Content for business, Tina O'Brien, Guillotine Mack and celebrity culture

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Far be it from us, as an award-winning Manchester PR firm, to wade in on matters that don’t directly impact on our office, but recent events in our fair city have inspired a few thoughts we figured could be worth sharing (and re-sharing).

As avid readers of every possible news source under the English-speaking sun (and a few elsewhere, given we have some linguists in the house), the story about Coronation Street star Tina O’Brien, who plays the lovely Sarah-Louise in the soap, being ‘accosted’ by local vlogger Guillotine Mack didn’t pass us by unnoticed. But, just in case you’re not privy to the information, let’s start from the beginning.
Said TV personality was in a garage trying to pay for petrol. Said online chap, who has made it more than a hobby to video himself (usually driving a van) musing on life and his own experiences often with passers by getting involved, walked into the same garage. Immediately whipping out his phone, he attempted to create a clip of this unexpected meet up. She asked him to stop filming. He continued. She apparently told him to ‘f*!k right off’. This was then posted to Facebook, on his account, and arriving into work the next day his employers sent him packing, explaining that he no longer had a job. Or at least that’s what the headline reads here.
Needless to say, people have had a lot to say about the incident. On the one hand, is it OK for someone to be dismissed from their job- especially in a time when employment is a huge issue for many- for doing this sort of thing? Who is to blame for O’Brien’s reaction? Is it acceptable for people to think that just because someone is a celebrity they’re fair game in any situation for an autograph, selfie, or addition to an ongoing video diary?
Most poignantly from our perspective, though, is this an example of the grey area that exists between amateur content creators and the actual rules of filming (or indeed writing)? As any journalist, advertiser or marketer knows, if someone is clearly identifiable in a shot, or being directly quoted in an article, then they need to give their permission. In the former instance, this usually comes in the form of a signed consent form, unless there is a public interest in publishing.
In no way shape or form were any of those requirements met by Mr. Mack before he posted to Facebook. And, as we have said innumerable times in the past, by posting to Facebook- or any other social network- you are automatically becoming a publisher.
This year the subject of vloggers and standards in terms of advertising and sponsored content has been a major talking point in the news. Last month, we ran a blog on how you shouldn’t believe everything you read, which included references to a worrying statistic that shows 1 in 10 members of Generation Z (click here if you’re unsure what that means) trusts what they read on social media, and many are unaware that vloggers accept money to recommend products.
When that scandal hit, and the Advertising Standards Agency interjected, creating new regulations for YouTube stars to adhere to, one thing was clear- many of these stars didn’t actually know laws were being broken by taking cash for a good product review, without first making it clear cash had been taken. All of which sounds a little off topic, perhaps, but stay on the line and hopefully our conclusion will tie this together.
There are quite literally millions (if not billions) of content creators in the world right now who have no idea about the standards expected, or indeed the legal obligations that come with creating that content. Libel, copyright infringement, invasion of privacy- these are all phrases that don’t really mean much to many. Guillotine Mack can arguably be counted within those numbers based on O’Brien-gate.
As an aside, this isn’t to say he was fired for any of the above failings. And it’s not that we don’t have huge sympathy for anyone who suddenly finds themselves out of work this close to Christmas. Nor are we implying he acted with any real malice intended. Unsurprisingly, and understandably, a campaign has begun to try and get him his job back. In fact, we’re only really using this as a recent example of how complex the rules surrounding content are, as a means of recommending you call in the experts if you need content for business.
At the same time, it’s also possible to argue that celebrities are themselves a brand, and therefore need to be acutely aware when something has a chance of going public.
Had this been a brand, then the incident would have been an example of what you should never do, on both sides of the coin. So, don’t get caught out through ignorance to the expectations and regulations that govern this kind of thing. More often than not people turn a blind eye to the online behaviour of individuals, unless they are inciting racial hatred or directly promoting criminality. However, when it comes to organisations, public figures and such like, this simply isn’t the case. Someone will notice, people will speak out, and you’re the one left to pick up the pieces when that Great Idea Bubble bursts into flames, setting alight the reputation, follower and fan-base you worked so hard at garnering in the first place.