Marketing Works Today

Integrated Digital Marketing & PR Consulting from Brown Ltd.

Blogging, Free Speech, the Law, and Reality

I was recently criticized by an idealist blogger about my position on blogging, publishing, and why you should be careful when publishing negative content. 

One of my specialties is Reputation Management and Crisis Communication.  I’m not a lawyer, but I have prepared Rep and Crisis Communication Strategy and Plans, and had to execute them for many companies and clients.  Plus, I’ve been on both sides of the fence as a journalist and PR pro – including communication law cases.

I’m a 30-year professional journalist and college j-school teacher.  I’ve taken and taught media law for a long time. You should know there are consequences for libel and slander.

This post isn’t a class in media law; but, it is a practical overview of the issue on the street.

I encourage you or anyone to speak your mind anytime you want. Freedom of speech is of vital importance to our country and liberty.  I get it.

Supreme Court

But the truth matters. Facts matter. So does reality.

If you purposefully lie, distort the truth, publish outright false information, and it materially damages someone or their reputation, and they can prove it, the legal action could be a real drag.

I’m not talking about opinion. That’s different.

If you want to publish that you don’t like something or someone, it’s not illegal. Most companies or individuals won’t take legal action. It’s a business decision. Cost vs. bad press, reputation, or customer relations. Public companies usually won’t take action.

Plus the burden of proof to prove libel is all on the person bringing the lawsuit and it’s hard to prove to the standards set by the law.  Congress and the Supreme Court made it that way to protect free speech.

What I’ve explained so far is the ideal world.  Now for some reality.

 

Front & Backroom Legal Action

Private individuals or privately held companies are a different matter when you attack them with a blog, especially ones with deep pockets and no board of directors to report to, when they decide they personally don’t like something a blogger publishes.

I witnessed the president of a privately held company legally and financially game and drain someone dry because of blogging.  The blogger is living with his mother now. 

Would the president win in court?  Probably not, even though the blogger was a jerk.  However, the legal amusement from a vindictive person with lots of money is endless and so is the cost – for the other party AND YOU.

The question is… as a blogger, how much time and money do you want to spend with lawyers?  How much do you have?

How much do you have?

If you turn your publishing into a full-time rant, the savvy will launch their reputation management system and make your posts irrelevant or worse – you can ruin your own reputation.

If you’re really nasty in your posts, with the sole purpose to ruin someone’s reputation, some will take legal action based on “poison pen” law. I just read that a ranter just got found guilty of that.  They’ve gone for years in the legal process. Great fun for them I’m sure.

By the way, this isn’t just about one or two court cases.  There have been many.  Most don’t make the press.  You have to read the court records.

Many posts and blogs have been taken down by an ISP or blog hosting company because of violations of terms of service.  Most article directories won’t even allow you to mention a company name unless it’s yours.  They don’t want the grief.  Censorship?  Yes.

In an ideal world, you’re right.  Nobody should censor.

Unfortunately, this is a hugely litigious country and the folks with the biggest bank account can bleed you dry.  Is it right?  No.  Does it happen?  Everyday.

Here’s how it works.

In almost all cases, lawsuits settle – you never get to court to have a “decision” based on what is right.  Most of the time there is a signed agreement by both parties – and the judge that you never get to meet – requiring you to shut up about the case.  So you won’t read much about it or the litigant that leaked will have to go before that judge and defend against contempt of court.

Usually they settle somewhere in the middle after both parties are tired of spending or the hassle.  Your time and cost will be yours – at $150-$350 per hour for your lawyer, who usually wants to keep it going, plus mediators at $750 a day.  When all is said and done, the lawyers got richer and you got poorer.  Is it worth it?

My point is: there is an ideal and purely constitutional law side to this – and there is a practical and real-world (and some would say cynical) side.

The ideal is a free flow of ideas and honest discussion, agreement, and disagreement. That exists most of the time and it’s good.

But get your facts wrong and in the process harm someone badly, or go over the top with opinion to the point that you anger someone with deep pockets, and I guarantee you’ll wish you never wrote that post.

I know: reality stinks.  You can live in an ideal la-la land in your head.  Or you can live in the real world.  It’s your choice.  The key is to pick your battles.

Sometimes, it’s just better to listen to what your mother taught you, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

Filed under: Blogging, Crisis Communication, Media Law, Public & Media Relations, Reputation Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Brand Called “Me”

You’ve been laid-off, down-sized, right-sized, or capsized. Maybe all-of-the-above multiple times.

Your “personal brand” is old, worn, and beaten. So is theirs.

All brands go through tough times. American Airlines has fallen out of favor. Nike took it on the chin. IBM got a big-blue butt whipping for over 10 years. GE and NBC, well – you know.

