Firms in Northern Ireland ‘Well Placed To Protect Online Brand’

Organisations in the north are better placed to protect their online reputation that those in Britain.

A Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce seminar aimed to inform executives on how to deal with Twitter storms, copy-cat brand or online petitions.

The event, a partnership with international law firm Pinsent Masons, demonstrated the legal toolbox businesses have at their disposal, using the laws of defamation, intellectual property and confidentiality to take back control in the face of these modern threats.

Pinsent Masons senior associate James Griffiths said: “Whether actively engaging with customers through social media, or dealing with criticism online, it is crucial that businesses are aware of their legal rights and obligations.

“This is particularly important in Northern Ireland, as the Defamation Act 2013, which now requires that corporates claiming defamation in England and Wales must produce evidence of serious financial loss, controversially has not been enacted here.

“As plaintiffs in Northern Ireland don’t have to overcome this bar, it is more straightforward for businesses to take action against unfair and inaccurate content online compared to counterparts in Great Britain.

“Therefore companies should have a legal and PR action plan ready to be deployed in order to respond quickly to threats to corporate reputation online.”

Chamber chief executive Ann McGregor said the issue was becoming more important as companies embrace digital technologies and platforms.

“Social media sites, in particular, have gained huge popularity among the public and many companies have adapted their marketing strategies towards being active in the social media sphere,” she said.

“However, the development of social media and the use of the web as a communication platform has made companies vulnerable to negative publicity which can endanger their reputation.

“Bad reviews, malicious comments and misjudged social media posts can all damage a firm’s digital reputation and commercial value. It is therefore vital for companies to manage their online reputation as failing to do so can have serious consequences. In business, reputation is an asset worth protecting.”