Injunctions, interventions and engagement

Andrew Marr decided to drop a super-injunction he took out in 2008 the other day, a small but significant moment in the unfolding narrative around privacy and reputation.

News value comes from the visceral way it can shape and influence collective storytelling. As a journalist of course, Andrew Marr knows this well. And being a public figure now isn’t a tag that simply belongs to other people, it comes with being part of a joined-up information environment.

If you’re alive, you’re going to get Googled. If you’re digitally active, consider public information about you being part of the territory.

In the past, we’ve been quite used to, and comfortable with, being hidden, accustomed to being passive consumers of media rather than producers of it.

In the networked world, productivity and efficiency come from more than the 1% doing the heavy lifting, but our models of engagement and participation up till now have been restricted.

We know there’s a real need for everyone to raise the engagement stakes within organisations as well as communities of interest for them to be more effective. That means – de facto -an environment where one size does not fit all. The principles of connected networks dictate that we are all likely to be engaged in doing things some people don’t like some of the time.

We live in an attention economy and attention is a form of social currency, where all news is good news, supposedly.

The subject of superinjunctions touches deep nerves in our collective psyche about influence, integrity and social identity and it asks which is the most desirable? – appearing to be better, or actually being better?

Die-hard legal defence mechanisms, hands-off media management policies, one-way traffic and the injunctions and superinjunctions have emerged out of a friction-filled, rather than friction-free, business models. A 360 digital media view can create a rounded set of perspectives, powered by the openness, able to create social value and social enterprise.

Legal interventions have often been deployed to paper over veneers of public reputation in lieu of an authentic engagement with audiences. In the social web it’s very much easier to win out by just being decent.

The social web involves rethinking how people communicate, how we organize, how we go about developing reputational value and enable social influence through the use of new strategies.


I respect Andrew Marr for taking it on the chin today. Leaning into issues of public contention and taking them as a cue to develop a dialogue can help to ensure public opinion can serve them well. It pays to be publicly open, to embrace the grit in social conversation and nuances that come with the territory of a complex narrative.

Increasingly the building of reputation and influence, the ability to fascinate, lead and inspire are dependent on understanding both the light and shade of productive communication, working with adverse opinion and favourable points of view in combination as a key part of creating satisfying user experiences.

The moral of ‘Marrgate’ is that to avoid public figure fail, get closer to your users. Be tuned into public opinion instead of trying to configure audience perceptions.

Seeing opinion as an asset instead of a threat can make a difference in creating more trust and depth about who you are as a brand, and the nuances that go with it, if you want to garner goodwill, social connectivity and user interaction of lasting value.


  • I’m not really sure I understand your argument here. Firstly, on the question of privacy, do we have a right to know what other people get up to in the bedroom, and who they go to bed with? And secondly, if we discover that someone has a spouse and a lover, how does that affect our perceptions of their integrity?

    People can be involved in sex scandals and still have integrity in their work. I still like Michael Jackson and Gary Glitter records, I still watch Grandstand and Match of the Day and Downton Abbey, and I wouldn’t want all the Eric Gill typefaces to be removed from the London Underground. The superinjunction I was happiest to see broken was Trafigura; there was a clearly a reputation issue, and it was about business conduct of a corporation.

    I suppose what I’m struggling to discern here is what you’re in favour of.

  • Anne

    I agree that people can still have private lives and have integrity in their work. My point is that being digital changes what we used to think of as the fixed rules and assumptions around how we manage our social identity together with issues of privacy and reputation and resorting to a superinjunction’s a blunt and counter-productive tool in terms of how it can be done.

    In a connected world the question ‘to what extent do people have a right to be involved in the business of others?’ is a question worth reviewing in order to move beyond broadcast and passive consumption, to build trust in brands requires more openness and the means to inspire people to participate and express themselves in a more dynamic society comfortably.

    The stats tend to suggest and have done for some time that only 1% of any large group tends to do the heavy lifting as I’ve mentioned, yet we know that social collaboration involves more people than that participating to yield value. Ergo a potential and quite significant limiter.

    So how to we go about broaching the way through these issues?

    It comes down to finding the appropriate blend between personal and professional reputation, private and public identities, engagement and involvement, and it certainly won’t be what we had before.

  • Zhaawano