Winging It: Beyonce Makes a Power Move

Is the singer making an ill-fated move by letting husband Jay-Z take control of her career?

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Beyonce Knowles fires father Matthew Knowles

[caption id="attachment_144613" align="alignleft" width="187" caption="Proper crisis management and damage control can make or break your brand (Image: Thinkstock)"][/caption] Everyone loves a scandal--until they're at the center of one. Just take the recent firestorm with New York City radio personality DJ Mister Cee of Hot 97. His recent indiscretion got him an arrest record and caused a news and social media frenzy. Now, negative perceptions about the incident abound that could put the legacy of his decades-old brand in jeopardy. His response: Reportedly taking to a Twitter account to address his "haters." Those in the public eye are no strangers to scandal, and the need for proper crisis management and damage control is not exclusive to entertainment celebrities. (Think: Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick; Bishop Eddie Long). From product recalls to publicized lawsuits to investment blunders to social media gaffes, one's response in the midst of the storm can make or break a brand, a career, or a company's reputation and drastically affect future profitability. So, how do you strategize in the face of a situation that could jeopardize their brand or livelihood? Marshawn Evans, reinvention strategist, entertainment attorney, and CEO of of ME Unlimited, a consulting firm, offers these tips on how to do just that: BlackEnterprise.com: What’s the best strategy if one finds oneself, their company, or their brand at the center of a scandal or negative incident?

  • First pause and assess how the situation affects you personally. Clear your mind and focus. "What most people do is react without pausing," Evans says. "It's important to assess what just happened personally. You can get consumed with what the public thinks; but you can’t focus on that just yet."
  • Assess a response or whether you should respond at all. "I usually have to get a client to calm down first and evaluate this. You might feel you need to respond to everything, but that’s not necessarily best."
  • If you do decide to respond, know your goal in responding. What do you want the response to accomplish? "If anything that you want to say doesn’t fit into that goal, then don’t say it," she says. "Usually, your goal should be keeping consumer/client loyalty and confidence." For example, if a company has a product recall, let the customer know what you’re doing to make the product safe or to rectify the situation. Keep in mind that you don’t want to highlight the negatives. Show your customer that you care and stick to the positives.
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  • [caption id="attachment_144631" align="alignleft" width="183" caption="New York's Hot 97 personality, DJ Mister Cee, is at the center of scandal after a recent arrest, leading to brand scrutiny (Image: Twitter.com)"][/caption] Know what areas you need to respond to, and what areas are irrelevant. "You don’t want to get into a [situation] to try to prove things to the media," she says. "You can make a mistake in trying to prove your case. You may say too much, which can allow room for scrutiny." You can acknowledge the incident, but that doesn't mean you have to accept responsibility publicly. Show the appropriate concern, but indicate that you need time to handle the incident and would appreciate respect of your personal privacy, depending on the case.
  • Keep in mind what stage of the process you’re in. "How you respond when it first starts is very different from how you would in middle or after," Evans says. "Three different goals, three different responses."
  • Never underestimate the importance of humility. "People like to see humility to regain trust in your brand," Evans says. "People love second chances, but they only give that after humility. That’s what you saw with Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Chris Brown. Lot of examples on how humility can help." For a small business owner, this could be as simple as having humility about a service or product you provided that might not have been satisfactory to customers. "If a customer or client is unhappy, you want to rebuild trust," Evans adds. "That starts with accepting responsibility and offering positive alternatives."
  • If there is a major negative impact on a customer/client base, you may need to rebrand yourself. That might include a new campaign to get customers to trust you. "Branding is about perceptions, and when it changes, you may have to reassess your strategy — whether its your marketing, staff, location, etc."
  • If there are legal consequences involved, a lawyer should be consulted sooner than later. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a lawyer in a worst case scenario. And your publicist should work in conjunction with the legal representation to deliver the appropriate message.

Beyonce parts ways with her father and opens the door for a new manager (Image: Getty)

Beyonce, like many musical artists, has offered fans some of the most telling windows into her personal life through the lyrics of her hit songs. But few have been as candid as 2007’s “My Daddy,” in which she movingly paid tribute to her father.

