There was this one time in high school where a kid snuck tried to sneak a few bottles of vodka into our chemistry class.
But unfortunately, ole’ boy put his backpack down a bit too hard, and a bottle cracked. Vodka seeped through his bag and onto the floor. The smell was pretty apparent, and so was the giant booze puddle forming around his desk.
As the teacher cursed out the student– and he really laid it on the kid– he stopped, gathered the class around and proceeded to show us how the vodka’s ethanol was reacting with the wax on the tile, causing a milky white chemical reaction. After explaining that, he returned to berating the student and sending him out the class.
To this day, I’ll never forget how he stopped mid-rant and let us know about the chemistry of the entire situation — because it was a teachable moment.
And this weekend, after seeing Meek Mill reply half a year later to a Drake diss track, I’m seeing another teachable moment. That moment has to do with proper PR tactics for artists.
In Summer of 2015 — over seven months ago — Drake released two tracks aimed towards Meek Mill, this came after Meek notoriously decided to be messy on Twitter.
Meek ended up retaliating to Drake, weeks later, but with a track that sounded like it came from your local community college struggle rapper. But nonetheless, recently, it seemed like we moved on.
I mean, Drake certainly did..
Since the Meek and Drake feud Drake has done the following:
- Charted on Billboard
- Created a viral single in Hotline Bling
- Turned Hotline Bling branding into a major merchandise revenue stream
- Dropped new material, including features
- Headlined ACL Fest, OVO Fest, among others…
- Capitalized on his Apple Music partnership with OVO Radio
And Drake also remained consistent in the media for pretty much everything — dance moves in his music video, basketball game appearances, being spotted with Serena Williams.. he’s been everywhere. Everywhere to the point where the whole Meek thing is old news.
However, seven months later.. seven months.. Meek Mill has returned with new material aimed at Drake. While this would have been smart a summer ago, by releasing new material aimed at Drake, it makes Meek seem dated. Almost desperate.
While it was apparent from the start, it’s even more apparent now: Meek Mill’s communication and PR strategy is non-existent.
As a strategist specializing in artist communications, here’s what Meek has done wrong — and here’s what we can learn from it.
Timing is Everything.
In any PR or marketing setting– timing matters.
But note this: Timing doesn’t just matter from a “rebuttal” standpoint. Timing is more than just “firing back”. Sometimes, timing is also laying low, and ensuring that when you do reemerge — your message is impactful or refreshed.
Meek Mill has made three essential timing mistakes when it came to responding to a potentially damaging situation.
- His first response was too delayed.
When Drake released TWO tracks aimed at Meek.. Meek Mill simply went silent on Twitter, and all social media. There was no response. In a normal crisis setting, going ghost is fine, but if the other party is actively asking for a rebuttal, even a video of Meek saying, “Too busy on a world tour to hit the studio! But wait for it!”, would have sufficed.
But instead, we got a Twitter page that wasn’t updated for days. Then Meek Mill returned and claimed his.. “team changed his password.”
Action is always needed. You’ll notice that a lot of brands or companies will release a statement saying, “we’re reviewing and will return with a statement at a later date.” This is for a reason. Because you want to let the public know you’re aware of the situation.
Of course, a rapper or any artist shouldn’t respond with such a robotic reply, but having some response even if it’s a “no comment” type response, is better than nothing.
- His second response was unpolished and disjointed.
Let’s face it.. Meek’s initial response track was weak. It seemed unmastered and rushed. His response didn’t even have to be to the same caliber as Drake. I mean.. Drake’s track was already circulating on radio after it’s release.
How are you going to compete with a diss track that’s already syndicated nationally? It’s a tough task.. but it needs to be better than “bottom-of-the-barrel SoundCloud”.
This also speaks to Meek’s team or lack there of. Drake released two diss tracks, and already had DJ packs created which were distributed to streaming and radio. Drake’s team had this mapped out, and obviously had their ducks in a row, to where they just hit “send” and the records went national.
Meek’s camp should have first, reviewed the joint and advised him to hold off, and secondly.. when he did have a decent track, blast it out appropriately. Sure, you’re going to get some organic pickups from media, but Drake’s team was already 5 steps ahead on this.
- His third “response” was unnecessary.
After Drake went on to have one of the best years of his career, the Meek Mill feud was dust in the wind. It was old news. Like I mentioned before, by reigniting the drama, we’re reminded of the giant L that Meek took over the summer.
Meek shouldn’t have released any Drake-centric material, especially after so much time as passed.
Staying In Your Lane.
Let’s take a minute, again, to point out that Meek’s going against a media juggernaut in Drake. So, even if he did released a better “response” and released it sooner, his Instagram still would’ve been plagued with “charged” emojis from Drake fans. He still would’ve gotten some form of ridicule.
The mere fact that he went up against Drake, was an issue. We’re talking about a bravado genre, where disses and retaliation are at it’s core — so culture plays a huge part in Meek’s need for response, but silently, he should’ve known better. Or at the very least, been more tactful.
Regardless, here’s what a better timing structure could’ve looked like.
Step One: Let The Media Refocus.. Lay Low.
After the first failed response? Chill.
Let the public move on. The media is rampant with so much news and developments that general opinion shifts so much. If the person you’re speaking out against (Drake in this case) has done dozens of things since your (failed) quarrel, why bring it back up?
Let the media move the public’s attention in a different direction.
