January 21, 2014

Could no PR equal good PR?

I don't think you're ready for this.

I don’t think you’re ready for this.

Just when it seems as though the world could not be more obsessed with Beyoncé, the singer has found a way to prove us wrong. On December 13, Queen B shocked the world with the unexpected release of her self-titled “visual album.” When the 14-track, 17-video album suddenly dropped on iTunes at midnight, social media exploded. After dismissing my snooze alarm for the third time, I rolled over and grabbed my phone, only to find my Twitter feed flooded with news of the surprise album. When I turned on “Good Morning America,” the biggest story was, of course, Beyoncé. In the days to come, it seemed as though the entire world was captivated by her surprise.

It’s no secret Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z like to avoid the limelight, but the fact that she kept this album secret is shocking. As a public relations student (and Beyoncé lover), it makes me wonder: Did she want nothing to do with the PR strategies of releasing an album? Was the lack of PR actually a strategy in itself?

Let’s look at the facts: According to a CNN report, Beyoncé had been working on this album for more than a year. Several tracks feature some of today’s hottest artists — Drake, Frank Ocean and, of course, Jay-Z.  Those are some big names (with some big Twitter followings). Yet nothing leaked — no single, no sneak peeks, no appearances. Not one single teaser. When Beyoncé’s album dropped at the stroke of midnight, it was sold exclusively through iTunes. Fans went crazy downloading the album in its entirety.

The results? A media frenzy. Not only were die-hard Beyoncé fans having serious meltdowns, but it seemed as though no news station could resist talking about what she had done. By midday, the album had reached number 1 on the iTunes charts. According to mashable.com, B’s surprise album generated 1.2 million tweets in just 12 hours. At its peak, the stunt sparked more than 5,300 tweets per minute. On Facebook, Beyoncé mentions skyrocketed more than 1,300% in a matter of hours. Even celebrities were captivated by the artist’s surprise:

Katy Perry - Beyonce

Although at first it may appear that the queen of hip-hop wanted nothing but to avoid promotional work, if you take a closer look, her lack of promotion was actually a brilliant PR strategy. The surprise generated more media attention in a shorter period of time than an extended promotional plan would have. Even a month later, people are still talking about her album.

Normally, album releases are accompanied by extravagant publicity stunts — witness Miley Cyrus’s infamous twerking at the VMAs or Justin Timberlake’s scavenger hunt leading up to his “20/20 Experience.”

Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe Beyoncé’s raw talent speaks for itself. Has she reached a level of stardom where she doesn’t need PR? Was the anti-publicity effort a brilliant design by her PR team? I love my girl Beyoncé. But as a blossoming public relations professional, I find it hard to believe any artist, regardless of talent, would forgo promotion. And in this case, keeping quiet certainly made a lot of noise.

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