“Words can’t express my boundless gratitude for you

I appreciate what you do

You’ve given me such security

No matter what mistakes I know you’re there for me.

You cure my disappointments and you heal my pain

You understood my fears and you protected me

And I thank you for loving me.”

She went on to gush about how she wanted her unborn child to be like her daddy, she wanted her husband (hint-hint to Jay-Z, who hadn’t yet “put a ring on it”) to be like her daddy, and how no one else could replace her daddy. That is, until now.

Beyonce’s announcement this week that she is severing business ties with Matthew Knowles, who managed her career from pre-pubescent seedling in Destiny’s Child to grown-up global sensation as a solo artist, is being perceived as a signal that Daddy’s doting daughter is all woman now. Married, almost 30, and with her fourth album due in a few months, it makes sense that the singer has finally declared her independence. Or has she?

Beyonce’s formal statement gave no explanations for the break. While far more tempered than her lyrics, it reiterated that she loves her father and remains “grateful for everything he taught me.” Matthew Knowles’s statement called the decision mutual and insisted that it had nothing to do with their personal relationship, saying flatly, “Business is business and family is family.”

Perhaps, but there is such a thing as a family business, and the making of the Beyonce brand (to the tune of $87 million, by Forbes’ most recent account), was an extremely lucrative one. Matthew Knowles became its CEO in 1995, when he quit his sales gig to manage his daughter’s career full-time. Without a doubt, the job opening he leaves is one of the best in the business.

So now the industry is waiting with baited breath for the second shoe to drop, as in word on who will replace him. Given how meticulously choreographed Beyonce’s career is, there’s no doubt that individual is waiting in the wings.

Matthew Knowles with son-in-law Jay Z

Choosing between the men in her life: Father Matthew Knowles and husband Jay Z (Image: Getty)

Speculation, of course, is that hubby Jay-Z, via his Roc-Nation management company, has a lock on the position. While Jay-Z would be an obvious choice and, arguably, a great one, I can’t help but wonder if Beyonce really feels she has much choice at all, or if she’s examined all her options.

Even women with powerhouse talent and money to spare have been known to cede control of their most precious assets–material and otherwise–to the men they love. When those men are smart, successful, charismatic and trusted, it’s that much harder to see the potential downside–or imagine a better alternative. This is especially true in Beyonce’s case. The bigger the bank account, the smaller the circle of trust–at least among those with any sense. And let’s face it, Jay-Z has an impeccable track record as a star-maker. Just ask Rihanna, rapper J Cole, and Willow Smith (a “whip” off the old block of parents Jada and Will). So, why wouldn’t Beyonce turn to her partner in life to run her brand? Really, what’s a girl to do?

Think carefully, that’s what. Long and hard. Seek expert outside counsel. Lots of it. Do your own research. Get honest and objective referrals. And ironclad guarantees, with safety nets and exit hatches built in. Because, as any divorced (or unhappily married) woman will tell you, you just never know. And I can’t think of any married women (happily or not) who would jump at the chance to have their husbands control their careers, at least, not without a lot of soul searching and due diligence. Something about it just smacks of an uneasy inequality, the kind that makes most brides and grooms dump the word “obey” from their vows.

The list of women whose fortunes (and names) have been depleted by their men is long and growing all the time. Two of the movies Beyonce has starred in (Dreamgirls and Cadillac Records)–three, if you count The Fighting Temptations, which ended happily–have centered on the theme of talented women manipulated and poorly managed by their men. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling into question Jay-Z’s integrity or his intentions. This isn’t about him–or any man–at all. I’m simply noting that if she goes that route, Beyonce runs a huge risk, as does any woman who allows her man to manage her career and her money. She has made so many right decisions until now. Great success in business continually demands that you use your head. It also requires heart. But when that heart is in love, good sense can take a holiday.

Whatever she decides, I just hope Beyonce steps into this next phase of her career and her life in full possession of her own unique gifts and talents, with her eyes wide open and her head in charge. It’s what I hope for us all.

  • John B Mal

    Obviously written by an African American woman. What do they know about marriage?