And your friends, neighbors, and colleagues have been through it too. Will they adapt and move to the next big thing? More importantly, will you?

How?

In a down market, in an economy that is spiraling to the bottom, now is the time to make your biggest moves. You must re-brand yourself. You must become “Me LLC.”

That doesn’t mean you have to start a company. But you have to think like you are. You have to think like a free-agent.

A free-agent with a championship brand.

Regardless of your age, position, or business, you must understand the importance of branding you. And you are your best brand manager. Even if you work for another company, you need to view yourself as a free-agent – because “sizing” will happen again.

Careers aren’t on ladders any longer. People don’t move up. They move through a marketplace maze just like products or services from a business.

Why not use the same branding techniques and advertising that major companies use? With the web, it doesn’t cost that much anymore.

We can show you how to create your brand, protect it, and advertise it.

Know Your Personal Brand: “Me LLC”

What is a brand? The simple answer is: a promise. It’s a promise of the value you provide others.

What makes you different? What do you offer? What have you done to make yourself stand out? What do you do that adds amazing, measurable, unique value?

Can you write it into a 15 word elevator speech? Make sure you phrase it as a benefit to the customer. As a free-agent, your resume must be a marketing brochure about the benefits you offer clients or an employer.

Protect Your Brand

Protecting your brand can be complicated – mainly because of the web. It’s called reputation management. Have you been online complaining a lot lately? Do you comment on blogs? Have you been to questionable websites and left a footprint you wouldn’t want anyone to know about – particularly an employer or a client?

We know strategies that can help you create and protect your web “Me LLC” brand. There isn’t any reason why you can’t launch your new brand or re-brand right now – today.

Advertise Your Brand

The first step is the obvious one: Career Sites. Next is Social Networking sites. And to be a complete branded free-agent, you must create a website and blog.

Website domain names and template driven user created websites don’t cost much today and they are simple to use after you know what you’re doing. The problem comes in if you don’t have the time to figure all this stuff out, learn how to update your sites and social networking sites, and discover the strategy to advertise.

Actually, once you know how to do it, the whole process is easy. Finding it out is hard because you have to learn the software for each site and research the “channels” that best match your brand.

That’s where Brown Ltd. can help. We already know the best websites, the best social network sites and how to manage them, and how to expand your brand with free advertising. We sit down with you for one-on-one training, tailor a strategy that matches your brand, and show you how to do it.

We help you create the sites, plug into social networking, and get you going. The typical cost for a personal branding setup costs less than $500 and can be done in less than a week – roughly 10 – 15 hours of hands-on help.

The value is incredible. After everything is built, you can put as little or as much time into it as you want – it depends on how pervasive you want your brand to be.

So get started creating “Me LLC” today! A powerful brand attracts clients and employers so don’t wait. Be your own free agent right now! Contact Mike at 561-756-1674 or mikebrown@BrownLtd.com

Filed under: Branding, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Marketing Works Today

This blog is to help you learn how to connect with customers. The goal is to show you how to get the most qualified leads, traffic, relationships, and sales for the lowest cost/customer. I'll write and aggregate content that relates to the goal. You're welcome to subscribe, comment, and post. Send me your news tips!

What’s In A Title?

I've had a lot of titles [Director of Marketing, Communications Director, Advertising Director, Multimedia Producer, Managing Editor, Reporter, Copywriter]; but, I approach every project as a digital producer... what does the audience need and how can I deliver it most effectively and for the lowest cost?

Sometimes I write with pictures or video, sometimes with words. I always keep the goal in mind: sales, leads, traffic, a better brand image or awareness, or just a really good story, etc.

Yeah I create content for money. But you'll see from my background that I'm way better at making money for others than I am for myself.

I wish I had 1%. I'd be surfing with my kids all the time now.

Contact me and I'll make some for you.

Mike Brown
www.BrownLtd.com
MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com

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I have 8 years experience setting up, writing, and managing small business and simple product campaigns ($100/week Google Adwords) and large business campaigns with multiple divisions and product lines (up to $20,000/week in Google Adwords – more than $1.1 billion in annual sales). Contact me to create your campaign! MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com

R. Michael Brown
Marketing Consultant, Public Relations Consultant, Freelance Writer: West Palm Beach, Florida

"I help organizations increase sales, and pump up the value of their brand, using media, for the lowest cost per customer."

Digital Marketing and Public Relations consultant, writer, and producer with over 20 years experience launching brands like DiVosta Homes, IBM Multimedia, Nextel, Motorola business and government sector, and SunFest Jazz Festival.

MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com
561-756-1674

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