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How to prevent old social media posts harming your reputation

Jonathan Harris

With ever increasing parts of our lives being recorded, whether through photographs, videos or social media posts, many high profile figures have had to face up to moments they wish had been forgotten.

Whatever your views on whether individuals past actions should be judged by todays standards, we have to recognise that our past behaviour, rightly or wrongly, can come back to haunt us.

The proliferation of social media has made this issue even more widespread. With old posts continuing to remain on social media platforms, having an awareness of previous posts, and any possible pitfalls, is vital.

So what can be done?

1. Prevention – scrubbing clean your social media accounts

Vardags work with media monitoring experts who undertake a deep-search, flagging any potential reputational damaging posts.

Photos, political beliefs, innuendo, memes, arguments, perhaps posted innocently, perhaps posted in the heat of the moment a life time ago, can cause you and your business unrepairable harm.

It is always advisable to carry out an audit on old social media posts and remove anything that could be damaging as soon as possible.

2. Continue to monitor

A new trick during crisis management situations is to hack the social media accounts of those in the centre of the story. A prime example of this was the alleged hacking of the Labour Party Twitter account during the Panorama investigation into Antisemitism.

To avoid further fallout, always monitor your social media. Delete anything you didnt post yourself and inform your solicitor of any possible hack.

3. If the story does break, put together the best team from the start

Depending on the situation, a dedicated reputation and privacy team is essential to protect your interests. Often these teams will consist of a combination of solicitors and public relations experts. The quicker you pull the team together, the quicker you gain professional and pragmatic support.

These professionals will be able to make a risk assessment, and if necessary create a de-escalation strategy.

Dont try and get through it on your own. Bring in the experts.

4. Recognising the sensitivity

Probably the worst thing you could do is to claim that the target of your comments or posts are being over sensitive.

Whether you agree or not, it is essential to recognise why people have found your behaviour offensive. Unless we have faced situations ourselves, it is often difficult to comprehend why someone from a different background, culture or gender identity would be offended. A comment may have intended to be light-hearted but others will see it differently.

Whilst you can claim naivety, try to recognise why something is offensive.

5.  Do not lie

If you are caught out, do not lie. If you have made the post, do not say it was a sibling or a friend with access to your social media and dont say its a hacker. The truth will come out eventually and in the end, you will not only be considered ignorant, but dishonest as well.

If you do find yourself in a situation where an old social media post, photograph or video has resurfaced and threatens to cause damage to you or your businesss reputation, it is essential that you receive expert advice as soon as possible. Vardags Reputation and Privacy team are highly experienced in all matters relating to protecting the privacy of their clients, with a particular specialism in social media law.

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