The Streisand Effect is a paradoxical phenomenon where the act of suppressing information to reduce visibility causes it to become more visible. In 2003, Streisand attempted to suppress aerial photographs of her Californian home by suing photographer Kenneth Adelman for an invasion of privacy. Adelman, who Streisand assumed was paparazzi, was instead taking photographs to document and study coastal erosion. In her quest for more privacy, Streisand’s efforts had the opposite effect.
Understanding the Streisand Effect
The Streisand Effect was named for American actress and singer Barbara Streisand.
In 2003, Streisand attempted to suppress aerial photographs of her Californian home by suing photographer Kenneth Adelman for an invasion of privacy. Adelman, who Streisand assumed was paparazzi, was instead taking photographs to document and study coastal erosion.
As part of the study, an image of Streisand’s private residence had been uploaded to a database where it had been viewed just six times. After a barrage of cease-and-desist letters, the case received public attention, and the image was subsequently viewed over a million times. In her quest for more privacy, Streisand’s efforts had the opposite effect.
The Streisand Effect highlights the inability of suppression to prevent information spread. This inability is at least partly explained by the internet because most users tend to revolt against censored information. As a result, they are more likely to access and then share information if they know it is actively being suppressed.
The Streisand Effect in business
An unsatisfied customer sharing their opinion on social media is a classic example of the Streisand Effect.
Many businesses shy away from addressing concerns in a public forum by ignoring the feedback or pretending that it doesn’t exist.
However, one comment from an unsatisfied customer that remains unresolved is likely to attract attention from others. They may query why the business seems so uninterested in customer care and then consider leaving a negative comment of their own.
This draws further attention to the problem, creating a chain reaction of negative sentiment that damages or even erases brand image and equity.
Avoiding the Streisand effect in business
Businesses without public relations or customer service protocols can be vulnerable to the Streisand Effect.
In countering the effect, organizations must work with the phenomenon and not against it.
They must also adopt the “prevention is better than the cure” philosophy.
In the previous example, the business must respond to the first negative comment as a matter of priority. Any attempt to suppress the feedback has the potential to be much more damaging to the company long-term.
Businesses that require assistance in avoiding the Streisand Effect can employ the services of firms that specialize in web-centric crisis management. These firms understand the dynamics of information spread online and can suggest appropriate ways of confronting negative publicity.
- The Streisand Effect is a paradoxical action where trying to censor, suppress, or hide information leads to it becoming more visible.
- The Streisand Effect was named for Barbara Streisand, whose attempts to suppress images of her private residence resulted in the images being viewed over a million times.
- The Streisand Effect can be avoided in business by establishing protocols relating to customer service and public relations. Organizations must not attempt to hide or suppress information they see as damaging to their brand. Often, the effects of suppression are far worse than tackling the problem head-on.
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