What Beyonce and Lady Gaga have taught us about public relations

*Full Disclosure: This blog may or may not have been written while bumping Beyoncé’s new album from start to finish.

Last Friday reigning pop queen Beyoncé dropped her newest album on the world sans fanfare. Conventional music marketing wisdom would indicate an album release without a marketing campaign is superstar suicide:

No anticipation = No sales.

Oh, how we love seeing industries turned on their heads.

Queen Bey crushed all preconceived notions by selling over 800,000 copies in three days. Her massive success and novel approach got us thinking about her choice in marketing tactics (or lack thereof).

More pointedly: Is doing no PR sometimes the best kind of public relations? Just “B” the thing you are, if it’s good…people will come. Is shunning traditional marketing tactics in lieu of less trodden paths actually the more clever strategy?

Case and point: Lady Gaga released her album ARTPOP on November 6, 2013, preceded by a slew of the usual Gaga-eque public relations stunts and promotional fanfare. But her album kinda flopped – or at least didn’t hold a candle to BeyBey.

This week, I enlisted AirPR’s newest team member and PR Engineer, Leta Soza, to articulate and visualize the Top 5 lessons companies can learn from two of the world’s leading pop queens…and how their decisions contributed to their overall success…or failure.

Beyonce-vs-Gaga

Beyoncé…

LESSON #1:

Instead of launching a campaign stacked with public appearances and media hits, Mrs. Carter went straight to the people. She sought to minimize the space between the fans and the music by cutting out all the middlemen.

Don’t let someone else cultivate your relationships. Speak directly to your customers. You control your message and the minute you give that power to someone else, you lose the ability to drive the conversation.

LESSON #2:

With 17 tracks and 14 music videos, content creation was the top priority and provided ample opportunity for fans to gawk, geek out and gush. I mean, who doesn’t love watching B. shake her groove thang?

If you know what your customers want and love, use it to inspire consumable content. The more you give, the more you get.

LESSON #3:

Breaking with tradition, Beyoncé dropped her entire album in one fell swoop AND made sure it didn’t have an obvious hit single.

Placing all your proverbial eggs in one basket is dangerous. If you can’t deliver quality across the board, people will stop paying attention.

LESSON #4:

iTunes called Beyoncé’s decision to secretly release her album “unprecedented”. Beyoncé called it “necessary” in order to stave off her boredom with the status quo.

Trust yourself. If you see potential in something new and unexplored, embrace the unknown. Disrupt, innovate. If you’ve got a good product, this works.

LESSON #5:

She released 2 versions: A family friendly and an explicit language version. Both of which are now sitting at No. 1 and 2 on iTunes albums chart.

Give major love to your current customer base, but don’t alienate future, potential customers. Make sure you are approachable and relevant to both constituencies.

Lady Gaga…

LESSON #1:

Mother Monster has always touted her special relationship with her loyal fanbase aka her “little monsters”. But Gaga went mainstream with stints at the Video Music Awards, a Saturday Night Live appearance, and The Muppets Holiday Spectacular on ABC. What the? These channels are impersonal and not likely the best places to reach her hardcore fans.

The customer is central to your business. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it – and don’t think for one second they will follow you into unnatural places. It’s YOUR JOB to find them, engage with them, and retain them.

LESSON #2:

Critics bashed ARTPOP for being too long (15 tracks vs. Beyonce’s 17) but where Gaga missed the mark was with her supplemental content. She chose to focus on software versus video.

Know how your customers consume. Music and videos go hand in hand. Albums and apps? Not so much.

LESSON #3:

“I live for the applause, applause, applause” – Lady Gaga.

#Nuffsaid.

LESSON #4:

Gaga launched a $25 million marketing campaign around the release of ARTPOP managed by…umm… herself. That’s a lot of responsibility.

Support is paramount. You can’t be the face of your brand, AND the sales team AND the publicist AND the [insert any other title]. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and go for quality, not quantity.

LESSON #5:

ARTPOP is not kid friendly. Lady Gaga’s previously released albums did an excellent job masking double entendre and cursing but ARTPOP fully earns its Parental Advisory stamp.

Don’t bait and switch your customer base. While they do want new products to be different and hopefully better than earlier versions, they don’t want the unexpected in terms of quality or accessibility. 

Our final takeaway on the whole “queens of pop” conversation:

Be the product your customers will buy. PR, marketing, promotions, and live appearances won’t save your shoddy product. People are creatures of habit and they are predictable Pleasing them and giving them what they want takes attentiveness infused with creativity. They also know a hack-job when they see one.