Rammstein singer Till Lindemann at a concert on June 2 in Odense (Denmark). © Sebastian Dammark/Imago
Without social media, there would be no discussion about Rammstein: Experts are sure of that. Two communication professionals comment on the women's statements – and the band's reaction.
Cologne – Mischa Heuer is convinced: "Without social media, the reporting we have been seeing for a few days would not exist." Heuer was head of social media at Deutsche Welle for five years. He addresses an important side aspect in the Rammstein and Till Lindemann case. First and foremost, it is about allegations of abuse of power, a perfidious "casting" system and the administration of knockout drops. But it's also about a phenomenon of this time, without which the developments of the last few days would be inconceivable: the enormous power of social media. This year, she herself has experienced and followed "countless shitstorms professionally."
It all started with the Twitter profile of Irishwoman Shelby Lynn. In Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, Rammstein's European tour started on May 22nd. Three days later, Lynn, who attended the concert, created a profile on Twitter and documented in detail what Lindemann is now accused of, among other things. How they – and a few days later also the German YouTuber Kayla Shyx in a widely received video – communicated is the decisive point for Heuer: "The fact that the posts were able to unfold such a force is mainly due to the fact that they are so vividly told: We see the bruises, we see the chat histories with the woman, who recruited the girls, we see Row Zero, the cordoned-off area in front of the stage."
Till Lindemann Statement: "Modern crisis communication is different"
Lynn doesn't let up, publishes more and more material. And there is a second, important development: established media are picking up on their representation. "The reporting was important, especially in the first few days, to give credibility to the women – especially those who wanted to remain anonymous," says Heuer. Major stories appear, including in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit. "By talking to the alleged victims, reviewing the stories, sifting through the chat histories and photos, and sometimes even receiving affidavits, experienced journalists were able to very quickly take the wind out of the sails of those who dismissed them as fabricated stories," says Heuer.
You hear little or nothing from the band during these developments. On May 28, Rammstein's official Twitter profile stated that it could be ruled out that the allegations concerning the concert in Vilnius could be true. Then the roll backwards: Another statement appears on Instagram on June 3rd. They take the allegations seriously, condemn any kind of assault, and fans are urged not to participate in public prejudices against the alleged victims and the band. All this is pressed onto a white quote tile.
"From a professional point of view, it was amateurish," Heuer says. "Modern crisis communication on social media looks different: faster, more personal, more participatory. In the meantime, however, Rammstein have apparently realized that they need support and hired a communications agency."
Christian Schertz's law firm now represents Till Lindemann
On Thursday it became known that Lindemann will now be represented by the law firm Schertz Bergmann in matters of freedom of expression and press law. The lawyers complained about the reporting of the past few days. "In the social networks, especially on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, serious allegations were made by various women to the detriment of our client," it said in a statement. "For example, it has been repeatedly claimed that women were drugged at Rammstein concerts with the help of knockout drops or alcohol in order to enable our client to perform sexual acts on them. These allegations are invariably untrue."
For the social media expert Heuer, this is an overdue step and also a sign that the allegations are being taken seriously. "It speaks for the fact that the band no longer believes that they can settle the matter with short statements spread via Twitter or Instagram alone. I'm just amazed at how long it took for this realization to mature."
Rammstein's crisis communication: Sitting out instead of going on the offensive
Hendrik Unger knows how to communicate correctly in a crisis situation. The social media expert advises celebrities, national football players and YouTubers. His formula is: "Only those who show their cards are authentic. And without authenticity, nothing works on social media anymore." In this respect, he takes a critical view of Rammstein's communication. "If I was advising the band, I would have tried to communicate more. A shitstorm becomes more violent the longer you remain silent."
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A shitstorm is one thing, reality is another: In view of the allegations in the room, the first two concerts in Munich went off without a hitch. Sold-out Olympic Stadium, 60,000 fans, everything as usual. For Unger, this is a signal that sitting out is probably more of a tactic. "I assume that the topic will go under the radar again in four weeks at the latest. It only gets exciting again when facts are put on the table," says Unger. Rammstein itself has announced that it will have the allegations reviewed by an external law firm.