It’s a phrase recited by PR professionals worldwide: be careful what you put in writing. As a result we like to call people when we discuss initial ideas or make requests. If you see us on the phone we are probably asking for a favor, typing is for ultimatums.
That’s why I both understand and am perplexed by Beyonce’s publicist when she reached out to BuzzFeed yesterday afternoon. After the site published a collection of photos from the singer’s halftime performance at the Super Bowl they apparently received a call from Yvette Noel-Schure requesting that a few “unflattering” photos be replaced. Ms. Noel-Schure then followed up with an email citing the specific snapshots.
Look, we’ve all been there. The press publishes what it wants. If the words came out of your mouth or took place near a camera you can expect it to appear in print or online. However, part of our job is brand management and sometimes that means image control. The photos in question could be construed as “gurning” and it’s understandable that a simple request could be made to replace them. That doesn’t mean the media outlet has to do it, it’s just a request. It is your due diligence to make it even if you know it won’t work.
Unfortunately we do not know if the request was pleasant or not since we are only presented with an email. If this was a bit of revenge on behalf of the reporter then they should include the initial tone of the phone call, otherwise the email reads just fine.
Before you dismiss the image management of a celebrity like Beyonce, just consider what she has been up to lately. In just the past few weeks she “sang” at the Presidential Inauguration, hoarded headlines with her silence following that event, demonstrated the perfect response to smack talk at an NFL press conference, performed at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and announced her worldwide tour. It has been a carefully choreographed parade of events. Along the way I was awed by her ability to own the news when nothing that she was doing was necessarily newsworthy.
So as someone who spoke out against spotlighting Beyonce’s lip synching moment at the inauguration when real news was taking place around the world, why does this catch my attention? Because requests aren’t news. Why BuzzFeed chose to publish this story is understandable, after all it garnered over 6,000 likes. But it’s exactly this type of “reporting” that creates a divide between publicists and the media.
This is not news. This is a request that barely rises above junk food corn syrup; a sugary high for a reader that lasts just long enough until another tidbit of celebrity trivia reaches an inbox. Sometimes the allure of publishing some behind the scenes details for a quick hit is too much to resist. I get it, it’s BuzzFeed after all.