Guest Article by Michelle Bolger, Employment Law Consultant at ESA Consultants
By its 2009 definition, a defamatory statement is “one which tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.” There are 3 ingredients that have to be present for someone to sue for defamation: (1) It must be published; (2) It must refer to the complainant; (3) It must be false. But what does that all mean in an everyday context? How can online defamation impact your salon services?
Online Defamation or Negative Review?
When we feel attacked by social media keyboard warriors, the heat can rise very quickly. As a result, the common reflex is to type back something hot-headed. Incidentally, chances are you’ve done just as much damage to your online reputation as the initial comment.
So first things first: how well can you differentiate online defamation and a negative or passive-aggressive comment? Let’s look at some examples of everyday situations that can arise and see whether they could ground a case for defamation.
Situation 1 – Sara, The Senior Stylist
Sara, a senior stylist, takes a very unflattering pic of Jane. Then, she sends it around to all the staff with the caption “2017 Diet Fail”.
Is this defamation? No.
Is it mean and a red flag for an employer that should be followed up on? Yes.
Situation 2 – Staff & Gossip
Some of the staff have been chatting gossip about Mark on a shared WhatsApp about his partner cheating on him. They’ve also been talking about how his cuts have been very poor.
Is this defamation? No.
Is it appropriate and professional? No.
Situation 3 – Naomi, The Frustrated Client
Naomi puts a picture on Facebook of a bad haircut and tells everyone not to take upon your salon services. She also says to specifically avoid Maria, who cut her hair.
Is this defamation? Possibly – remember our three ingredients? It has been published on Facebook. It refers to the salon and Maria specifically.
Is it false? Not in Naomi’s opinion – though this may be arguable.
Situation 4 – Claire, The Mean Girl
Claire tells Dave in a text that she is glad that she fired Susan as she was crap and had no personality. Then, Dave shows Mary, another stylist, who is friends with Susan.
Is this defamation? Possibly. It definitely meets our first two ingredients.
Minimize The Impact On Your Salon Services
In conclusion, my father always said: “only ever write down what you would be prepared to have published in tomorrow’s newspaper.” That is true now more than ever. In fact, with social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Snapchat, the lines are thinner than ever.
First, social media platforms are not the places to discuss your business or for staff to discuss business matters. Second, if clients take it to social media to air grievances, remember the 3 ingredients – the third arguably being the most important – is it false?
In any case, however, you have an unhappy client. Suing them for defamation, while possible, isn’t always the best business solution. Instead, it’s often more efficient and reputation worthy to handle your online reputation by getting to the bottom of your customer’s complaint and making up for it.
If you are a victim of defamation (remember the 3 ingredients) and looking for more help and guidance about the particular situation you’re in, you can always email Michelle Bolger at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Editor’s note: Did you enjoy this? Wish to learn more about online reputation management? Sign up to the Phorest Academy Online Reputation Webinar and learn exactly how to take control of how clients treat, react and rate your business online.
Learn more about this webinar in this episode of Phorest FM, the Salon Owner’s Podcast!
Thanks for reading,