Meek did that! He wasn’t tweeting about Drake, he wasn’t doing much at all, except touring. This is a great tactic to let the media and public move on. I also believe that the media did move on. No major media or even smaller media was discussing their feud. So.. him bringing it back up, wasn’t necessary and was actually damaging.
His 2016 delayed response was nothing but ego. By reminding us of the situation, we’re reminded of the mess he gave us over the summer, and how Drake came out victorious.
But in 2016, we weren’t really focused on Drake’s feud with Meek anymore. As previously stated, we’re thinking about Hotline Bling, we’re thinking about his upcoming release, we’re hearing about him dating Serena and showing up at college basketball games.
Since the media has moved on, Meek should have moved on, too.
Step Two: Come Back With Fresh Material
Ok, ok, ok, bare with me here.. please?
Remember when Macklemore was the laughing stock of 2013 and 2014? Dude was corny, he had an awkward moment centered around Kendrick Lamar, and his image was tarnished for simply being goofy. Especially when folks like Kendrick and Cole were starting to really take fire.
But in 2015, out of the blue, he returned with a refreshed image. He spoke about fatherhood in magazine features, and even opened up about his struggle with alcoholism. Macklemore was the cover story for Complex Magazine, which ridiculed him years prior.
He then premiered a (low key catchy) track in 2015, that featured hip hop legends. He took over radio again — still laid low a bit in media — but we (almost) forgot about his 2013-2014. He was touring, and him featuring rap legends in his track, meant those artists were also getting money in their pockets.
You can’t be mad at that. Dude made a pretty good comeback, and we no one mentioned hist his goofy moments from years past.
A few notes before I go back to Meek Mill :
Sure Macklemore had an “embarrassing” year, but he had unstoppable radio air play for all his releases, and dude still won a Grammy. It was just more of a public opinion issue. Meek is facing a distribution issue, and has taken a few major L’s which have greatly impacted the public’s opinion of him.
The situations are different, but Macklemore gained a lot by remaining low, hitting the media with new material (fatherhood/personal life) and then gave us a poppy track that made us forget about any foolishness he may have done.
Similarly, Meek Mill should have laid low (which he did), but then instead of hitting us with an EP centered around Drake, it should have been something catchy. Something for the club, nothing too poppy but something folks and radio can vibe with. I’d also recommend he has a guest feature on the track, someone that fans can get behind.
Could be an R&B artist, or even another rapper. I think it’d be interesting to see Ross on another track with Meek, but with Ross’s new deal via Epic Records, and his general mum attitude on Meek Mill, you have to wonder.. is MMG even still together?
And if not.. does Meek Mill even have a team? Which leads me to..
Step Three: Get a Real Team.
I’ve spoken before on the dangers of hiring your boy from school as your manager. This isn’t because of the learning curve, it’s also so you don’t surround yourself with “yes men”. You need someone to tell you no.
You need someone to say, “Ay Meek, delete those Drake ghostwriting tweets, let’s find another way to approach it.”
Could this be a publicist? Manager? Mentor? Even just a friend? Sure. Any of those folks would have said the same. Imagine the impact Meek would have had, if he held onto the ghost writing info and released a well-timed track instead of using his “twitter fingers”.
The same folks should have told him to hold off on that lame SoundCloud response, and the same team should have been honest that his stock was declining. Instead of, “Yeah Meek, hit ’em with another Drake diss!”.
Someone should have gotten him a proper outreach plan.
The folks over at The Blindbox Podcast, talked about this way back in Season 1, Meek’s need for “rap friend”. Great episode, I recommend you check it out. And it’s so true! Surrounding yourself with your boys, means your boys are going to tell you what you want to hear, so they can still continue living their lavish life on your coattails.
As an artist you can learn..
If you’re an artist and reading this — don’t think that because it’s two mainstream cats, that there’s nothing you can learn from this. There’s plenty notes we can jot down. Here’s a few key takeaways..
- PR is more than promotions..
A lot of times an artist will want a PR campaign and think it’s just a publicist blasting out an email to journalists. But there’s more to it.
PR means public relations.. we forget that. We forget that PR is about how you interact with the public, be it press, fans, or business contacts.
It’s about ensuring your brand is strong in your interviews, and consistent in what folks are saying about you. PR ties in with your branding, in essence, it’s how you carry yourself.
So, when you land that interview — carry yourself appropriately, speak in the tone and deliver the message that best conveys your brand and message. Meek’s brand now is .. “the dude that Drake shut out”. Any future press needs to get away from that. Be aware of how your brand is being portrayed in media — print, online and social.
- Things Pass..
While you might not find yourself going toe-to-toe with Drake, but if you find yourself in a tough situation, or any gaff, things are going to pass and the media is going to focus on something new eventually.
The best things to do are address it, lay low, and reemerge refreshed.
- Always Evolve
Meek’s situation is tough, because although he’s been around a minute, this situation arose after his first major release. He hasn’t had enough time to really develop a brand with the general public. Sure, he’s with MMG, sure he has a battle rap background, and yeah he’s a Philly guy, but what is the Meek Mill brand?
I believe that his tracks with Nicki, as well as his first full album, he was starting to come into his own. But then that began to crash after this situation.
As an artist, you need to always be willing to evolve. Yes, keep making the art and music you want — but also find ways to re-approach your work, and tweak it to ensure reach, success and respect.
If you want a PR assessment, consultation or any other communication service, let’s chat soon.
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