What to do if someone makes a defamatory comment about you by Rebecca Sloan

Rebecca Sloan of Kinetic Communications

On Tuesday 30th November, I ran a talk on measuring and managing corporate reputation in the 21st century for Birmingham’s Women in Business Association (WiBA).

One topic of particular interest to attendees was how to handle a defamatory comment made online.  In response, I’ve compiled a basic factsheet to help you identify when a comment is ‘fair’ and when it’s crossed the line into defamation. (NB this is only a guide.  Legal advice should be sought before pursuing a claim).

A basic guide to defamation:

A statement about a person is defamatory if it tends to do any one of the following:

1)            exposes him to hatred, ridicule or contempt;
2)            causes him to be shunned or avoided;
3)            lowers him in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally; or
4)            disparages him in his business, trade, office or profession.

The defamed person does NOT have to prove that the statement is false or that he has been damaged in any way.  He needs to show only that the statement tends to discredit him.

What’s the test for defamation?

The test for juries is whether, under the circumstances in which the statement was published, reasonable men and women to whom the publication was made would be likely to understand it in a defamatory sense.

What the claimant must prove

To succeed in an action for defamation, a claimant must prove three things about the statement he is complaining about:

1)            it is defamatory
2)            it may be reasonably understood to refer to him.

The claimant must prove the words of which he complains of identify him as the person defamed. The test of whether the words identified the person suing is whether they would reasonably lead people acquainted with him to believe that he was the person referred to.  It is not necessary that the entire world should understand the libel; it is sufficient if those who know the claimant can make out that he is the person meant.

3)            it has been published to a third person.

NB: every repetition of a libel is a fresh publication and creates a fresh cause of action.

Who can sue?

1)            Individuals
2)            Corporations – if the comment is capable of injuring its trading reputation or if the company has a corporate reputation distinct from that of its members which is capable of being damaged by a defamatory statement.

Exceptions:  associations, such as a club, cannot sue unless it is an incorporated body but words disparaging an association will almost invariably reflect upon the reputations of one or more of the officials who, as individuals, can sue.

Please note, although this guide will equip you with a basic knowledge of defamation, it is by no means an expansive guide.  Always seek legal advice before pursuing a claim.  Alternatively, if you’d like to discuss this in further detail beforehand, then get in touch!


Building a ‘Top Gear’ brand by Rebecca Sloan

Rebecca Sloan of Kinetic Communications

There have been reported sightings of Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May near Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter today.

The duo, who have built up a loyal following (and generous salaries that reflects their pulling power) are synonymous with cars, crazy antics and casualties (generally the old, rusty and metallic kind).

It’s their individual (and collective) brands, however, which have played such an important part in getting their careers to where they are today. Whether you love them or loathe them, Jeremy Clarkson and James May have built strong, successful brands.

At Kinetic Communications we see a lot of businesses struggling to identify their own brand and unique selling point.  Using the same guiding principles as those used by the Top Gear presenters, we’ve come up with top tips for developing a strong brand:

  1. Clear – be crystal clear on what it is you do, how you do it and why. You need to be able to articulate your offering in a single sentence.  Any longer and you’re at risk of confusing your brand.
  2. Defined – it’s impossible to please everyone, so don’t try. Identify your target client/customer and do everything you can to support and appeal to them.  A small, but loyal group of brand advocates is more powerful than a larger, more ambivalent market.
  3. Personable – the old saying of ‘people buy people, not business’ is true.  Encourage people to get to know the team both online (through website profiles, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts) and offline (attendance at networking and speaker events).

How to manage a TV news report by Rebecca Sloan

We recently managed the production of several news reports for our clients Young Driver (which teaches 11-16 year olds to drive) and Living Fuels (which converts used cooking oil into electricity).

As dab hands at managing media filming and broadcasts, we’ve come up with five tips to managing a broadcast report:

  1. Know your key messages and what you’re trying to achieve – reporters are very busy people.  Often they’re briefed on the story just before they leave to film. It’s important that you’re able to give them the right information quickly and efficiently to make the most of your report.
  2. Identify your best speakers – if you don’t have an official spokesperson, analyse your team and identify the person best placed/most relevant to add content and/or come across with charisma.  Remember – reporters are not looking for a long explanation, they’re looking for a snappy, well-said sound-byte.
  3. Get media training – practice your interview and anticipate questions the reporter is likely to ask.  If you’re unsure of what to do, or if you fear they’ll ask you questions about an uncomfortable topic, get media training.  This will help you prepare the best response for any given situation.
  4. Always have a back-up plan – things very rarely go to plan.  Make sure that there are options available should things go wrong. Be prepared to think on your feet.
  5. Relax and enjoy yourself – make sure you enjoy the experience.  Unless you’re being filmed as part of a fire-fighting exercise, the reporter will be looking to put together the best possible report and will work with you to make sure you get your points across.

