Oct 22 2014
By Alyssa Bedrosian
Taylor Swift is a singer-songwriter, actress, philanthropist, spokesmodel, fashion icon, and now, according to The Washington Post, a “public relations genius.”
With the release of her new album “1989” set for Oct. 27, Swift and her PR team have embarked on a strategic, full-force publicity campaign that has left “Swifties” (myself included) desperately counting down the days to the album release. The campaign started with multiple clues on her Instagram account, which led to a worldwide live stream event on Yahoo where Swift announced her new album and released her new single “Shake It Off.” Since then, Swift has been on just about every magazine cover possible and has made numerous television appearances, including an interview on “The Tonight Show” and performances at the MTV Video Music Awards and X-Factor UK.
While much of Swift’s PR success can be attributed to her high budget and seasoned PR team, it’s obvious that the 24-year-old has picked up some tips and tricks along the way and is a strong force behind her publicity strategy.
Here are three PR lessons the rest of us can learn from the star:
Know your audience
One of the basic principles of PR is to identify and understand your target audience. Swift has an in-depth understanding of her fans and is constantly engaging with them — she attended a fan’s bridal shower over the summer, included fans in the “Shake It Off” music video, and has commented on fans’ Instagram posts, most notably writing an uplifting comment to a fan who had been bullied. Swift connects with her fans through numerous channels, including magazine covers, late night talk shows, social media, television music competitions and Diet Coke commercials. Swift has secured a very wide, yet targeted, reach through a variety of channels, and as a result has fostered engagement and enhanced her credibility as an artist.
Build a strong, authentic brand
In addition to building a highly engaged audience, Swift has developed a strong brand identity that is key to her success. Swift understands who she is as an artist and public figure, and works hard to maintain her position and image. While many artists use their social media accounts as a mind dump, Swift takes a measured approach. Even as she has grown up over the years and changed from country artist to emerging pop star, the essence of Swift’s brand is the same, and she has remained honest and open with her fans about the ways in which she has evolved, a feat that can pose challenges for many artists.
PR = Relationships
While Swift works to maintain her strong personal brand, she still allows for relationships and experiences to shape her, her music, and ultimately, her fans, which brings me to the cornerstone of Swift’s success: Swift has bought into PR as a mutually beneficial relationship. PR is not a magic bullet—it’s all about building relationships that benefit both the organization (Swift) and its publics (Swifties). Swift and her team understand the importance of relationship building and have used both traditional and new media to create a culture in which Swift’s target audience can participate in a two-way, engaging conversation. Most recently, Swift has taken to social media to share lyrics from each track on the new album and has used hashtags to foster an ongoing conversation about “1989.” Swift influences and inspires her fans, and they seem to influence and inspire her as well — an achievement that most companies can only dream of.
Swift and her team have successfully built a comprehensive PR strategy focused on Swifties, a strong brand identity and relationship building. However, PR is not advertising — you can’t always control your message, and sometimes you are forced to be reactive rather than proactive. Despite Swift’s accomplishments in the world of PR and all the positive coverage she has secured leading up to the release of “1989,” she knows all too well that the “haters are gonna hate” and that the negative press will come. Her solution? Shake it off.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.