“We have decided to move forward as a united family,” read the joint statement released by Beyonce, Jay Z and Solange days after security video footage of Solange attacking Jay Z was leaked to the media.
The ‘this too shall pass’ crisis PR strategy seems to be a trend in the Knowles-Carter camp.
Last year, after Beyonce performed at President Obama’s inauguration, there was speculation about whether or not she lip synced her performance — a standard practice for many artists but one that proved to be a taboo notion for Beyonce. Beyonce’s camp said nothing.
As a result, speculation intensified, newspapers devoted their front pages to the story and anchors spent whole segments discussing the issue on broadcast news programs around the world. When the story didn’t disappear after a few weeks, Beyonce tried to quiet things down by posting this subtle message to her instagram account: “Can I Live?”
It was clear, that the answer from media and fans alike was “NO,” and she was eventually forced to address the issue at a super bowl press conference where she sang the national anthem acapella for media and an audience of thousands who watched via livestream.
And then, there was the situation last Fall, when Jay Z came under fire for not distancing himself and canceling his holiday collaboration with Barney’s after allegations arose about racial profiling at the luxury retailer. As a prominent and influential African American man, and someone who has spoken out about racial injustices in his song lyrics and publicly demanded a boycott of Cristal after execs made racist comments about the black community, many expected that he would take a similar or equal stance in this situation.
Instead, Jay Z did and said nothing for days.
Soon, the story became front page news and a petition emerged with close to 60,000 signatures from people who wanted him to end his partnership with Barney’s. Eventually, Jay Z issued a statement about why he shouldn’t be the scapegoat or villain and that people shouldn’t rush to judge Barney’s because the proceeds from his collaboration would benefit the black community blah blah blah…
These are just a few examples that show how today’s new media landscape and increased expectations of transparency from consumers have landed Jay Z and Beyonce in uncharted PR waters.
For well over a decade, they’ve both developed and have been able to maintain an ironclad image and have avoided many of the pitfalls other celebrities have faced. They’ve both employed the same publicists for years (Jana Fleishman for Jay and Yvette Noel-Schure for Bey) which helps because Fleishman and Noel-Schure have earned their trust and know how they operate. However, as the backlash from #elevatorgate has shown, they are all learning a lesson or two about how to navigate a crisis PR situation.
The reality is, that there are people (and media organizations) waiting to put a crack in the Knowles-Carter facade and any information that helps them do so is being sold to the highest bidder. Because of that, these incidents may start to become more frequent for them and the best way to handle each situation is to get ahead of the story and deal with it immediately.
So if Beyonce is still wondering “Can I live?” the answer is “Sure, but only after you issue a statement first.”