The Streisand Effect: A Must-Know for Every Marketer or PR Pro

The Streisand Effect: A Must-Know for Every Marketer or PR Pro

You don’t have to be a Barbra Streisand fan or have grown up in her era of music to know just how respected she is. She is known as one of the greatest voices of all time. But beyond her voice and music legacy, we can thank Barbra Streisand for helping create a social phenomenon called ‘The Streisand Effect’. And it’s absolutely something every marketer should know about.


What is The Streisand Effect?

Let’s rewind back to 2003. 
Long before drones were created, a company called California Coastal Records Project captured an aerial photograph of Barbra Streisand’s sprawling beachfront mansion on the coast of Malibu. Although many photographers in California are known for invading the privacy of celebrities, this case was likely inadvertent. The photo was taken in an effort to create awareness about coastal erosion — not necessarily to reveal Barbra Streisand’s residence. That may have been a coincidence. 
The photographer, Kenneth Adelman, published the photos on his website. Barbra Streisand then filed a $50 million lawsuit against him, calling for him to “remove an aerial photograph of Streisand’s mansion from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs.” 
Aerial shot of Barbra Streisand's mansion off the coast of Malibu, CA

By Kenneth Adelman

At the time she filed the lawsuit, the image had only been downloaded from Adelman’s website six times; two of which were downloads by Streisand’s attorneys. As a result of the case, paired with Barbra Streisand’s celebrity status, public interest in the photograph grew immensely. By the end of the month, 420,000 people visited the site. Boy, did that backfire! 
‘The Streisand Effect’ occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information, usually via the Internet.
It reminds me of the episode of Friends when Ross and Rachel get a new ‘hot nanny’. Ross forbids Joey from pursuing her, which only makes him want her more. 
Spoiler alert: we later learned she’s a lesbian. Crisis averted! 

The Streisand Effect in News & Pop Culture

We’ve seen examples of The Streisand Effect in play with several headlines over the years. It often comes up when celebrities try to have unflattering photos of themselves removed from the Internet. Both Beyoncé and Khloe Kardashian have tried this. I didn’t think Beyoncé could take an unflattering photo, but her 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show performance sparked the ‘hulking’ meme. RUDE!
Beyonce meme showing her lifting weights with an unflattering expression
Other examples have come up more recently amid racial justice reform. ‘Gone With the Wind’ was temporarily removed from streaming platforms, which ignited more interest. When six Dr. Seuss books would no longer be published, it created a frenzy. The attempts to suppress only drew more attention. 

The Takeaway for Marketers and PR Professionals

Why is this important for marketers or publicities? Because despite your intentions, your messaging may do more harm than good. 
I’m currently reading The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Jonah Berger. He dedicates a chapter to talking about the Tide Pod Challenge from 2017. You may remember the viral meme that encouraged teenagers to ingest laundry detergent. Obviously, not a good idea.
Tide tried to do the right thing early on. When they first got wind of the challenge, they released statements and messaging warning their audience that the pods were only to be used to wash clothing. They even tapped Super Bowl champion, Rob Gronkowski, for a commercial about it. 

But, you guessed it… the campaign only drew more attention to the Tide Pod Challenge, inspiring more teens to try it. Boom, ‘The Streisand Effect’.
This makes me wonder if public service announcements always have a reverse effect. Jonah Berger’s book indicates that pushing your audience and telling them what not to do, only makes them feel like their freedom, control, or choices are being limited. He says that if you really want to change someone’s mind, find more ways to remove barriers and help them come to a decision themselves.
They say some things are better left unsaid, which may also be true in marketing. We often think that over-communicating is what will get the message across, but it may inspire people to do the one thing you’re telling them not to.
In Tide’s case, I’m sure there were legal implications to their warning campaigns. But for Barbra Streisand, she probably should have let that photograph go. She unintentionally drew more attention to something she wanted hidden, and now we’ve named a phenomenon after her. 
The good news is, she’s safe and living the life just fine in Malibu. But I’ve gotta tell you, if I had a mansion like that, I’m not sure I’d want it hidden. It’s spectacular!’
This Simple Content Idea Works Every Time

