Crisis Communications Nightmare: What We Can Learn From Cardi B’s Weekend Meltdown

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Cardi B’s meteoric rise from exotic dancer to social media celebrity to TV reality star to finally platinum rapper has been nothing short of incredible to watch and witness. However, whether you write raps or you are a marketing manager of a Fortune 500 company, there are growing pains to any type of success. On the weekend, Cardi B was essentially accused of appropriating black culture by another female rapper Azealia Banks, being accused of kicking patrons out of a store, and another female rapper accused her of being mean and not appearing to be as humble as she seems. As a result, Cardi B deactivated her Twitter account and deleted her Instagram. Her Twitter was back up but her Instagram is still deleted. 

Why does this matter? Why do celebrities matter for PR, marketing & communications?

Celebrities matter because they drive consumer purchasing decisions – it’s that simple. Before she deleted her Instagram, she had 20+ million followers on Instagram. You can get all the sordid details from other sources – my focus is on the massive crisis communications nightmare that happened on the weekend and I should mention I do like her music and her songs but some aspects of her celebrity are troubling to me. She has a publicist but her publicist and communications team should have taken a different tack. Cardi was incessantly responding to the criticisms directly which probably isn’t a good idea considering she is pregnant with her first child.

Should celebrities engage in comment wars on social media?

No they shouldn’t. While it shows authenticity, it also leaves them exposed and vulnerable to excessive attacks by online trolls and mobs. Because she built her brand on social media, she probably assumed that she can just respond online. However, the more she responded, the more the general public on Instagram gossip profiles pushed back at her criticism accusing her of being arrogant, full of herself and not being humble. Her authenticity saw her rise to the top but being too authentic and responding all the time can also set her back due to being over-exposed.

How should have the crisis strategy been executed in this example?

  • Create genuine dialogue: Her team could have reached out to a reputable media source to mediate between the two such as ESSENCE Magazine to have a well-needed discussion about cultural appropriation which is a big trend in hip hop discussion. Instead, Cardi and her publicist attacked Azealia Banks with disparaging Instagram posts which made them look immature. Dialogue and discussion done in a professional setting about a real issue could have given them the opportunity to make amends and show consumers that they care.
  • Less is more: Even though Cardi B created her persona on social media, the less is more approach could be the way to go. Her visibility in the public eye is at an all time high and sometimes taking this away is a wonderful way to create more demand. Decreasing frequency of Instagram and Twitter posts can help to create a sense of scarcity so when she returns, this makes fans want her more.
  • Stop fighting with fans: One of the most surprising things about Cardi B’s weekend meltdown was the fact that she was fighting with some fans in comments. At her level in music considering her success, responding back to fans negatively across the whole weekend actually hurts her and makes her look petty. She just had a number one album a few weeks ago, she should be focusing on that instead. Use this as a lesson that you shouldn’t argue or fight with your prospects or customers. It is irrelevant whether they have bought your products or services or not. They are engaging with your brand — don’t fight with them, it’s bad for business whether you are Cardi B or a successful B2B brand.
  • Focus on positives immediately: If I were advising a music artist, if they are being attacked online, focus on the positives immediately and then address the drama through a medium of their choice (not social media). Cardi B has many wonderful things happening for her at the moment: she’s pregnant, she’s engaged to be married, she has a x5 multiplatinum single ‘Bodak Yellow’, her song ‘Bartier Cardi’ is platinum. With all of these extreme positives, it makes no business sense to engage in reckless behaviour that can hurt your future earnings or revenues.
  • In no circumstance should friends and family be speaking publicly: Her sister and friend and the publicist have been defending Cardi – with no success. Instead, their outbursts didn’t quell social media fire. Your friends and family love you on a personal level so they might not be able to see when you are wrong professionally. Music artists should tell family and friends only to speak out if the PR has approved it and if possible, stay quiet until the scandal blows over.

What B2B brands need to learn from this mini-meltdown is make sure you communicate your message effectively and respectfully. Don’t swipe away people who haven’t bought your products as ‘haters’ – this is a toxic way of looking at people who don’t like your product, who have genuine concerns about your product or people who are lurking. You never know what someone has or what they may have in the future. When in doubt, always always choose a PR professional who knows what they are doing to help you create the perfect type of crisis communications messaging to help your company through the scandal. Cardi B will be OK – but it was definitely eye-opening seeing that brands built online including hers can be subject to the whims and changes of online consumers who feel like celebrities shouldn’t get too big for their britches.

What do you think of crisis communications? Do you think it is important for celebrities and B2B brands?

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