The more successful you are, the more likely you are to inspire jealousy in others. Jealousy can be a powerful motivational tool, but it can also cause people or other businesses to make it their personal mission to take your company down. If false accusations are plaguing your business, your most effective defense can be positive PR. A good lawyer can advise you whether you have a court case, as well.
Hire a Lawyer
If a person or another business makes false accusations against your company, the first thing to do is hire a lawyer. If you already have a legal department in your business, you may be able to skip this step. Find a lawyer with experience dealing with defamation suits, since that’s what you’ll be pursuing. Since court definitions of defamation can be difficult to prove, be ready to listen to your lawyer’s advice about how best to pursue a legal case -- if there is one to pursue.
Prove Libel or Slander
Libelous statements are written, while slanderous statements are spoken. It’s important to distinguish the two, because exact phrasing matters if you pursue a defamation suit in court. One thing your lawyer must determine is whether the court will regard your business as a public entity, or a private individual. States have varying rules, but generally, proving that you've been defamed is a different experience if you’re a public entity versus a private individual. If your lawyer determines that your company can reasonably be construed as a private enterprise rather than a public one, proving a defamation suit will be much easier. In that case, you only have to prove that the person or business making false accusations against your company acted negligently. You don’t have to prove malicious intent -- although if you have proof of such behavior, that certainly can’t hurt.
Positive PR Campaign
If your lawyer advises you that a court case is unlikely to be successful or profitable, consider fighting bad publicity with good publicity. For example, if a competitor states that your business only claimed to donate money to charity but didn’t actually do it, start a public fund-matching campaign involving a local charity. Invite your customers to donate, then say your business will match every dollar your customers donate -- up to a generous amount that you determine. Hold a public ceremony when you present the charity with its check, and be sure to invite the local press. This is a good way to sway public opinion in your favor without having to resort to slinging mud at your detractors. Your customers will appreciate that aspect as well. Most people like drama on TV and in books -- not at professional places of business.
If you have solid evidence to prove that the accusations against your business are false, your lawyer may advise you that pursuing a court case may benefit your business. However, court cases can be lengthy and expensive. Each case of false business accusations varies, and only you know how harmful any particular case is. Even if you’re likely to win the case, be sure that you carefully consider how much time, effort and personal resources pursuing a defamation case will cost you. For example, if you highly value your time with your family, realize that the extra pressure from the case may cut into your time with them. On the other hand, if the false accusations are so damaging that they could conceivably shut your business down, it’s probably worth fighting in court, not just with positive PR.
Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker and writer who has written for several online publications, including Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication CarEnvy.ca. Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.