As we all know, it takes many long years to build a solid, trusted reputation – which can be trashed with one ill-considered, injudicious moment on social media.

While Ash Street will not engage in commentary in relation to a current high-profile media case, it is timely to offer a reminder that the law does not offer many remedies and it can be very difficult to protect your reputation through legal recourse.

Should you review your social media policy?

Peter Keel, CEO of Ash Street, co-wrote the book on reputation and risk management: “Reputation Matters”, Peter J Keel and Norman Lucas, 2007 CCH Australia Limited.

He has continued to warn company boards, senior management, and employees that social media policies must be clearly understood by all, otherwise your company will be at risk.

More particularly and prescient at this time, is his warning to “consider before you publish”, and that “people and companies need to consider the consequences.” Further: “Social media means, as a corporation, if any employee puts something on a Facebook page - (and/or Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc, or by email) – you are liable for that publication. Once it’s out there, it can be really difficult to fix.”

The key points for all to consider are listed, below:

  • Consider before you publish on social media | The law does not give you easy remedies, if any. Reputation and brand are so intermingled that if they are damaged it is very difficult to protect your reputation through legal recourse. It is often a case, that once the horse has bolted, there is no way back.
  • Social media platforms are everywhere | People and companies need to consider the consequences. Peter Keel says the law might not catch up with the progress of social media – we have to be mindful of the risks associated with it. You need a risk management tool – remember social media means, as a corporation, if any employee puts something on your Facebook page, you are liable for that publication. Once it’s out there, it can be really difficult to fix.
  • Risk Management should be a part of a Social Media Policy – for any business | You have to put in place a risk management program – to train people about the consequences of the mis-use of social media – you as an organisation may be liable – your brand may be trashed as a result. People often don’t understand the consequence of their actions.
  • At Board and Management level | How much do your board members or executives know about social media? Peter Keel suggests that many organisations – especially big companies and institutions – are populated at higher levels by “technological luddites”. By and large, he says the people we put on boards often don’t understand social media. Social Media policies need to be properly understood by people at Board and Senior Management level – to mitigate risk.
  • People must understand risk management – there are consequences | People must understand the difference between work – and personal – there must be a serious division between those two aspects of our lives. Engage your staff with a set of policies that are going to work. ie “Do not use your work email for private purposes”.


Below, are links to reports and debate over recent, controversial social media activity which severely damaged the reputations of the people who published their comments, leading to their termination:


The response from his employer, SBS: Scott McIntyre was considered by SBS not to have considered the consequences of tweeting something ruled in breach of the SBS Code of Conduct and Social Media Policy. …”maintaining the integrity of the network and audience trust is vital.”

And, the commentary continues, with debate continuing over social media policy:

  1. From the New York Times: “How one stupid tweet blew up Justine Sacco’s life.”

She was a senior corporate communications director. No more.

Sacco featured in the Jon Ronson book: “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.” She reportedly has a new job, but is bitterly regretful of that life-changing post.


  1. Australian actor, Brendan Cowell, participated in a video calling on Prime Minister Abbott to “show some balls” in relation to the Bali drug duo. He then tried to defend his appearance and comments:

The PM and Foreign Minister said they actually HAD done all they could. Twitter burst into opprobrium at the celebrity video – Cowell has since suspended his Twitter account, amid calls for him to “show some balls” himself.

Looks like @BrendanCowell has deleted his Twitter account after that idiotic video.  @RitaPanahi

Brendan Cowell apologises for calling on Tony Abbott to grow balls over Bali Brendan Cowell New Sou…