September 2017

What Every Business Can Learn About PR From Taylor Swift

WWTSD? Ya know, what would Taylor Swift do?

That’s what every business should be asking themselves when it comes to their personal brand. Having been out in the working world for over 11 years now, I’ve encountered my share of businesses. Large corporations, small businesses, personalities with personal brands–every business goes through some sort identity crisis or situation that tarnishes their brand to some degree.

Take, for today’s example, Taylor Swift. She’s been around for some time now. Her brand has evolved over the years as she’s transitioned from wholesome country starlet to music mogul with a vast empire of assets and ventures. She also has a lot of baggage that’s come with it. There was her always shocked reaction to winning awards early on that went from cutesy to pretty annoying. Then there was the VMA snafu where the Kanye West train derailed her big moment and thrust her into the pop culture spotlight. Then there were the men. The many, many, many men. Oh, and the feuds she’s carried on with Kim Kardashian posting voicemails from Taylor that disputed her involvement in Kanye West’s controversial weird video and the Katy Perry feud that I still don’t understand nor feel the need to understand at this point. Bottom line, Taylor Swift’s brand has taken a beating and has been put through the ringer over the years. But guess what? Taylor Swift is still on top and the reason why is a lesson every business and entrepreneur needs to learn.


This week, Taylor Swift released a new video for her track “Look What You Made Me Do.” The song itself is a bit repetitive, juvenile and is about as deep as a thin crust pizza. The video however is one of the best examples of addressing your brand’s weaknesses and taking control of the narrative. No brand or business is perfect. Everyone and everything takes a beating during the course of its run. Look at McDonalds and the question of what’s in those hamburgers that enables them to not go bad after a couple decades; Pepsi trying to tap into the political culture by suggesting Kylie Jenner can stop a racially-charged protest with a cold can of Pepsi; the entire Trump brand after the 2016 Election–stuff happens! But how should you handle bad PR, negative reviews, resistance from your customer base and criticism?

You do like Taylor Swift–acknowledge your weaknesses and take control of the narrative. The video for “Look What You Made Me Do” takes control of the story by addressing almost every Taylor Swift controversy in some way. While some may classify it as petty or catty, it’s savvy. First, it’s Swift’s way of saying, “Yes, I’m very much aware of the world and what it thinks of me and I’m willing to not only acknowledge it but poke fun at it, too.” It also takes the bite out of these criticisms and negativity. It’s only funny or harmful to her brand if she ignores it and pretends none of these things have been said about her.

So, as strange as it sounds, to build a better brand, you need to seek out the negative comments. What are your critics saying about you? What are all those 2 star reviews about on Amazon and Yelp? What sly little jabs is your competition saying about you in their marketing campaigns? Find out, keep track and take control of your story but addressing them in an upfront but savvy way. Open your next email blast acknowledging your last product launch kinda sucked but hey, you’re back and have something better to present now. Are you accused of being too slow to respond to customers? Create a new visual campaign giving reasons for why your business is too busy to respond–you’re watching YouTube videos of cats playing the piano, you’re playing beer pong in the break room, you’re working remotely from the beach–but hey, break-time is over and your sales reps are standing by to take those calls and respond to those emails in lighting-fast speeds. You see what I’m saying? Acknowledge your weaknesses and respond to it with a little humor and you’ll build a better brand as a result.

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