PR lessons learned from Taylor Swift


To the joy of fans and pain of nonbelievers, Taylor Swift is everywhere. Again. At the age of 27, she is already an award-winning singer-songwriter, actress, philanthropist, spokesmodel, and fashion icon.

She also is, in my opinion, a public relations genius.

Love her or hate her, you can’t deny Swift commands an audience no matter what she is (or isn’t) doing. She knows how to turn the news cycle towards her favor.

When Swift speaks, people listen.

In fact, if she took time away from her music to write a book on marketing and re-branding oneself, I have no doubt it would fly off shelves and be on the New York Times’ best-seller list faster than any other book ever written.

Here are three PR lessons from Taylor Swift any small business owner can apply.

Have a plan

Prior to the release of her latest single, Swift and her team introduced us to a strategic, full-force PR campaign that had even the most rational of fans counting down the days until her album release.

It’s the exact same game plan she employed for the release of her previous album, “1989.”

First, she scrubbed her social media accounts completely clean. She left them that way for a few days, until the speculation was at a frenzy. Slowly, she began to post a few strategically-timed and puzzling glimpses at what was to come.

And it worked, just as it had before. Swift’s news eclipsed the eclipse!

She also managed to outshine one of her biggest rivals twice in one week. Swift unveiled her new single the same day as Katy Perry released the video for her Swift-focused diss track. Then, Swift bested her again! She out-shined Perry by premiering her newest video—one which featured a Perry-lookalike—at the exact awards show Perry was hosting. Talk about well-calculated.

These events are not just lucky coincidences.

Swift is a master of her craft. She is a publicity machine. As such, she knows that long before the music is finished, there needs to be a plan set against a timeline for how to best promote the completed project.

Businesses of any size can do the exact same thing. By taking the time upfront to sit down and lay out publicity goals, brands can create a strategic schedule of events to best publicize their latest and greatest.

With a set direction and timeline to follow, everyone involved will know what to do and when. There won’t ever be any last-minute scrambling for publicity or missed opportunities. Everyone will know the game plan long in advance.

Know your audience

The foundation of any successful brand is to identify and know your target audience. To be successful in PR, this building block cannot be overlooked.

No one seems to know this better than Swift.

She maintains an in-depth understanding of not only her fans, but also her haters. And, she constantly engages with both.

Knowing her target audience craves authenticity and vulnerability, Swift maintains control over all her own personal social media accounts. She frequently responds to fans comments on Instagram, for instance. She’s been known to crash a fan’s bridal shower, wedding, or birthday from time-to-time. And, she even includes her fans in her music videos (see awkward dancing from “Shake It Off”).

On the flip side, Swift continuously seems to be one step ahead of her haters. Long before they can mock her or raise an issue with her activities, she finds a way to make fun of herself for it in a music video or on social media.

As a result, Swift has secured a targeted, yet very wide, reach through a variety of channels. Plus, she’s fostered engagement and enhanced her credibility as an artist.

Brands should take note. Nothing is more crucial to good publicity or bettering one’s bottom line than knowing who your target audience is.

Not sure where to start? Read this post.

Control your narrative

By most accounts, late 2016 and early 2017 seemed pretty bleak for Swift.

Between engaging in a much-hyped disagreement with Kim and Kanye West, getting accused of bullying for only allowing certain starlets into her squad, and being one half of a highly-ridiculed love affair with Tom Hiddleston, one can easily argue that Swift isn’t having the best year ever. Yet somehow, she still manages to come out on top.

How? Swift knows how to control her own narrative.

She, along with her team, pay extra close attention to what is being said about her in the media and how she’s being portrayed. By having a strategic plan in place and knowing who her key audiences are, Swift can then revisit what her overall publicity goals are and use whatever is in the media to her advantage.

Accused of being a bully? The label doesn’t stick for long once it’s discovered she spends downtime reaching out to fans who have been bullied themselves.

Sick of hearing all about Swift in the news? She has already excused herself from the narrative. She’s off writing or in seclusion, excusing herself from the headlines for a while.

Squad under fire? Suddenly, Swift is spending more time with friends from high school and her immediately family.

Rumors swirling her head has gotten too big? She can’t hear you, Swift is too busy donating to charities, visiting hospitals, or helping those in need.

How does she make it work? Swift is a pro at reinventing her brand.

To be successful in PR, businesses should take note and mimic Swift’s tactics. They need to learn how to get back to the basics of their brand and give customers and brand enthusiasts more of what made them fall in love with the brand in the first place. Businesses also need to know how to reinvent themselves as time goes on.

No one wants to be associated with the dinosaur brand that doesn’t evolve, right?

We’re a long way off from November 10, and the release of Swift’s latest album. However, there’s no escaping the Taylor Swift PR phenomenon. Like it or not, the pop queen is here to stay.

What other PR lessons can you learn from Taylor Swift?

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