PR Lessons From Taylor Swift

There’s no escaping the Taylor Swift PR phenomenon – like it or not, the millennial pop  queen is everywhere! This week she promptly became the only recording artist in history to sell more than 1 million albums in a week, three times in a row. And her decision to pull all her music from the increasingly dominant Spotify only magnified the tidal wave of coverage surrounding the 24-year-old star, making it irresistible not to draw a list of PR do’s and don’ts.

DO speak to your audience.  Taylor Swift does this well. She knows exactly who her fans are and speaks to them like old friends. Heartache, bullying, peer pressure, self esteem? She makes sure teen and preteen girls know she’s right there with them.

DON’T try this at home. The Spotify model of music is here to stay, along with all its distressing implications for how artists are compensated (or not) for their work. Few people could pull off the stance Swift has taken against giving music away nearly for free, but pull it off she has — and that’s only because she has the clout to do it. So if you’ve got the big names and ammunition to take up arms, get in there. Otherwise, don’t try a Swift move unless you’re Taylor Swift.

DO use social media as a natural extension of who you are. Swift is a natural sharer, and the organic quality of her social media feeds appeal to her followers and serve to strengthen her “brand.” Yahoo Music might have the exclusive interview post-historic million album marker, but where else can fans see the “one time” her two cats were cuddling?

DON’T rest on your laurels. Swift was already making history before 1989 sold more than 1 million albums in its first week. But she continued to push herself, saying she wanted to strive for the goal of breaking 1 million if it was possible.

DO make it personal. PR pros know the best messages are ones that are tailor-made toward the recipients, because they stand the best chance of connecting. Swift capitalized on this in the lead up to her album release, flooding her Instagram feed with hand written lyrics to tease tracks in the new album. Connection made, even before the album’s release. Now that’s a communication success.

PR Winners And Losers This International Women’s Day

In the public relations world, every day is International Women’s Day, since women outnumber men and have for years (70%, according to the Institute of Public Relations).

But for the rest of the world, March 8 marks a range of events designed to inspire women and celebrate female empowerment. Rich and diverse local activities connect women through political rallies, business conferences, networking events, theatrical performances, and more.

In honor of this occasion, we wanted to take a look at some women making news at home and share our opinion on whether their rising profiles should be considered a PR “win” or a “loss” for womankind.


Sheryl Sandberg. Yes, we know the celebrated Facebook COO’s book is controversial. But, love her or loathe her, the author of the latter-day feminist manifesto (femi-festo?) Lean In is a winner in our book for the sheer volume of visibility she has generated even before its publication date. The proof will be in the pudding however; we’ll wait to see what kind of sales she racks up before finalizing our thumbs-up.

Marissa Mayer. Fresh from a ten-minute maternity leave, the Yahoo chief took an interesting stance on what has become the norm for so many progressive companies. She abolished tele-commuting in order to foster a more collegial and productive corporate culture. Again, the decision’s merits are debatable, but it was bold! (Rumor is she checked login levels to the Yahoo VPN and found them lacking.) And she has supporters; many suspect that out-of-office too often means out of the loop!

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. For most women, they demonstrate class, smarts and humor. In fact, it’s already been suggested they parlay their hilarious Golden Globe hosting gig into an Oscars date next year. But there is a detractor. In a quote to Vanity Fair about a jab the two made during the Globes, Taylor Swift intimated that they were mean girls, deserving of “a special place in hell” for not being supportive of a sister. Instead of getting fired up, the duo responded with humor. A little “bossypants,” maybe, but a good move.

Michelle Obama. Kudos to First Mom Michelle Obama for a near-perfect rendition of “mom-dancing” on SNL, and for being willing to share the light side of her campaign to get us moving! And, while we’re on the subject, let’s give an honorary thumbs-up to “faux” mom Jimmy Fallon for helping FLOTUS bust some moves in an utterly appealing and non-partisan way. Again, they proved that a lighthearted pop culture poke can be a brilliant PR step.


Taylor Swift. That’s right, Swift came up short when she responded to the Globes wisecrack by blowing it out of proportion in a national magazine, weeks later! She also got it wrong when she cited Katie Couric as the source of the “hell” comment. (Actually, it was Madeline Albright.) We think there may be a special place in PR purgatory for divas who do NOT know how to laugh at themselves!