SEEMS there is no stopping Taylor Swift! She is making musical and cultural history as she outdoes herself—with 50 million albums sold and over 23 billion views on YouTube.
Time Magazine says that her ongoing Eras tour, which pays homage to her amazing, 17-year career, is set to become the biggest tour of all time only a third of the way through its run. We’re talking about billions here. And a movie about the tour is scheduled to be released in October.
But her influence goes beyond the money. Swift counts Serena Williams, Kendal Jenner, Karli Kloss, Selena Gomez as among her besties. The University of Ghent in Belgium is launching the first Taylor Swift-inspired literature course of its kind in Europe. Just the other day, she added nine trophies to her numerous awards at the MTV Music Awards.
She is also a marketing whiz from whom communicators like us can learn from. Here are five takeaways we can keep in mind with a little help from Promolta.com’s How Taylor Swift Built a Successful Musical Career.
1.Pursue your passion.
Swifties all know her story, which Promolta.com beautifully summarizes here. “Taylor Swift started pursuing music as a young child in Pennsylvania. She performed in local contests, theatre shows, and fairs. By the age of 14, her passion for music continued to grow, prompting her family to move to Nashville so she could pursue a career in music. Two years later, Swift signed to the record label that would produce her first six albums that would amass over 45 million copies sold worldwide.” The rest, they say, is history.
What PR pros can learn: “Making big moves to pursue your passion can feel risky at the moment, but can pay off enormously when you stay focused on your end goal,” Promolta.com says.
If a career in communication is your great passion, learn as much as you can about the profession. Read books, read both traditional and digital media releases that will help you know what clicks, read great PR stories. If agency work is for you, learn as much as you can about it by joining an agency. If corporate PR is for you, don’t be afraid to start from the bottom to build your career in your dream company.
At the same time, develop your skills. Write, write, write. Keep abreast of the latest communication trends and see how you can incorporate these in your work. Build meaningful relationships with media, clients, and colleagues.
2. Be authentic in your content.
“A key reason for Taylor Swift’s incredible success is down to the relatability of her personality and music across generations and cultures,” says marketing and branding expert Allyson Stewart-Allen. “She’s a gifted songwriter, singer, live performer, and marketer, mastering broad appeal without blandness.”
Promolta.com agrees. “A big pull of Swift’s music is her honesty and authenticity,” it says. Swift, after all, “writes all her songs and shares her personal experiences through her music. She sings about emotions that are true to her, but also relatable to the audience.”
By writing about “her relationships, feuds, and family, she is able to connect with her listeners emotionally and keep them invested in her stories.”
What PR pros can learn: This all boils down to being yourself and being authentic. This makes your content unique and allows viewers to build a connection with you.
For communicators, this means knowing your brand and your company and remaining true to it. While it may be tempting to latch on great campaigns which your competitors or other brands are doing, it’s best to build on your brand, and what makes it unique. You cannot pretend to be another brand, and it waters down your message.
Let’s learn from Swift, who captures her audience with her story telling capabilities, creating an immediate relatability with fans of her music.
3.Make the best out of a negative situation
In 2016, Promolta.com recalls that Swift had a notorious feud with Kanye West. This was rekindled by West’s song “Famous,” which refers to Swift, as a derogatory word.
While Swift denounced the song upon release, West’s wife Kim Kardashian retaliated with an edited recording of a phone call between both artists seemingly approving the song before its release.
This portrayed Swift as a “liar on a massive scale” since West and Kardashian have a collective 369 followers on social media.
Instead of sulking in the storm of negativity, “Swift used the experience as an inspiration for her album Reputation that sold over 1 million copies in its first week and resulted in Swift’s first all-stadium tour.”
What PR pros can learn: We can consider this a lesson in Swift’s style of crisis management. She turned this crisis into an opportunity.
After all, “challenges are inevitable, so it is important to make the best out of them instead of letting them discourage you. Those challenges could result in content that boosts your channel to new heights.”
4. Stand by your morals.
Promolta notes in 2019, “Swift for the first time ever shared her political opinions on events happening in the news and even included those ideas on her album Lover.”
While not all of her fan base were pleased with her ideas, “this news transparency added more depth to Swift’s public image and showed she stands up for what she believes in. This gave her fans more to connect and relate to than just her songs.”
What PR pros can learn: Integrity and being true to one’s self is very important, especially in the PR world where reputation is everything. Stay true to your brand and your company’s mission vision, goals, and advocacies.
In the whirlwind of opinions in the internet, standing by your morals can feel intimidating. It’s best to “only share what you only feel, are comfortable with, and stay true to your beliefs. This will show a deeper level of authenticity for your audience to connect and relate to.”
5. Stay connected with fans
Swift’s strong connection with fans is part of her relatability. Promolta.com highlights how “she has shown her appreciation for fans through surprise appearances, thoughtful gifts, and even listening parties free of cost.”
Likewise, she is known for regularly interacting with her fans on social media, openly communicating with them about her upcoming projects. Through these connections, “Swift shows her gratitude which makes her fans feel seen and appreciated and even more resulting in their loyalty throughout the years.”
Swift’s generosity is legend, not in the big business philanthropic way, but by beginning charity at home. In the midst of her recent Eras tour, she surprised everyone by giving a total of $55 million in bonuses to her truck drivers, crew, and staff that came with checks and a handwritten note from her.
What PR pros can learn: Staying connected with your fans—or customers when we are talking about brands—“show appreciation for their support, making them feel more like family, and less like strangers.” Interacting with fans —or customers, employees, and business partners—“build a loyal base that sticks around through ups and downs.”
All in all, gratitude, generosity, and staying true to what you are is everything in a changing world.
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier association for senior professionals around the world. Millie Dizon, the senior vice president for Marketing and Communications of SM, is the former local chairman.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer the reader’s questions about public relations. Please send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.