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Why Nicki Minaj's big Grammy gamble failed to pay off

The Grammy Awards never fail to provide at least one over-the-top moment. For a celebrity, it presents the ideal PR opportunity; after all, every major entertainment outlet is lined up along the red carpet fighting for the perfect shot. If executed properly, a great entrance can help shape public opinion of the star within seconds.

Making a splash is a high-risk, high-reward proposition. This year the potential reward arose from the unusually high audience numbers. Spurred by the still-fresh news of Whitney Houston's death and Adele's return to performing, it was the second most-watched Grammys in the history of the show, with more than 39-million U.S. viewers (according to Nielsen Media Research). In Canada, the Global TV broadcast drew an audience of 4.6-million.

This year, the fans and media were not kind to Nicki Minaj. Her unusual entrance got people talking and created a sense of anticipation for her pending performance, just like Lady Gaga did when she arrived the previous year in a gigantic egg. People were curious about her red Versace cape and the role of the bishop who joined her on the red carpet. But once the hyped-up performance started, it was downhill from there. The 'Exorcism of Roman' was supposed to introduce Ms. Minaj's alter ego, Roman Zolanski, but the concept was foreign to everyone but devout fans.

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The most successful PR stunts consist of two elements: The hook, the creative element designed to capture people's attention and the follow-through, that makes people feel that sticking around was worth it. With one or the other element missing or lacking in execution the stunt becomes disjointed.

She also followed too closely to the concept of Lady Gaga's Jo Calderone performance from the MTV VMAs. The alter-ego had already been done and too recently. The danger with following others in PR is having to live up to the expectations of those who have gone before.

If the expectations weren't raised so high by the intriguing entrance and elaborate stage setup, Ms. Minaj's visually jarring performance would have quickly been written off as another average attempt to shock, instead of being talked about as one of the worst in Grammy Awards history.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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About the Author
Social and Earned Media Columnist

A combination of entrepreneurial spirit and timing led Mia Pearson to co-found North Strategic, a communications agency built on the belief that social needs to be integrated into everything you do. A serial entrepreneur, Ms. More

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