She’s back! Although it feels like a misnomer to suggest that someone’s whose singular name and every minute act is so ingrained in daily conversations, ever really left.
Beyoncé – the Queen of R&B – just released her sixth studio album, Lemonade, a visually and vocally stunning exploration of the emotional journey of the pain, power, disappointment and love Black women experience in our most defining relationships – those with our communities, friends, significant others and ourselves.
It is a bold and honest complete body of work and – in my humble opinion – Beyoncé’s best album to date. I could write sonnets and epitaphs highlighting why this is a historic fact, but others have summed up that point way more fabulously and humorously than I could.
Instead, I want to highlight – and pay my respects – to Queen B’s ability to keep this project (among many others) safely wrapped in her shroud of secrecy until she was ready to share it with the world. Time and time again, Beyoncé has proven that she and her team can keep a secret, such as when she:
- Married Jay-Z and kept the world guessing for two years
- Announced her pregnancy as part of an MTV performance
- Took a surprise vacation with her hubby to off-limits Cuba
- Released her namesake album, Beyoncé in the dead of the night with no pre-promotion
- Performed at a fundraising event for her daughter’s school
- Released the video Formation one day before her Super Bowl performance
Even as The World tuned in to watch the premiere of the highly publicized Lemonade on HBO, we weren’t really sure of what we’d see. It could have easily been an hour-long special of Beyoncé’s favorite lemon-flavored cocktail recipes and yet we tuned in eagerly and completely unknowing.
It’s astounding to think of the hundreds of people who were involved with the creation and release of Lemonade – musical artists, backup singers, songwriters, dancers, lawyers, stylists, makeup artists, lawyers, managers, graphic designers, assistants, photographers, caterers, babysitters, editors and drivers who didn’t breathe a word or sigh of its coming.
And, that ability to keep important secrets is a strong part of Beyoncé brand success. The ability to determine how and when a brand’s message is shared is a form of power and no one wields it as effectively as Team Beyoncé.
Over the years, she and her team have nearly perfected their ability to keep projects close to their vest and out of the public eye, until the right time. And, with the release of Lemonade they used that power of secrecy expertise to deliver on of the best surprise album (and must-watch event) of the year.
Here are three ways to keep your company secrets, secret – Beyoncé Lemonade Style.
Work With People Who Share Your Vision
Lemonade (the visual album) included appearances from 13 surprise guests – Serena Williams, Jay Z, Blue Ivy, Ibeyi, Chloe, Amandla Stenberg, Zendaya, Winnie Harlow, Halle Bailey, Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin and Quvenzhane Wallis – and all kept their participation in the project a secret.
This isn’t by accident.
With the exception of maybe Blue Ivy – who is currently too young to comprehend the effect of her appearance – all the participants knew the significance of the role they played in being part of such a reaffirming body of work. They were committed and fully aligned to the vision and didn’t want to undermine its impact.
People who share your vision are more likely to protect your secrets.
Put Your Expectations in Writing
There is no doubt in my mind that the confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement used by Team Beyoncé is a document crafted by the best legal minds to have ever lived. Brand secrets are trade secrets and you (like the Queen B) should be clear in your expectation of people to keep them and the penalties of failing to do so.
Contracts and confidentiality agreements are a none negotiable if you want to ensure that your projects, announcements and all the work that you have invested time and money in are shared with the world at the time and in the manner that best befits your brand. Require everyone that works on your business/brand to adhere to your expectations, sign a confidentiality agreement and ensure they understand the legal ramifications if they run afoul of that agreement.
Don’t Entertain Weak Links
Months ago, I had the pleasure of connecting with one of Beyoncé’s former assistants. They – the secrecy runs so deep, I won’t even reveal if it was a girl on guy;) – shared that the Bow Down songstress demands excellence and integrity of every team member regardless of if you are grabbing her tea or helping her plot her next move. Those that aren’t able to handle that level of responsibility and trust are not kept around. End sentence.
People who are not fully invested in being the best at what they do are not the type of people you should entrust with your brand’s confidential information. Slipups and leaks (unintentional or not) are more likely to come from those who do not take their role in your organization seriously.
Only hire and work with those who share your belief in integrity and commitment to doing the best job humanly possible. And. quickly separate yourself from all others if you want to ensure that your brand secrets stay secret. After all, it’s what the Queen would do.