This Simple Content Idea Works Every Time

Content creation usually requires a lot of trial and error, but for a content idea that ALWAYS works, I looked to some of my favorite movie scenes for inspiration.
Like in Miss Congeniality when the frumpy FBI agent Grace Hart becomes a stunning pageant queen.
Or in Clueless, when Tai Frasier gets a makeover and goes from stoner to stunner.
Or the iconic scene in She’s All That, when the class geek Laney Boggs makes an entrance down the stairs, stunning Freddie Prinze Jr. with her beauty.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, the surefire content idea I’m referring to is transformations. Transformations hit the mark every time you publish one, and they work for any medium. Here’s why:


Transformational content is versatile.

It’s not only people that undergo transformations. So can places, companies, and things. Any brand has the potential to share them.
We see this often on social media any time we see a person’s physical, mental, or behavioral traits transform. But an inspiring before-and-after can also apply to products, DIY projects, home renovations, or workplace culture.

Transformations are authentic.

But only if you communicate them correctly… Don’t skip right to the good part. 
Even a good testimonial can be a bad testimonial. For a transformation to be the most effective, you have to show the full story. Paint a picture of the bad, the ugly, and then the good. This gives the transformation more meaning and impact.
If you have a satisfied customer, don’t just share a happy-go-lucky quote. Help your audience understand their original problem and pain points so the transformation has a stronger story arc.

Transformations are compelling.

They give the reader something to look forward to, and there’s always a clear beginning, middle, and end. It’s likely your audience can relate to the before stage of the transformation themselves, and they’ll be interested to see how the story ends. Transformations are the perfect way to promote the idea that “if it worked for them, it will work for me.” 
Every great story has a strong hook, so be sure to frame your content with an interesting detail that will grab their attention. 

Transformations promote conversation.

If your audience sees the way things were before compared to how they are now, there’s a built-in wow factor. 
They’ll feel inspired to remark on the story or ask questions of their own. And since transformations typically emphasize improvements, your followers will want to applaud, congratulate, and engage.

Transformations illustrate credibility.

No matter what your expertise is, transformations show your impact. This can apply to products you sell or services you perform. Maybe you’re an artist who makes jewelry to upgrade someone’s look, or you’re a landscaper who gives homes some much-needed curb appeal. 
With transformations, you don’t have to explain why you’re an expert. They prove it on their own. This will make people trust you and want to work with you. 

Transformations build relationships.

A transformation is often highly personal. It’s admitting to the world that you needed to make a change. Your transparency and willingness to share the full journey with your audience not only make them feel closer to you, but it makes them want to root for you.
Because of this, vulnerability is key with transformations. Your content will be much more interesting if you share your imperfect experience. 

Transformations create an emotional connection.

Have you ever sat through an episode of Queer Eye and found yourself crying at the end? When you bring your audience along for a transformation, they experience the emotional roller coaster, too. They are an ideal opportunity to relate to your audience and inspire them to take action or get involved.

Transform Your Brand’s Content

Audit your content to see if you’re sharing enough transformations. This content idea works well as a blog post, short or long-form video, Twitter thread, or even before and after photographs. You also can get really creative with transformation transitions on TikTok! With every transformation you share, you’ll build trust and bring yourself closer to your audience.
Brands: How to Jump in on Trending Topics without Getting Canceled

Brands: How to Jump in on Trending Topics without Getting Canceled

If you knew all of your potential customers were going to a party, wouldn’t you try to make an appearance? Real-time trending topics are like parties on social media. It’s where your audience hangs out, and where your brand should, too. From the latest news in music, TV, sports, or movies, chiming in on pop culture trends demonstrates your brand’s personality. They are your chance to become the life of the party! 
The tricky part is that these content opportunities are unexpected. Despite our best efforts to plan a content calendar and get ahead, we can’t predict what becomes popular. That’s why content creation requires us to be agile, well-informed, and quick-witted. 
But there’s a right way and a wrong way to insert your brand into trending topics. Here are some considerations to help you avoid a social media party foul. 


