It’s amazing how any celebrity can still be unaware of the Streisand Effect.
We’ve talked about this before (here’s a slidedeck by brand consultant Ian Thomas) but – in short – it’s the spectacular backfiring of an attempt to close something down on the internet. The point being that if the crowd gets wind that you are trying to inhibit its freedom of speech, it will react by talking with far greater volume about the thing you wanted silenced.
There are now so many examples of this – some related to injunctions, like Trafigura, and others not, like Streisand’s. There’s even a website called thestreisandeffect.com.
Therefore, I can only conclude that Ryan Giggs is one of the world’s savviest publicists who, in the full knowledge of the Streisand Effect, used the internet to announce his (alleged) relationship with Imogen Thomas.
There are many judges, lawyers and some politicians now indignantly puffing their rosy cheeks in rage about how wrong it is that the social media mob does not respect the Rule of Law – as if by making this claim they can stop the thing they disagree with.
In some cases they might be right and in others they might be wrong – but, in fact, it doesn’t matter. The internet is often anonymous and laws that end at national borders are often unenforceable or non-applicable.
It’s simply a truism that you can’t close down internet gossip – and we will not get anywhere as a society until we recognise this fact. I had this argument just before Christmas with a self-regarding solicitor from – believe it or not – Schillings, the firm currently trying to shush things up for Giggs. He claimed that injunctions, libel actions and copyright laws could close down chatter anywhere – and social networks were not beyond the reach of the long arm of the law. I know he will have read the front pages today.
None of this is new. In fact, the reason it’s so interesting is exactly because it’s not new, yet lawyers and celebrities still don’t get it.
Famous people, here’s some advice – if something untrue is being said about you on the internet, respond, make your case and, if necessary, sue individuals who started the rumour. If the rumour is true, whether it’s an unjustified intrusion or not, walk away. Leave it. I know it’s unfair but you can only make it bigger by intervening.
Giggs has taught us another valuable communications lesson. Look at the picture at the top of this post – he didn’t phone a single newspaper or journalist to create this. He used the internet to get their interest and to give them the courage they needed to publish.
Giggs realised that (in MRM’s estimation) 40-60% of all copy in newspapers originates in some way on the internet these days.
That’s because so many journalists are on it all day, looking for stories and making contacts. So are the news agencies from which they get many of their stories. So are the local paper hacks, from whom the agencies get most of their stories.
Of course, I’m being sarcastic; Giggs didn’t really do all this deliberately. But from a communications perspective, the moral of the story is this: if you or your business want publicity in the traditional media, it’s a good idea to have a strategy for the social web.
Because, these days, it ain’t a story unless it’s trending.
Michael Taggart is head of digital and social at MRM (and a former national newspaper hack!) – follow him on Twitter.