I try really hard to keep up with all of the available “trending” news stories. Okay, not *really* hard, because let’s be honest – some things that are trending are just flat out stupid. However, I recently read an article about a wedding photographer who won a suit again a couple for defamation. It really interested me how the legal system feels about fighting bad reviews.
In 2014, photographer Andrea Polito photographed the wedding of Neely and Andrew Moldovan in the Dallas area. To summarize, they didn’t thoroughly read their contract and dickered over a $125 fee to release their wedding photos. They placed a bad review, which sparked a wave of other negative comments. The couple was interviewed by a local new channel, egged on the negativity, and continued to harass Ms. Polito – even after she agreed to waive the fee they agreed to in their contract. According to the photographer, their smear campaign ruined her business. Her bookings went from 75-100 weddings per year to two. The jury awarded her $1.08 million in damages. Afterwards, Ms. Polito’s attorney stated:
“No one is saying you can’t go and write a review. Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence. Things you put on the internet to attack a business have real-world consequences and that really resonated with the jury. You can’t go and burn someone’s house down and claim free speech.”
What This Means for Business Reviews
While I’m sure there have been other stories, this ruling made national news. Why? The couple was accused of publishing (via social media) defamatory speech with the intention of maligning their photographer’s business. Even in the digital age, there are still legal consequences to libelous speech.
Is your company going to receive bad reviews occasionally? Most likely. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you can’t make everyone happy. Your job is to provide the best service possible and do the right thing by your customers. However, when you encounter a smear campaign such as the one Ms. Polito met with, you have to be proactive to avoid the damage. For more ways to handle bad blood, check out some tips from our blog on how to handle competitor etiquette – there are some striking similarities. The easiest solution? Secure professional help quickly.
Part of working with SDB Creative Group is knowing that we handle your reputation management. Our job is to ensure that you’ve got someone in your corner to help you stay on top of situations like this before they snowball. Interested in finding out more? Let’s talk.