Taylor Swift had a major year in 2014, and you probably still have “Shake It Off” stuck in your head right now. Part of Taylor’s success comes from her steadfast adherence to her beliefs about the music industry and her dedication to her fans, which are two lessons any brand can apply to its own business. However, what we’d like to look at now are Taylor Swift’s 1989 lyrics as public relations lessons:
“But I've got a blank space, baby, and I'll write your name.” Don’t let this lyric come to define your relationship with reporters. If you’re just filling out a form email pitch and adding a reporter’s name to it, “it’s gonna go down in flames.” Make sure you are researching journalists before you pitch them so you know if they are in fact going to care about your angle, and then tailor your pitches based on why you think this story will appeal to the individual reporter.
“But you come back to what you need.” This should be the Taylor Swift lyric to define PR professionals’ relationships with journalists. When you build a meaningful relationship with a media contact, she should trust you and feel comfortable coming back to you when she needs sources for future stories. It is not just about you going to her when you need coverage. Instead, be the go-to resource for journalists and eventually, you will develop working relationships where you will be able to bounce ideas off of them for feedback, not just to land that media placement.
“You say sorry just for show.” 2014 saw a number of public relations and social media follies, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s comments on women’s career advancement, the NFL’s handling of domestic assault cases and an Uber executive’s public suggestion to gather private information about the company’s critics. One lesson to take away from these instances and Taylor Swift’s lyric is to be genuine in your apology and do not expect a “sorry” to solve your problems.
“Everybody here wanted something more, searching for a sound we hadn't heard before.” Taylor’s words here, while written about New Yorkers, apply to journalists everywhere. Keep in mind as you come up with story and pitch ideas that journalists and their audiences all want something they haven’t heard before. In order to increase the chances of someone wanting to listen to your story, be creative about how you tell it and what you’re telling.
“I never miss a beat. I'm lightning on my feet.” Take this lyric to heart. To succeed in public relations, you need to be on top of it—“it” being the news and current events, your news, your targets, social media trends, deadlines and just about everything else. Reacting quickly to the world around you and being the first with an idea, a story, a comment, a source or whatever else will only help you, your company and the journalists with whom you work do your jobs better.