Know your audience. 

We spend a lot of time understanding our audience’s demographics like age, location, or income level, but the magic happens when you know their interests. Research what your target customer likes to watch, listen to, or read. 
The beauty brand, Tarte Cosmetics, connects with their followers by live tweeting during The Bachelor. 




Create a routine that helps you catch up on the latest trends, current events, or headlines. This can be as simple as listening to a morning radio show while sipping your morning coffee, subscribing to a daily newsletter, or browsing trending hashtags on Twitter. Google Trends is also a helpful tool for monitoring popular search queries. 
When the ESPN documentary #TheLastDance became a national trending topic, DiGiorno knew their followers would get kick out of this live tweet. 


Do your research.

Sometimes, a topic may be trending for complicated reasons, or to highlight a sensitive subject. Before you jump into the conversation, make sure you understand its sentiment and context. You don’t want to associate the brand with a subject that can hurt your reputation. 
In light of Britney Spears conservatorship battle, the hashtag #FreeBritney has been trending in recent months. The Framing Britney Spears documentary also brought it to life and started conversations about mental health, misogyny, and abuse. Frontier Airlines saw this as an opportunity to develop a self-serving and tone-deaf promotion. 
Frontier Airlines developed a tone-deaf promotion where anyone named Britney flies free


Use your judgment.

Unfortunately, marketing decisions aren’t always black and white. Don’t contribute to a pop culture topic if it feels forced. Also, if there’s a chance your content can seem offensive, insulting, or insensitive, sit this one out. 
Burger King should have thought twice before inciting the wrath of Taylor Swift fans with this tweet. Many accused the brand of being sexist. They responded with a promo offer to “shake it off”. 
Burger King tweeting a sexist comment about Taylor Swift

Have a team in place.

When the perfect opportunity arises, speed and efficiency matter. You don’t want to be late to the party. Be proactive by assembling a team and assigning roles in design, copywriting, and community management. 
Joe Biden’s campaign team could never have predicted a fly would land on Vice President Pence’s head during the vice presidential debate. The team quickly swooped in and saw this viral moment as a unique fundraising opportunity. They shared this tweet with the perfect photo and a link to donate. 


Think bigger.

Without a doubt, great content can make a splash. Your post may garner thousands of likes, comments, or retweets, but ask yourself if you can do something more. Pop culture doesn’t only happen within the walls of social media. Can do you something bolder by stepping offline? 

A perfect example is when Nathan Apodaca went viral on TikTok for his skateboarding video, featuring Ocean Spray and Fleetwood Mac’s song, “Dreams”. The brand surprised (and delighted!) him with a brand new truck in cranberry red. That’s a way more powerful response than a tweet.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ocean Spray (@oceansprayinc)

Although participating in pop culture and trending topics can help you build a bond with your audience, it can also induce pressure to be “always on.” This is your reminder that sometimes the timing won’t be right. Evaluate each opportunity to see if it’s worth shifting your priorities. Trends come and go, and it’s okay to pass. Join the party only when it makes sense.  
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on Brand Storytelling

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on Brand Storytelling

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song is one of those timeless classics. In fact, I love it so much, I recently awarded it the top spot on a podcast where I ranked the top five ’90s sitcom theme songs. Whether you’re listening to it on your couch or at the bar, you can’t help but bop along. 
Most sitcom intros are set to a feel-good track, like Full House’s “Everywhere You Look” or Friends, “I”ll Be There For You”. But The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song takes us on a journey with a story. In fact, “story” is mentioned in the first line in the song.

I’m sure I don’t have to remind you, but it starts off like this:
Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air intro
This first verse sets the stage and the visuals in the opening credits illustrate the storyline.
But what if the Fresh Prince theme song went a little differently? What if the lyrics said:
Now, this is a story all about how
My life was perfect and everything was fine?
You wouldn’t have a story. There’d be no plot — nothing to hook in the audience or inspire them to stick around to see what happens next.  
Instead, we learned that Will Smith was facing a problem in his life that got flipped-tuned upside down.  

