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Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Did Beyoncé Miss her Calling?

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She’s performed in front millions of adoring fans, packed sports arenas, sang for heads of state and even President Obama.  She’s dazzled audiences with her fierce voice, fearless confidence and seemingly impossible dance moves.  Beyoncé, with her fame, fortune, and amazing looks, may seem larger than life, a natural who was born for a life on the stage.  It’s hard to imagine her as anything but a performer, but I can’t help but think that, if Beyoncé were to live her life again, she should have considered a different career.

She could have easily landed a job in PR.

Here’s why. Beyoncé has proven her ability to build trusting relationships with her fans, and she’s successfully handled the opportunities and challenges that have come with her life in the spotlight.  Arthur Page, the former vice president of public relations for AT&T, developed seven management principles for public relations practitioners. Using these principles, I’ll show why Beyoncé makes a great public relations practitioner.

1.       Tell the truth.

In her documentary “Life is But a Dream” that debuted Feb. 16 on HBO, Beyoncé offered a rare peak into her life off stage.  The candid style of the film, which featured narration from an unadorned Beyoncé, offered her fans the chance to view the personality behind this star.  Critics may have said the documentary was not revealing enough, but it was insightful and a good PR move  because it helped to build a mutually beneficial relationship between Beyoncé and her fans.  She provided them with an inside look at her life in return for all of their support throughout her career.

2.      Prove it with action.

When Beyoncé was accused of lip synching at the inauguration, she truthfully explained why she did not sing live in front of President Obama, and then she supplemented her words with actions.  In a move that any PR crisis practitioner would be proud of, she proved her critics wrong and belted out a live rendition of the national anthem for all of her media critics to hear at a Super Bowl press conference.

3.      Listen to the customer.

In her documentary, Beyoncé described the public’s obsession with celebrity.  Her BeyHive blog caters to this habit.  Named after her top fans, the blog offers insights into the music and lifestyle trends that inspire Beyoncé, while also providing information about upcoming tour dates.  It’s a way for her to communicate directly with her supporters and to build a sense of community with them.

4.      Manage for tomorrow.

Beyoncé has proven that she’s more than just a singer.  She’s made Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 most powerful women not only because of her musical talent but also for her work in entrepreneurship (she has a clothing line and a string of endorsement deals) and charitable campaigns like “Get Moving.”

5.      Conduct public relations as if the whole company depends on it.

For Beyoncé, this means thinking about the messages she communicates and the impact those words will have on her fans.  In her documentary, she reveals that this is something she constantly struggles with.  She wants to give back to her fans without giving up too much of her privacy.  By being conscious of her audience, Beyoncé proves that she is a thoughtful communicator who thinks before she speaks or sings.

6.      Realize a company’s true character is expressed by its people.

If Beyoncé were a company, her fans would be the employees. In public relations, what employees say about a company matters, and the relationship between Beyoncé and her fans is no different.  She has cultivated a fan base of loyal brand ambassadors who spread the word about her and her music.

7.      Remain calm, patient and good-humored.

In the face of a PR crisis, we saw Beyoncé keep her cool.  More than that, Beyoncé has shown that she recognizes the good hand that fate has dealt her.  In the documentary, she addressed the fact that she has been blessed with success, and emphasized her gratefulness.  Crisis or no crisis, she seems to keep a level head, which is something every public relations practitioner must strive to do daily.

I doubt Arthur Page ever expected his seven principles to be applied to the world of pop music, but I believe this comparison shows that public relations is not just a profession; it’s a way of life.  For Beyoncé, public relations is about how she relates to her fans and the media.  We can all learn from her tactfulness and her grace under pressure, and we can appreciate the struggles she faces as she considers what to reveal about her life and what to keep private.

Just as Beyoncé is judged by her fans and the media, our performance as public relations practitioners is judged by our clients and colleagues, and we can only hope that, under pressure, we will apply these seven principles to survive and thrive.

By Carolyn Tillo, Account Coordinator with the Corporate, Education and Non-Profit practice

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