published a collection of photos
from Beyoncé’s halftime performance at the Super Bowl, the mega-popular website reportedly got a call from the singer’s publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, requesting that a few “unflattering” photos be replaced. Noel-Schure followed up with an email
citing the specific snapshots, and BuzzFeed
published the email, which said in part:
“Thanks for taking my call. As discussed, there are some unflattering photos on your current feed that we are respectfully asking you to change. I am certain you will be able to find some better photos.”
She then listed the “worst” pictures; BuzzFeed
re-posted those pics.
The story about Beyoncé’s publicist was picked up by a number of other websites worldwide that echoed the headline: The photos Beyoncé’s publicist doesn’t want you to see.
Requests aren’t news—no matter how popular they are
The press will publish 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 show Beyoncé making odd faces—they could be construed as “gurning
”—and it’s understandable that a simple request could be made to replace them. Of course, that doesn’t mean the media outlet has to do it.
We don’t know whether the telephone request was pleasant. If this was revenge on behalf of the reporter, he 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 Beyoncé, just consider what she has been up to lately. In just the past few weeks she “sang” at the presidential inauguration, sparked 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 Beyoncé’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 more than 6,000 “likes,” 71 comments, and nearly 400,000 page views. I get it—it is BuzzFeed
after all. But it’s exactly this type of “reporting” that creates a divide between publicists and the media.
Brian Adams consults with nonprofits, including Komera Project, regarding communications strategy. Brian was previously senior director of communications at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and the head of media and community relations for the MSPCA-Angell.