The Problem with “No Problem”

So what can marketers learn from a teenager from Philly who got caught up in some trouble on the playground?
In our industry, our job is to make ourselves or brands looks good, right? We want people to hire us, work with us, or buy from us, so it’s important to demonstrate you’re the perfect fit or solution.
But if you really want to build a bond with potential employers, clients, or customers, you have to share your full story — the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s not perfection, but imperfection, that will make them connect with you.
More often, marketers need to resist the urge to create flashy, sexy marketing, and instead go the more human route. Problems, struggles, and conflicts certainly aren’t glamorous, but they’re interesting. When you give the audience a story about a challenge you’ve faced, the more credible you’ll seem when you share how you overcame it.
A brand that is built on this foundation is Humans of New York. If you’re not familiar with Humans of New York, it began as a photography project by Brandon Stanton in 2010. He set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street, and along the way, he started interviewing them. He then shared quotes and short stories about his subjects on his blog and social media. The Instagram account alone has 11 million followers.
Humans of New York isn’t popular because it shares fluffy motivational quotes or uplifting stories of success. No topic is off the table — from divorce, to suicide, illness, loss, homelessness, and racism. With every story follows a slew of comments from people who can relate. 
Now, I know what you’re thinking: stories like this are far too sad or serious to share with my audience. But these aren’t sad stories — they are triumphant stories. Every story ends with a message of strength and resilience.
You can capture that exact magic when telling your personal story, your company story, or your customer’s story. No matter what type of struggle or challenge unfolds in the story, the ending will foster a moment of celebration, connection, or pride. 
Here’s are some tips to help you share better stories and testimonials: 

Start from the beginning.

You think this would be a no-brainer, but more often than not, we skip right to the highlights. When your audience understands where you’ve been, the more they can appreciate where you are now. 


Include a photo of the subject or interviewee.

Your audience wants to put a face to the story, and a quote means so much more when you can see who said it. Also, research indicates that pictures increase trust.

Show vulnerability.

Do you think Will Smith LIKED telling the story about his mom kicking him out of the house to live with his aunt and uncle in Bel-Air? No, but the most compelling stories shine a light on challenges or the uncomfortable. 


Illustrate a transformation.

We always enjoy transformational content because it’s clear to see the full story of before and after or then vs. now. If you can, complement written stories with visuals to show growth or change.

Sometimes, to tell a great story, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. But it’s these raw and authentic moments that your audience will resonate with most. So take it from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and share more of how your life got flipped-turned-upside-down. It will certainly make your brand more memorable. 
2020 or 2002? The Brilliance of Kim Kardashian’s Velour Tracksuit Revival

2020 or 2002? The Brilliance of Kim Kardashian’s Velour Tracksuit Revival

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t waiting for velour tracksuits to make a comeback, and who better to spearhead their revival than the socialites who started it all?
Kim Kardashian recruited Paris Hilton to introduce her line of velour tracksuits for her shapewear brand, SKIMs. 

With a simple Instagram post shared with her 190 million followers, Twitter was ablaze with chatter about the early 2000s throwback vibes, including me. 


But the brilliance of this campaign is beyond the product itself. Kim has done dozens of product launches in her career, but this marketing move is special. For Kim, it brings everything full circle… 

Paris and Kim — The Original Influencers

I’m not sure how familiar you are with the history of Paris and Kim’s iconic friendship, but let’s rewind. 
Paris Hilton was the it-girl of the early 2000s. As a young and beautiful hotel heiress, she lived a lavish lifestyle of glitz, glamour, and lots of partying. The paparazzi was fascinated with her, and documented her every move. 
Before Kim Kardashian became a household name, she was Paris’ stylist-turned-sidekick. Inevitably, she was photographed out and about with Paris. The public then started to wonder, who is this beautiful brunette hanging out with Paris Hilton?
Side note… this is one of my favorite videos ever.

