The Streisand Effect

Nothing to do with singing, everything to do with pointless and futile attempts at hiding or censoring information results in a surge of unexpected (and unwanted) attention. The name came about when Barbara Streisand tried to use the courts to suppress photos taken of her house in 2003.

There’s been a bit of it going around lately, with a new twist, the publicity has been used to raise money for charity.

Never Seconds & Mary’s Meals

A nine-year-old blogger set out to document her school lunch, setting up a scale of quality for the meal and taking a photo every day. She was also raising money for a charity called “Mary’s Meals” which raises money to feed children in Malawi. Her target was 7,000 GBP – enough to build a school kitchen. So far a very normal story… until the council authorities got involved and told her she could no longer photograph her school meals.

This led to an outpouring of outrage on behalf of the blog’s owner, Martha Payne, with many of the outraged donating to her cause. She’s now raised over 100,000 GBP, enough to build a school kitchen and feed 10,000 Malawi students for a year. (You can still donate if you want to!). Martha is now a finalist for the 2012 Great Scot Award, as she said of her nomination “I think it’s really for everyone that has supported Mary’s Meals“.

Martha had already had attention of local press, and a tweet of support from Jamie Oliver, so there’s no doubt she was going to do well with her blog. But when the Argyll and Bute council (who run the school) tried to stop her photographs her charity total was at around 2,000 pounds. She reached her 7,000 pound target within hours, and the following day it reached 45,000 pounds.

The negative PR swamped the council within hours – emails were pouring in from all over the world pointing out the silliness of the decision to ban her photographs, and pretty soon the council backed down. It’s a lesson for other councils, OK, it’s a lesson for all of us. Next time you’re tempted to tell people what they can and cannot say about your brand online, stop, think of Martha – and make a donation.

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