Retailers and manufacturers know that their brand is not only
the identity they expressly communicate to their customers, but
also what those customers think and say about them. The rise of
social media means that what a single individual thinks or says
about a retailer can impact its brand in profound ways that were
unthinkable before the Internet. A single message or, sometimes
worse, a single photo, can spread across the Internet and expose a
retail reputation to real damage in a matter of hours that may take
months to fix, if it can be fixed at all.
What does this mean for you as a retailer or manufacturer facing
attacks on its reputation? The answer is to play good
"defense" but also sharpen your plan of attack and learn
to play "offense." Here are seven key tips for
safeguarding what can be a retailer's most important
asset— its brand:
1. Listen to what the kids are saying
Invest resources in listening to and understanding what is being
said about you and your products. Use social media as an
"early warning system" to catch "bugs" in your
products or services, address complaints promptly, and reduce the
likelihood of negative attention and litigation.
2. Be sophisticated about how you handle consumer
Remember that every consumer interaction, including each
response to a complaint, is an opportunity for brand enhancement or
brand damage. Develop a strategy for handling suggestions,
complaints, and threats from your customers. Involve legal advisors
to make sure that your words don't have unintended legal
3. Don't just stand there
In the face of a brewing controversy or scandal, taking a
"no comment" approach to allegations can sometimes just
add fuel to the fire. Legally, not seizing an opportunity to
present your side of the story can give the media an important
potential defense in the event that they make defamatory statements
associated with your brand. In certain Canadian provinces and
several jurisdictions in other countries, legislation permits
apologies to be made without admissions of liability. Consider
using your response to controversies to reinforce your key brand
4. Tell your story before someone else does
Consider thoughtful and proactive responses to early signs of
trouble, such as negative product or customer service reviews,
rumors, or inquiries from traditional or nontraditional forms of
media. Coordinate your media and online strategy with legal
5. If it's really bad (but maybe only then), consider
attacking the attacker
Know your rights under the law of defamation, which protects
corporate reputations as well as personal ones. In the face of
online harassment of your employees or attacks on your brand,
consider using the courts to "unmask" online attackers
who think they are anonymous. In all cases, however, you will need
to consider whether bringing or threatening a legal action may just
make things worse.
6. Update the small print
"User Agreement" for your Web site will last forever. The
pace of change online means the online risks change too.
7. Make sure you're covered in case things go wrong
Audit your insurance coverage for the perils of the Internet
age. Are you covered if there is a litigation claim arising out of
posts on your customer reviews forum? Are you covered for the time
and liability associated with dealing with hacking, data theft, and
other forms of cyberattacks?
This article was reproduced with permission of the publisher
from Licensing Journal, Volume 43, No 2, February 2014.
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