagement with the media, content removal tools, ‘the right to be forgotten’. The earlier these are deployed the better.”
Senior Paralegal Palomi Kotecha contributed to this article.
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