A Lesson in Crisis Communication from Beyoncé

Need to manage a public relations crisis? Take a page from Beyoncé, who put her critics to shame

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Kevin Mazur / WireImage

Beyonce performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Feb. 3, 2013 in New Orleans.


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

The legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell prided himself on “telling it like it is.”

Beyoncé 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.

(MORE: Why Beyoncé Will Make No Bills, Bills, Bills for Her Super Bowl Performance)

In that moment, Beyoncé 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 Beyoncé 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.

Beyoncé 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), Beyoncé 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.

MORE: Prop Bets, Sports Books and Beyoncé’s Cleavage: Everything You Need to Know About Super Bowl Gambling

Read More from Inc.com:

5 Ways to Tie Your Brand to News Events

8 Reasons Not to Hire a P.R. Firm

10 comments
annab
annab

She wanted to shut up the one guy who asked again, for good measure, if she had sung or not.  That was odd.

She can sing and the story is utterly stupid, but to go on about her candor- hold up there, she's manicured, not open.  She plays ingenuousness well- without ever saying anything at all, about anything, ever, at all.  Which is correct on her part, but that is not called openness.   

dooney1
dooney1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

The damage was done. You cannot rewrite history. This all could have been a non-story, if Beyonce, & her team, had chosen to announce, pre-inaugural performance, she would not be singing live. No big deal. It was freezing cold, and a singer's voice is absolutely effected. Instead, as seems to be a Beyonce pattern, she chose to 'fake it' -very well mind you. It would all have been OK,except that Kelly Clarkson did sing live, and Beyonce did not. Beyonce should have come on Piers Morgan, or any morning show, the next day, and state her reason for not singing live, and that would have been it. It was never a question of whether she can sing - we all know that. It was about that one performance. So the 'surprise' song at the press conference went hollow, as far as most of the public is concerned. It was a public feeling fooled - not a question of Beyonce's vocal ability.

Elle80
Elle80 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@dooney1 awww it hurt you that bad huh? Build a bridge and get over it.

katyaduras
katyaduras

Totally True!

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aritchbrand
aritchbrand like.author.displayName 1 Like

Sorry, guys. Beyonce's response was not fast enough. She let the story run away from her for days before saying a word. She pulled a brave but self-serving stunt in the eleventh hour before her superbowl performance and got lucky that it worked. Anyone who sees this as a lesson in effective crisis management needs a refresher course.

AllisonDuval
AllisonDuval like.author.displayName 1 Like

You nailed it, couldn't agree more!

romajenco
romajenco like.author.displayName 1 Like

The press conference was on Thursday but I agree with the rest of the article. 

Beysus Rules. Clearly.