PUBLIC RELATIONS

A Lesson in Crisis Communication From Beyonce

Need to manage a public relations crisis? Take a page from Beyonce, who put her critics to shame.
Singer Beyonce performs the National Anthem at the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show Press Conference.
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The legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell prided himself on "telling it like it is."

Beyonce just did a musical take on Cosell’s worldview by belting out a live, stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at a pre-Super Bowl press conference on Friday in front of hundreds of reporters. As the story goes, without any introduction or explanation, the singer entered the room, asked the press representatives to stand, and belted out the national anthem in its entirety.

In that moment, Beyonce put to rest any lingering image and reputation damage suffered when she was outed for lip-synching the very same song at President Barack Obama’s recent inauguration. Her swift and transparent response in front of the right audience at exactly the right time is a textbook lesson for any entrepreneur facing a crisis. You can choose to let others tell your story or, as Beyonce did, step in front of a microphone and control the message yourself.

Friday’s unexpected live performance was a well-orchestrated move--very smart public relations on her part. She essentially ran through the four key steps from the playbook of crisis communications and management:

1.)   Respond quickly.

2.)   Be authentic and genuine in your response.

3.)   If you’ve done wrong, admit fault.

4.)   If your credibility has been called into question, find ways to quickly re-establish it.

Beyonce didn’t let the naysayers continue their bashing of her faux performance in D.C. Instead, she chose a select audience of media who were guaranteed to spread her message far and wide (and fast!).

Think how much more effective a live a cappella rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was than, say, a Twitter or Facebook post. Or worse, if she had delegated her crisis response to a press agent. Or, heaven forbid, if she chose to explain on Oprah or Katie a la Lance and Manti T’eo.

In one fell swoop (and one long, mellifluous ballad), Beyonce put the issue to rest once and for all. As a result, she can now look forward to performing at halftime on Sunday without half the nation wondering if she’ll be giving her inauguration lip-synching antics a repeat performance.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Feb 1, 2013

STEVE CODY | Columnist

I'm a climber, comedian and dog lover. But not necessarily in that order. I also happen to be co-founder and CEO of Peppercomm, a strategic communications firm headquartered in NYC, and with offices in San Francisco and London. I publish RepMan, a daily blog, and have had the opportunity to appear on CNBC, MSNBC, NPR, and a host of other top tier media over the years. scody@peppercomm.com

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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