top of page

Image/Reputation/Brand Damage: Does Litigation Solve the Problem?

The answer is most assuredly NO!

When the image, reputation or brand of a person, business, organization or any type of entity has been damaged by defamation (e.g. libel, slander) or any form of communications or action by another, it often leads to litigation. The wronged party seeks redress in some form or another to “right the wrong” so-to-speak. It could be simply to have the offending party admit they were wrong (to specific parties or publicly), to have them apologize, to reverse an action, to demand restitution in some form, etc. In many instances, it involves litigation.

Unfortunately, many who have been harmed – and even worse yet, their attorneys as well - have the myopic view that litigation is the solution to the problem (negative perception) when that is definitely not the case. O.K. you’ve been damaged. You want justice (sometimes revenge as well). You file a lawsuit and take the offender to court. The litigation ends (whether in court or settlement), you prevail, receive some money (and/or something else demanded), the attorney has successfully served you – and all is well with the world. Wrong!

There is one major glitch in this rosy scenario – in the vast majority of these situations, the PROBLEM has not been solved.

The client may have money in hand but the image, reputational or brand damage is still there and has to be addressed. To eliminate (rarely possible) or mitigate the damage as much as possible, proactive steps must be taken to counter the negativity which has impacted the offended party. Such an effort can be called a Reputation Management or Remedial Reputation Program.

Without getting into specifics of what actions such a program should contain (many would be staples of any program but such programs should be customized), it is important to consider key factors relating to such a program:

  • Objectives – What is to be achieved, short and long term?

  • Target Audiences – The can include not only who you want to impact but third parties who might influence them or be a conduit to provide them with information.

  • Timetable – Does this program have any time constraints – when to start, end, duration?

  • Budget – Is there a limit to what can be spent and, if so, what?

  • Strategy – What is the best approach to achieve the objectives?

  • Who to Implement – Who is most appropriate or best equipped to handle each task and is external assistance needed?

Once these factors are analyzed and determinations made, a program is needs to be planned and then implemented.

(Side note: Before doing so, it is vital to understand the “Custer’s Last Stand” theory as it relates to communications. George Armstrong Custer and his 212 men did not lose the Battle of the Little Bighorn because they were facing a force of approximately 2,000 Indians, he lost because they surrounded him and they were trapped (fair assumption is if the Indians were coming at him from one direction and his horses were just as swift, they could have escaped). This theory is the essence of a communications program of any type. In this analogy, Custer and his men are your target audience and the Indians (or arrows) represented every means by which the target audience receives information or are influenced. The message this theory contains is akin to “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” in terms of reaching and impacting target audiences. Use multiple means of communications so that if one way isn’t successful another will. Permeate their environment so they cannot help getting the message.)

The bottom line is this: while litigation is important in terms of obtaining justice for the offended party who has suffered image, reputation and/or brand damage, it doesn’t correct the problem. Litigation is one half of the equation. The second half is critical.


Note to Attorneys – You should be aware that this reputation management or remedial program – including the cost - should be included in your lawsuit. This should be paid for by the offending party (e.g. defendant). Generally it’s introduced through an expert witness on defamation and/or reputation harm. In several cases I have served as an expert witness I have included in my expert witness report an outline of a program along with a budget. Of those that I’ve done to date the budgets have ranged from $400,000 to $1.2 million for the cost of creating, planning and implementing the program. Along with this cost, in some cases, you can seek an additional monetary amount for “pain and suffering” for the humiliation and emotional damage the plaintiff(s) suffered.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
bottom of page