Article by Attorney Caroline Fox
Small businesses everywhere know that bad reviews can kill your company. And in the wedding industry, where everything has to be picture perfect, bad reviews can seem like the end of the world. And for some wedding pros, it can be.
Take the recent highly-publicized case where photographer Andrea Polito was slandered and defamed so badly that she was awarded $1M against the couple that defamed her. [LINK: https://petapixel.com/2017/08/01/wedding-photographer-wins-1-08m-defamation-suit-couple/ ]
But while this may seem like a “win,” a closer read reveals that this case doesn’t really clear much up when it comes to bad reviews.
The issue is that reviews considered free speech, and expressing an opinion receives almost absolute protection under the United States Constitution. We start to run into some gray area when we bump into defamation, which is “the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person [or] business.” You may also recognize its two sub-categories, slander (spoken) and libel (written). In the United States, a comprehensive overview of what is and is not libel or slander is quite difficult, because the definition differs from state to state as well as federally.
What’s a wedding pro to do when you get a vindictive review? Wedding review sites like TheKnot.com have a formal review process: “If a wedding pro receives a review that contains false or inaccurate information, he or she should collect all the proper documentation and submit a formal dispute with our reviews team through The Knot Pro via [email protected]. With the documentation collected, we will work with both the reviewer and the wedding pro to reach a resolution regarding the review. Wedding pros might also want to leave a response beneath the negative review. You don’t have to be an advertiser to do so.”
See photographer Andrea Polito’s thoughts on reviews sites during her interview on Wedding Market Live
See the whole interview here: https://youtu.be/eZNnCFSgMUI
The answers here are vague, but at least provides wedding pros with an avenue for redress in the instance of nasty, untrue reviews. However, true reviews from unhappy or “difficult” clients will most likely stick around, even if unfounded. The best way to handle these? A good offense. Make sure you’re vetting your clients and setting up clear expectations for your relationship. Be clear about exactly what they’re signing up for, and what is required of them. And if worst comes to worst, don’t be afraid to contact your attorney. Sometimes, the threat of legal action can make people drop the dramatics and start acting like adults again.