Fast forward to 2020. Kim Kardashian is one of the most famous people in the world with countless business ventures, brand partnerships, and social media followers. She’s marketed dozens upon dozens of fully integrated product launches in her career. 
Most product launches involve months of developing social media posts, writing email campaigns, designing web pages, directing product photoshoots, creating polished videos, pitching to media outlets, and placing advertisements. 
But with the release of SKIMs velour tracksuits, Kim channeled inspiration from her early road to stardom and how she marketed herself
It’s paparazzi photos (along with a little sex tape) that put Kim Kardashian on the map in the 2000s. Without having to spend a dime, she was in every tabloid. So why not tap into this tactic to promote SKIMs?
Kim could have easily announced the velour tracksuits by posing in front of a white backdrop, or outfitting models in every style and color. Instead, she produced photos and video of her and Paris on-the-go, reminiscent of their escapades nearly two decades ago.
They’re seen walking through parking garages, stopping for snacks at a gas station, and driving around in a Range Rover with their bedazzled cell phones — all while comfortably sporting the tracksuits.
As routine as these activities may seem, this is when these two would typically encounter paparazzi. The art direction for the SKIMs campaign recreates that magic.

Even back in the 2000s, every brand wanted a piece of Paris or Kim K. They were influencers before Instagram existed. Did you even grow up in the 2000s if you didn’t beg your parents for a Louis Vuitton bag? 
Today, Kim and Paris’ influence is stronger than ever — they just have new tools to exercise it. 

That’s Hot — What SKIMs Got Right

Love her or hate her, Kim Kardashian is cashing in on SKIMs. Here are the main takeaways explaining why this campaign made such a big splash. 


Why develop a new idea when you can create a remix of what’s worked before? Nostalgia is a surefire way to create an emotional bond with your audience. Develop a campaign that brings them back in time and you’ll immediately make them feel something, which is always the goal. 


It’s easy to follow a playbook or do things the way you’ve always done them. Kim deviated from what she typically does for a product launch and made this campaign true to her roots. Look for ways to make your marketing campaigns personal or more authentic to the brand. 


When you market a product, you want your audience to envision what life would be like if they had it. SKIMs strategically promoted their velour tracksuits in a relatable setting. Their audience is looking for something cozy, comfortable, and stylish to wear while out running errands, so that’s what they portrayed. Ditch the plain backdrops and show your product out in the world.


Two audiences are better than one. Paris and Kim were a power duo of the 2000s, but seeing them together again in 2020 energized both of their fan bases (and the media!). If it makes sense for your product, find collaborators and influencers to help build trust and spread the word. 


We all know that cameras follow Kim and Paris everywhere. They built a connection with their audience by giving them a glimpse behind-the-scenes of this brilliant campaign shoot, while also sharing fun facts from their partying days.

Kim revealed that that iconic Louis Vuitton bags they were photographed with during a 2006 trip to Australia were actually empty. Kim was afraid Paris would ruin the bags, so they were just for show.

The takeaway? Let your audience behind-the-scenes so they can get to know you better. 

With 2020 being as crazy as it is, I wouldn’t mind going back to the 2000s. SKIMs velour tracksuits go on sale Wednesday, October 21.
TRL and the Magic Formula for Raving Fans

TRL and the Magic Formula for Raving Fans

If you grew up in the late ’90s and early 2000s, long before Spotify, TikTok, and YouTube, Carson Daly was your gateway to new music. 
On September 14, 1998, a little show called Total Request Live (TRL) premiered on MTV. It was a driving force that helped launch the career of a few blonde bombshell likes Britney and Christina, boy bands like BSB and *NSYNC, and rappers like Eminem and Ludacris. 
For me, TRL was my daily after-school ritual. I looked forward to exclusive interviews and music video premieres. But the best part was seeing which videos would clinch the number one spot. And in an age when artists were pitted against each other more than ever, the competition got pretty heated.
But TRL really wasn’t about the music. It was about the fans


