Follow Beyonce’s 4-Part Strategy for Crisis Communications Success


Music video fan or not, you’ve probably heard about hip-hopper/producer Kanye West’s bad-boy behavior at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) on Sunday evening. (Video here if you don’t see it above.)

West jumped on stage as country singer Taylor Swift had just begun her acceptance speech for best female video, grabbing the mike from Swift to attest that Beyonce deserved the award.

Swift was so rattled she couldn’t continue but the show moved on. Of course the cameras focused on Beyonce in the audience who looked astonished then immediately rose to give Taylor a standing ovation. Great move, Beyonce. Because if you or your organization is taken on by a crazy advocate, you are stained by that crazy behavior or approach. The best response is to separate yourself as far as possible.

But Beyonce did even better. When she won the Video of The Year Moonman for ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),’ she said a few words and then invited “Taylor to come out to have her moment.” You can see it here. Win-win. Not only did Beyonce show herself to be more a star than ever via taking the high road, but in doing so she turned around what had become ugly into something positive. That’s effective crisis communications!

Here’s what your organization can learn from Beyonce’s quick response to a potential disaster:

  1. Act quickly — that’s when your response really counts.
  2. Establish distance between your organization and any crazed fan or advocate that’s supporting you.
  3. Make sure your response is right on target — there’s no room for correction. Be prepared.
  4. Take the high road — you’ll win every time. Get down and dirty along with your “opponent” and it’s likely you’ll stay wallowing in the mud.

Is your organization poised to turn a messy situation around? If not, it’s time to sit down, envision possible crisis likely to emerge, and how you’ll take them on — now!

Nancy Schwartz on September 15, 2009 in Crisis Communications, Fresh Takes, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments
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  • Loved your blog on crisis management.
    On two separate occasions our foundation has unfortunately faced negative situations, and your blog hit on two key components:
    1) Acting quickly (especially as it relates to false rumors) In today’s viral social media environment, waiting to release a response only allows the rumor to spread quickly to others, making it even harder to clear up any misunderstanding involving your charity. I have learned that when you wonder “should I respond or not?”, it is often imperative that you DO take quick action to let the world know your true stance.
    2) Taking the high road. Every charity should know exactly who they are and what they hold most dear. If you have consistently put forth that “spirit” in your messages and actions, then it is easy to take the high road of standing firm on who you are. People will then realize that there is nothing contrived or fake in your response. You can communicate with grace and dignity, confidently knowing who your charity is each and every day.
    Thanks for writing this up!
    Amy Eldridge
    Love Without Boundaries

  • What a fantastic parallel! I remember thinking that Beyonce handled the situation very well for what could have been an ugly moment all around. Great post.

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  • Lisa

    I respect the fact that Kanye publicly and privately apologized for his behavior and Taylor was gracious to accept the apology.

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