What Would Barbra Do? A Business Lesson from Barbra Streisand

February 16, 2018

Photo credit: JCT(Loves)Streisand* on Visual hunt / CC BY-NDWhen you think of Barbra Streisand, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a career spanning six decades, including ten Grammy Awards, five Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, and more? The unique spelling of her first name? Is it her first album, titled (you guessed it!) The Barbra Streisand Album? Who could forget about her role in Meet the Fockers as Roz Focker. For me, the first thing that comes to mind is actually none of those things. And I’ll stop summarizing Barbra’s Wikipedia page now.

I would argue that no matter which of Barbra’s many talents you are most impressed with, as a business owner, the top association with Barbra Streisand should be the Streisand Effect. The Streisand Effect is “the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.” It stems from an incident where Barbra Streisand attempted to stop photographs of her house in Malibu, California, from being posted online, which unintentionally drew more attention to the photograph. You can read more about the Streisand Effect here.

Understanding the Streisand Effect is important when evaluating how to publicly respond to negative information about you or your business because it’s possible that taking certain actions could actually make the problem worse. It is inevitable that you will encounter conflict, whether it be with unhappy customers, competitors, disgruntled employees, or maybe you inadvertently get caught up in a conspiracy theory, such as Pizzagate. Negative information about your business may be posted online, or you could hear through the grapevine that so-and-so has been talking about you out in the community.

Your first inclination may be to have your lawyer fire off a nasty cease and desist letter, engage with the person on social media to demonstrate how wrong they are about you or your business, or go on the offensive and tell-all about how terrible that person actually is and why no one should believe them.

Before you go there, think to yourself: What Would Barbra Do? And I’m not talking about what she did to have an Effect named after her, I’m talking about what would Barbra do now. I can only imagine Barbra would do things differently if given the chance. As a result of suing the photographer and the website, the photo of her home was viewed more than 420,000 times and she paid not only her own legal fees but also the other parties’ legal fees (to the tune of over $150,000).

The bottom line is that choosing how to proceed in a conflict is a decision that should be made very carefully. Sometimes, a measured response, or no response at all, may be the best way to move forward and address a conflict. Our Internet Law Practice Group frequently serves as an objective voice to help our clients identify and evaluate the potential risks associated with choosing a particular course of action. So before you act, think to yourself…What Would Barbra Do?

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University Commonwealth School of Law and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs. Matt is an integral part of Russell, Krafft & Gruber’s Information Technology and Internet Law Practice Group.

Photo credit: JCT(Loves)Streisand* on Visual hunt / CC BY-ND