Crisis PR: Building a Slower Celebrity Train Wreck

January 8th, 2010

High-profile celebrities are, by nature, aggressively ambitious.  Sometimes that ambition leans toward greater artistic achievement, philanthropy or over-the-top antics.  And, sadly, sometimes that ambition aims simply for the bottom-line – more money.

So the question, from the public relations perspective, is: how much money is enough?  Case in point: reports of the New Year’s Eve concert Beyoncé Knowles performed for the Gathafi family, with the morally questionable Hannibal Gathafi as the evening’s host.

Hannibal’s exploits are infamous, for all the wrong reasons.  Actions may speak louder than words, but in the world of crisis PR, perception screams at full volume.  So, when Beyoncé chose to perform for the Gathafi family, she (or her handlers, if they are good at what they do) had to know the concert would attract significant international criticism.  That’s not good when your celebrity persona is followed closely by millions globally.  More importantly, was the performance worth the reported $2 million fee when you’ve already earned $87 million in the past few months alone?

Now, to her credit, Beyoncé has taken an affirmative step to clear the air, with a prominent statement on her Web site that claims she did not perform for Hannibal but rather for his brother.  Good crisis management in action.  But is this enough?  To distance herself more forcefully, she could hold a press conference, post a YouTube video, or even connect with the families of victims of Lockerbie Pan Am Flight 103 to issue a joint statement that she is aware of the sensitive nature of associating with the Gathafi family, particularly when it comes to personal gain.

Always remember: in crisis management, it’s all about perception, perception, perception.  Do the right thing to atone for your error and you’re already halfway there.

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