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Friday, 15 June 2012

Streisand Effect Made a Meal of the School Dinner Blog

It was a classic example of the Streisand Effect* where the attempt to suppress something fairly innocuous magnifies the publicity effect enormously.

It happened when Argyll & Bute Council in the west of Scotland banned nine-year old Martha (nicknamed Veg) Payne from taking photographs of her school meals for her NeverSeconds blog which she started at the end of April with the help of her father. The blog has ingenious touches like her 'food-o-meter' and health ratings. The last time I checked the blog, before all the fuss, it had over 2 million hits and public support from top celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and Nick Nairn. That's a remarkable achievement in such a short time. It's like a lot of internet successes: a highly focused and brilliantly simple idea about something almost everybody has experienced and can relate to.

I was really surprised to hear of the ban today. I thought she looked like she was doing a pretty good job of even-handedly reporting on her school meals, many of which came in for praise and the school is supportive of her efforts.  Her father has told the media that the school and kitchen staff have been "brilliant"about the blog. Plus she was doing a great job of using the high blog profile to raise money for the Mary’s Meals charity and had raised her goal of £7,000 to help them fund a kitchen shelter for nearly 2,000 pupils at Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre, Malawi.

It seems that council staff were upset by a Daily Record headline "Let's Fire the Dinner Ladies"on a story about the blog. That was not Martha's fault.

The good news is that the council have done the sensible thing in the face of intense media pressure and have acted quickly to remove the ban.

Even better news, donations to her charity soared and at the time of writing her £7,000 fund-raising effort has swollen to £46,458.46 through her Justgiving account and broken records for the fastest fund-raising effort.  You can support her effort here:

I just hope that the council will now take the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive and work with 'Veg' to improve school meals and spread the good practice throughout Scotland.  In a land so blessed with fantastic food, great chefs and food producers, it's ridiculous that the fried Mars bar should be synonymous with the idea of the Scottish diet.

* The Streisand  Effect term was coined after Barbara Streisand tried to suppress an aerial photograph of her house online. Apparently her house's image had been downloaded 6 times before her court case (and that included two downloads by Streisand's own lawyers). The case was dismissed, but once the news of her legal action went round the world, there were 420,000 visitors to view the offending photo!

PR blog posted by Penny Haywood Calder at PHPR Ltd, Edinburgh, UK. URL: PHPR TV Channel on YouTube: PHPR Ltd on LinkedIn Follow PennyHaywood on Twitter

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Blogger James Posey said...

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9 June 2014 at 09:29  

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