How brands can avoid the dreaded ‘Streisand Effect’

Barbra Streisand (and others) offers an important lesson on how to turn a minor incident into a full-blown crisis. Don’t let this happen to your brand.

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The Streisand effect is used to describe an instance in which a person or company attempts to suppress a photograph, story, or any piece of information—only serving to exacerbate the problem and bring more unwanted attention. In short, the attempt to suppress becomes bigger news than the information itself. It makes that company look like a big ol’ fuddy duddy spoil sport that doesn’t understand this newfangled Internet thingy.

The nature of social media—with shares and retweets giving information perpetual life—makes the Streisand Effect more ubiquitous than ever. It’s much more common now than it was when it was given its name in 2003.

That’s when Streisand’s lawyers tried to force Kenneth Adelman and to remove a photo of Streisand’s palatial Malibu home that was among a collection of 12,000 photos of the California coastline. The photo had been accessed six times when the lawsuit was filed. After news of the lawsuit went national, the photo was viewed nearly 500,000 times. Adding insult to injury, the lawsuit was thrown out.

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