The Magic of TRL

Even before social media made two-way communication something you could do in an instant, TRL found a way to put the power in their fans’ hands. The programming was essentially crowdsourced.
The countdown wasn’t carefully curated by music journalists or producers. They left it up to the fans to show up and vote. We were empowered to control the outcome. 
MTV invited us into the studio. They let us take over the streets of Times Square. They answered our phone calls and counted our votes. TRL was our chance to feel seen, included, and heard.
This goes beyond simply acknowledging their audience. They made them part of the process, which is a surefire way to strengthen their bond.

How to Emulate the Success of TRL

Aside from the fact that the Backstreet Boys will always be better than *NSYNC, what can we learn from TRL? 
If we want to engage with our audience more, we need to apply one of the magic words from TRL’s acronym: REQUEST.
Simply pushing a message won’t activate your fans or customers. Truth be told, sometimes they need a little nudge, and all you have to do is ASK!  
Make your communication two-way by presenting them with a request.
You can request your audience to: 
  • Answer a question
  • Respond to a poll
  • Ask a question
  • Complete a survey
  • Share their opinion 
  • Choose this or that
  • Enter a contest
  • Vote for their favorite
  • Produce UGC
  • Leave a review
  • Tag a person or brand
  • Express an idea 
This approach is a win-win. Your content gets a boost, and your customer feels included.

Making Social Media ‘Social’

If you work in marketing, you’ve probably said this countless times: social media is meant to be ‘social.’ 
Along these lines, I tweeted the following phrase this week which seemed to resonate with my followers:



So no, you shouldn’t post your flyer on Instagram. 
We’re in this to start genuine conversations with our followers. But that’s not the end of the point I want to make. There’s a difference between interesting conversation and boring conversation. 
While you’re following TRL’s framework and requesting that your audience to engage, take a moment to think about what you’re asking. Are you asking a question that is rhetorical, overdone, or too broad?
Social media is cluttered with businesses asking lame questions with posts like 
“Happy Friday! Who’s ready for the weekend?” 
We’re not sitting at our computers anxious to tell businesses how we feel about the weekend. But if you asked us something interesting, we’d be more likely to respond.
For instance, if you’re a local bar with a happy hour special, instead of a post that says “Happy Friday, who’s ready for happy hour?”, you could ask your audience to comment with their go-to happy hour drink. 
This starts a REAL conversation, and more importantly, it lets people talk about themselves. Trust me, that’s what your followers want. 

Give Your Followers the Answers

The other thing to keep in mind when asking questions on social media is not to make it too difficult. If you’ve gotten your audience to stop their scroll, don’t make them complete a math problem, for lack of a better analogy. 
It’s best to ask questions with a finite number of answers, or where something specific can easily come to mind. 
That’s why content where your audience chooses this or that, answers multiple choice, or votes is a simple mechanic. 
And if you ask an open-ended question, you don’t want it to be so broad your audience can’t quickly think of an answer, and is forced to move on. 
In his book, Thinking Fast & Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes our modes of thought, and he breaks them down into system 1 and system 2 thinking. 
We employ system 1 for fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, or unconscious thoughts or decision. 
System 2, however, is slow, effortful, calculating, and conscious thinking.
As marketers, we want to make it easy on our audience and present them with opportunities to use system 1 thinking. Calling for system 2 is usually asking too much.
You know what they say… keep it simple, stupid!

Asking for User-Generated-Content 

In addition to not making your audience think too hard, you don’t want to make them work too hard either!
Thankfully, social media has made it easier than ever for fans to share their thoughts, photos, or videos. But I’ll end this post with a throwback clip of Britney Spears and Melissa Joan-Hart guest hosting TRL in which they encouraged the audience to FAX THEM UGC to enter a contest.
Fast forward to the 3 minute mark:
If you want your brand to thrive, do whatever you can to reduce friction and make it easier for your audience to engage with you. They’re busy enough, so when you have their attention, make it count.