In the last week, with Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter and the introduction of $8 blue “verification” checkmarks, we've seen several people set up fake accounts to impersonate famous people and brands. The trend went mainstream when popular news outlets reported that comedian Kathy Griffin was banned from the platform for impersonating Musk. Actress Valerie Bertenelli did the same.
Before long, other imposter account followed suit. A fake account claiming to be the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly declared, “We are proud to announce that insulin is now free,” forcing the company to respond:
We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account. Our official Twitter account is @LillyPad.
— Eli Lilly and Company (@LillyPad) November 10, 2022
Even Jesus Christ got a blue checkmark. The anonymous person who launched the verified Twitter account in the Lord's name told the story to Insider.
As of this writing, these antics have caused Twitter to pause its new verification program. But these acts of fakery are not limited to Twitter. As a more benign example, Drake and 21 Savage launched their new album, Her Loss, with a publicity campaign, including a fake Vogue cover, a fake interview with Howard Stern, a fake Saturday Night Live performance, and a fake NPR Tiny Desk concert.
The reaction to these stunts varied: Vogue sued, Stern fawned, and NPR invited him to do a real Tiny Desk performance.
Protect Your Radio Station From Reputation Attacks
We now live in an age where digital impersonations can wreak havoc on companies and individuals that have invested years into building their brands. Radio companies and personalities would be wise to monitor the web for for malicious actors using their name.
1. Make a list of terms you want to monitor.
Start by making a list of the terms that you want to monitor. This could include the names of:
- The name of the station
- The station's frequency and call letters
- The names of on-air personalities
- The names of specific shows
- The names of key events, such as concerts or promotions
- The names of benchmark on-air features
- Podcast titles
2. Trademark the ones that you can.
Talk to your legal team about which of these terms you can trademark and what protections that might give you. Earlier this year, I discussed this issue with Ronnie Raju, a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer. See what she told me.
3. Set up Google Alerts.
You know that you can search the internet by going to Google.com, but did you know that you can ask Google to constantly run a search and notify you of any new content it finds with your key terms? You can do this using Google Alerts. Find instructions for setting them up here.
4. Do your own searches.
Most popular platforms have their own search features. On a regular basis, take ten minutes to visit each of these platforms and search for your key terms. These should include:
- Apple Podcasts
- Google Home
- The Apple App Store
- The Google Play App Store
Be especially vigilant about the last two; as I've noted before, the app stores are rife with developers looking to take advantage of radio brand names.
Regularly monitoring these platforms has benefits beyond just protecting yourself from reputation attacks. It will also give you a sense of what people are saying about your radio station.
5. Have a plan in place.
Do your best to figure out how you're going to respond before something goes wrong, not after. Identify the decision-makers that should be involved in any actions, including your legal team.
Decide when something is a crisis that requires a response, and when a more subtle approach is appropriate. I have seen organizations use social media to respond to something, only to have the response draw more attention (and backlash) than the original incident. Sometimes, less is more.
Impersonators can tarnish a radio station's reputation by pretending to be affiliated with the station and saying things that damage the station's image. Impersonators can also interfere with the station's ability to communicate with its listeners by impersonating staff members and sending false information. Radio stations need to be aware of these risks and monitor their online presence for impersonators and reputation attacks.
- 7 Digital Skills Broadcasters Can Learn to Level Up in 2023 - January 23, 2023
- Examples of How Radio Stations Can Use ChatGPT's Artificial Intelligence - January 9, 2023
- Last Minute Digital Gifts for the Radio Broadcaster In Your Life - December 19, 2022