To see the latest broadcast coverage for Young Driver and Living Fuels, see the below clips below.

Young Driver on ITV

And to view Living Fuels on the BBC

Marketing tips from technology business start-ups by Rebecca Sloan

I recently went to an interesting event hosted by the Chartered Institute of Marketing entitled “from concept, to innovation, to a $multi-million exit in a few years”.  The event offered some great advice on how to ensure your product/service is profitable.  Here are their top tips:

Three crucial tips to successful marketing

1)      Know your product/service – make sure you’re able to articulate what you’re selling and why it matters. You’ll know you’ve got it, once you’ve perfected your 10-second elevator sell.

2)      Know your market – the reason for developing your product or service may not be the reason why your customers will want to use it.  Check the buying and usage patterns of your clients and customers as they can provide insight into where the real value lies.

3)      Innovate and renovate, don’t hibernate! – make sure you respond to customer requests – especially in the early stages. Going the extra mile to make your customers happy will pay dividends as you will turn early-users into brand-ambassadors.  Giving them a feeling of input in the project will pay dividends as many will feel a sense of ownership and become your leading advocates.

They’re simple messages based in common sense, but it’s surprising how many companies rush into things without first fully understanding their customer-base or product/service benefits.

Taking the time to understand what you’re in business to achieve, what your unique selling point is and the ways in which you’re going to meet your objectives, makes a significant difference to the effectiveness of a brand’s communication. That’s why, when working with a PR agency (or any other contractor), it’s important that they take the time to understand these core principles.  It’s also why, at Kinetic Communications, we work with you to make sure your messages are clearly defined before we start your campaign.

Simon in the spotlight!

We’ve recently been working with Striding out, a social enterprise aimed at helping unemployed young people find work and start up their own businesses.  YourNxtStep.co.uk, a website aimed at helping young people enter their chose career, is one of the projects they’re supporting – driven by a very able group of young entrepreneurs from Birmingham.

As they needed people to film, we stepped up to the plate and volunteered some advice on getting into the PR industry! If you’d like to see the results, take a look at the link below …


Who are you?

Have you made any sacrifices to get where you are?

Why did you choose to work in PR?

What makes a good PR person?

How did you become a digital PR consultant?

Who inspires you?

Tips for working in PR

Keeping it simple – by Aimee Postle

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of doing a little work with Birmingham Future, thrive and BVSC – the Centre for Voluntary Action on a campaign – Become Richer, Work for Nothing.

What struck me most about the campaign has been the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of the message. So easy to understand and yet with so much meaning behind it.

For community and voluntary communications to work, the message needs to be straight to the point. We are bombarded on a daily basis with so much information that there needs to be a reason why we would stop to listen.

I think this campaign slogan works because of the inherent contradictions in the phrasing and the commentary on society’s focus on money as a measure of worth and value. But also because it works on the corporate wavelength – essential when targeting a skilled, corporate audience.

This campaign is all about getting skilled, talented, professionals to volunteer some of their time to enrich the lives of others and, through so doing, enrich their own. The focus of the messaging is not, however, about altruism – but about the real, tangible benefits that you can get from volunteering and getting involved; real skills which can go onto your CV and enrich your career.

Many of the people around me are already involved in some of these fantastic projects and I hear on a weekly basis about the rewards they get from doing so – the people they meet, the new experiences, the places they visit, and the knowledge they have played their part.

But, regardless of whether you are BVSC or you are one of the many hundreds and thousands of community and voluntary groups which operate within Birmingham (the UK, the world, etc), it all comes down to the power of your message.

And, I would suggest, simplicity is everything.

Measuring PR by Aimee Postle

Recent weeks have seen the PR industry come together to discuss evaluation (again) and come up with innovative new solutions (again) to justify our existence to clients (again). You can read some of my thoughts on the Barcelona Principles on my blog.

But, are we actually making any progress? These principles are nothing new. Ditching AVE is nothing new. Measuring PR is nothing new. Only the PR industry could be shouting about new principles when nothing has changed.

For many PR consultancies and their clients, life will go on as normal. A mixture of measurement techniques – qualitative and quantitative – that embrace reputation holistically. Some of the common measurement techniques can be found on the Kinetic website.

There needs to be a shake-up. More consultancies need to start offering guarantees and speaking in the businesses language that clients understand – return on investment, key performance indicators, and so on.
Whether PR continues to exist will depend on how it embraces and supplants those encroaching on PR territory – advertisers, digital agencies, HR managers, etc. And, whether we can continue to justify our existence – and the budget – to our clients.

How do we do that without measurement?