Brand Management. Does this only apply to companies like Coke and IBM only? No, the reality it that it applies to all of us, especially in an online world becoming more and more obsessed with social media and social networking sites.
The bottom line for people, whether they are a high profile celebrity/athlete/politician or just another ordinary Joe like you and me is simple. If you and members of your family have not created your own accounts on MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter, then you are risking your personal brand.
St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa's recent lawsuit against Twitter is a visible example of why. As MLB.com tells it:
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa filed suit against the social networking internet site Twitter.com last month, claiming that a page on the site that falsely used his name caused him to suffer "significant emotional distress [and] damage to reputation," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday.
La Russa is suing for trademark infringement, trademark dilution and misappropriation of name and likeness.
Because someone impersonated him, and he is not alone by any means, his brand has been tainted. Whether it really has caused him significant emotional distress may be up for debate. You would think that his team's tight race with Milwaukee would be doing that.
But his reputation has been damaged, because people will believe what they want to believe absent any evidence to the contrary. Because La Russa did not have his own real Twitter account, he could not counter the fake one.
But is it the fault of Twitter? I would say no, because they may be protected under the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Media Communications Act, which makes it difficult to holds service providers liable for individual actions.
But let's leave these questions for the courts to decide.
Short of legal action, there is something very simple people can do to protect themselves that is a lot easier and cheaper: Sign up for accounts with the major social networking sites and keep your documentation. You never have to use them. It is just insurance to protect your brand.
Heck, ESPN's Michael Wilbon hates blogs. But he does have a Facebook account.
Just remember the old adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Are you listening, athletes, agents, and others?