You Can’t Hide Anything

US political watchers were afforded a special treat recently, courtesy of the Texas legislature and State Senator Wendy Davis. If you haven’t heard the story, Ms. Davis spoke for eleven hours in an attempt to delay voting on a bill until after the Texas Senate’s session ended, effectively killing the bill. True filibusters are rare, filibusters that long even more rare. But that wasn’t even the coolest part.

The coolest part was that Ms. Davis had a cheering section. Hundreds of people jammed the legislature in support of her filibuster. A Twitter hashtag, #StandWithWendy, was spawned and trended internationally. But that wasn’t the biggest part of her cheering section. It was the people watching on YouTube:

Months before Ms. Davis’s vivid protest, the nonprofit news organization [The Texas Tribune], based a few blocks from the state Capitol building in Austin, had gained access to the stream provided by state-controlled cameras there and set up a live YouTube channel for the legislative session.

While the same stream was also accessible through the Senate’s own Web site, that site looked almost comically old-fashioned compared with YouTube. Thus it was through YouTube that Ms. Davis’s filibuster was widely seen and shared.

More than 100,000 viewers were reported viewing the stream.

The great lesson from this episode? You can’t hide anything. We’ve talked about the power of YouTube before, when we looked at Governor Romney’s so-called 47% gaffe, but this is different for the streaming aspect of it. As we keep learning, that which we used to be hold back from the public, that which we used to depend on the mass media to repackage, that which we used to be able to delay and explain away, is now available live and in streaming color to hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.

You cannot hide anything. Now that we’ve established that, what do we do with that information? The best crisis communications consultants out there will tell you that if something bad is going to come out, you’re best to put it out soon and do it on your own terms. The corollary to not being able to hide anything is that you no longer can have any secrets. If it’s going to come out, put it out. If you’d rather not let the world know about something, stop doing it.