Managing the reputation of an individual or an organisation is of crucial importance. Positive media coverage can enhance reputation, whereas adverse media can damage the name of the individual and the brand, or even FTSE standing, of the organisation.
Having acted for prominent organisations and individuals, including sporting and acting personalities, I can confirm the importance of involving a legal adviser in dealing with potentially harmful coverage at an early stage, for the purpose of monitoring how an issue develops, managing how it might be portrayed in the media and taking action where necessary. It is important to decide whether a warning letter needs to be written in the first instance and also to consider whether press releases need to be made in order to control how the story unfolds in the press and in the broadcast media as well as whether or not to engage in conversations with journalists in respect of the intended coverage.
When hitting upon a potentially powerful story, journalists tend to circle around it like wolves descending on their prey, and so it is important to communicate effectively with them, sometimes at night and over weekends, in order to keep control of developments which can quickly spiral out of control without careful management. On some occasions the response might be “no comment”, but at other times that is not enough, and a more focused, specific response might be called for. Sometimes the story has already been published, in which case the remedy might be seeking a swift and effective apology correcting misleading statements, together with agreeing a suitable sum in damages in respect of a client’s reputation in respect of any potential libel proceedings.
On other occasions I have dealt with the BBC and other television companies regarding forthcoming programmes which would feature clients in an unfavourable light. My response has been by way of initial conversations, or if required letters setting out the potential implications of publication, including issuing proceedings and finally, applying for injunctive relief and damages if that has become necessary. Fortunately, this approach on behalf of several high-profile clients has meant that potential articles and programmes have been watered down or withdrawn completely, with the result that my clients have avoided suffering damage to their reputations. The key is to take advice early and to decide upon a strategy and the action required swiftly so that any potential harm is limited or avoided completely.