Silence Isn’t Golden: The Story of Chris Brown’s PR

Last night was the 10th Annual BET Awards Ceremony, and let me tell you, I never thought I’d cry during that show.

Marking the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson, BET decided to gamble on a second tribute (since the first was a bust) and allow the infamous Chris Brown to perform. Last year, the ever-powerful Jay Z threatened to skip out on the awards show if Chris was even invited, resulting in a lackluster tribute to the King of Pop. I’m assuming the same thing happened this year since not only did Jay Z miss out, but Beyonce and Rihanna skipped out as well. Regardless of Jay Z’s disagreement with the tribute, Chris Brown’s performance was arguably the best performance of the night and is the best impersonation of Michael Jackson in recent years.

I have seen some (not much) backlash at Brown’s teary performance. I agree with some of the speculation. During the months following the incident involving Rihanna, silence surrounded Chris and his label (which I interned with this past spring). In the PR world, silence is not golden. Silence is questionable, suspicious and frowned upon. “No Comment” are the famous last words. As a Chris Brown supporter since he first broke into the scene around 2005, I was in shock with the handling of such a touchy and controversial incident. No apology…for months! Finally, when the apology did come on Larry King Live, he was decked out in a bow tie using words which I know he could not define, let alone spell. An educated audience could see right through the apology, and as a fan, I was terrified for his career. Slowly, venues started turning Brown away. Chris couldn’t GIVE tickets away. And at his label, there was conflict of how and when to release his next single.

But, nearly a year and five months after his assault of Hollywood’s starlet, Chris was given a second chance. He displayed raw emotion which fans and critics alike wished to see since Day 1. Unable to sing Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” the audience rose to its feet in support for Brown and the rebirth of his career. In the final moments of the show, Chris was awarded the AOL Fandemonium Award and finally said the words his fans had hoped he’d say months before; “I let you down before but I won’t do it again, I promise.” Spoken like a true 21-year old in the midst of a career crisis, no big words, no bow tie, no manipulation of his true feelings. Chris spoke directly to the audience and his fans, and in turn, it appears he may have more fans now than before the February 2009 assault.

If anything, this “Case Study” shows the ineffectiveness of a silent approach. Suspicions and animosity grew while Chris and Co. remained silent. Additionally, it proves to speechwriters and publicists alike that writing in the voice of your client is key; do not put words into your client’s mouth which he cannot spell! It leads to disaster. Let a client speak from the heart with some gentle guidance and it will go a long way.

Congratulations, Chris, on doing what your management would not allow in the first place. What do you think?