Gini Dietrich

The PR Win of 2014

By: Gini Dietrich | December 2, 2014 | 

PR Win of the YearBy Gini Dietrich

On the first day of Christmas, Spin Sucks gave to you… a PR win for the year.

When I asked on Facebook and Twitter what people thought was the best PR campaign for the year, I got lots of great responses.

They included the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Uber (um, I said win), Miley Cyrus, Serial, Roger Goodell and the NFL (I think Bill Dorman was joking), and Kim Kardashian’s rump.

Benson Hendrix even suggested his giving a Spin Sucks Pro webinar as the PR win for the year (maybe in his own mind).

But the one that really stuck—because it was intentional and not an accident like some of the other contenders—is Taylor Swift and the release of her latest album, 1989 (of which Shake It Off is on and has made even the most snobby music lovers fans).

What She’s Done Well

Let’s start with social media and we’ll end with sales.

If you follow Taylor Swift at all, you know she is a master at social media. She posts photos of her fans, she makes it personal by showing glimpses into her life and her family, and she is fearless.

In fact, the last time an album sold as many copies as 1989 did in its first week, Swift was 12. She posted a photo of herself “going through her braids phase.”

That’d be like me posting a photo of me going through my mall bangs phase. #notgoingtohappen

She uses both Twitter and Instagram to make a personal connection with her fans, and it works so well, she’s been able to bypass the intermediaries that sell her music.

She also became a spokesperson for New York City (which has been met with mixed reviews), she partnered with Target for an exclusive deluxe album, and she has an endorsement deal with Diet Coke.

But the proof is in the pudding: She sold 1.3 million copies in its debut week, which made it the first platinum album of the entire year.

This amounts to about $1.5 million in Swift’s pocket. In one week.

Last year, she netted about $40 million. She’ll likely nearly double that in 2014.

The Spotify Conundrum

But here’s where she went absolutely and completely right…and it’s a strategy not many artists can employ.

She pulled her music off of Spotify. Completely.

Immediately, I thought, “This is a publicity stunt.”

Of course, there are other big names—such as Coldplay, Adele, and Beyonce—who have refused to allow their new music to stream so it’s not a new idea. The idea is to sell albums first without making it available on the sites that don’t have buy buttons. Sites such as Spotify, Pandora, and Rdio.

Swift’s strategy is to follow the same “let’s sell albums first” strategy. And it’s working.

Though she’s a huge name that would likely make between $335,000 and $500,000 per month on her streamed music, she’s also of the school that believes art should not be free and that albums are something people should own.

What’s interesting is we’re beginning to see something similar in publishing with Amazon now offering a monthly subscription to have access to close to a million books. Some lesser known authors (me) will have to allow for this to spur sales, while other authors (Malcolm Gladwell) will be able to tell The Man where to stick it until they’ve exhausted the book sales on their own.

Not only has Swift’s decision sold more albums, it has received more earned media than any other in the last 12 years.

The whole world is talking about Taylor Swift, 1989, and how she’s selling music (cough, cough).

It’s a risky decision, but it totally worked for her.

The Big PR Win

Here is what you can learn from Taylor Swift.

  1. She had one goal and never strayed from it. If you attended Benson’s webinar last month, you’ll know the statistics show many communicators don’t even have a goal. She had one goal and she went for it.
  2. She started early. The OpEds began appearing in July (nearly four months before the album was released). She began teasing fans on the social networks a month in advance. She created VIP listening parties two months in advance. This stuff all took planning, which likely began a year or more ago. (On that very note, you’d be shocked to hear how many people come to us two weeks before a launch and think we can pull something like this off. It takes a loooong time to plan something like this.)
  3. She used the PESO model and integrated all of her activities. She used paid media in the form of ads and endorsement deals. She used earned media, both with her savvy social media skills and her risky decision with Spotify. She used shared media with her Instagram and Twitter use, which ingratiated her fans even more. And she used owned media with OpEds (she wrote one for the Wall Street Journal), podcasts, and guest bylines. The creme de la creme, of course, was when this was all integrated, she took her album platinum, the first to do so this year.
  4. She used social media in a very personal way. We still talk about how important it is to engage with our fans and followers and then a majority get behind their computer screens and become robots. Take this advice, if it’s the only one you do: Be personal, be fearless, and have fun.
  5. She started the earned media fire and let it slowly burn. When her OpEd ran, people wrote about that. When it was announced she was a spokesperson for New York City, people wrote about that. When she removed her music from Spotify, people wrote about that. Everything she’s done, she started with a spark and let journalists and bloggers take it and run with it. It hasn’t all been flattering, but it has all led to her one goal of taking her album platinum…and selling more in one week than any other in the last 12 years.
  6. She made a risky decision. You don’t have to be a big name like Taylor Swift. Copyblogger recently took down their Facebook page and everyone in our industry was talking about it. Make a risky decision for your industry and let the trade publications and bloggers do the rest.

There is no such thing as overnight success. Even superstars like Taylor Swift had to start somewhere.

If you take the time to plan and execute flawlessly, you could have the PR win of 2015.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • At first I resented Taylor Swift for making me like pop music enough to actually buy an album (my first in more than 5 years).  Then, I got over it because that d*%$ album is just so catchy.
    I thought that the Op-Ed was genius because it positioned her later Spotify decision as less about money and more about principle.  When Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) attacked her for not sharing her music and only wanting money, the backlash against him was big.  Even though, I radically disagree with her belief that art should be behind a paywall.

  • It must be a challenge when you are “big” like she is to integrate all the different pieces (or to supervise a staff who integrates all the different pieces). I agree she’s done a great job.

  • Gini you tease!!! MALL BANGS PLEEEEEEASE!!!!!


  • HeatherTweedy “I radically disagree with her belief that art should be behind a paywall.” Really? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that point. I’m not sure I am fully convinced either way, but I think there’s a very compelling argument to be made in the “art should not be free” camp.

  • Eleanor Pierce It’s not that I think that all art should be free, but the idea that all art should be paid for is something that I can’t abide.  My father was a musician for years and I avidly support my favorite musicians financially. I don’t illegally download and banned my stepson from the Internet for a month when he did.  

    It’s a hard topic to really create a cogent argument for or against because art is nearly indefinable.  I suppose I was more opposed to her generalizations about what is one of the most fundamental components of the human experience.  

    Swift very specifically says that art is rare and valuable and thus should be paid for. It was a blanket statement. Sometimes art is so much a part of a communal discussion or movement that to gate it is counter-productive to society as a whole.  I take issue particularly because she cuts a zero-tolerance, wide-swath of what art is.  

    Though, let’s all be clear, her form of art, as enjoyable as it is, isn’t something society really needs and I have no problem with her choosing to gate it.

  • And, Taylor guest judged The Voice this season. Impressive gal.

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  • Randy Milanovic I thought it was actually more impressive for the Voice.  They have done a fantastic job of setting the show apart by having top-level artists involved and having a panel of judges who actually are still at the top of their field.

  • All around positive!

  • HeatherTweedy Eleanor Pierce I see what you’re saying. Do you think it comes down to the artist then? 

    Overall, obviously I don’t think all art should be pay-gated, that would mean I was anti-library, which I’m most decidedly not. 

    That said, I think it’s kind of a scary world when so many people think writers, musicians, and other artists should just be creating their work for the good of all. Or for “exposure.” Someone has to pay them, or they won’t be able to continue creating work. (I don’t think you and I disagree on that point at all, it’s just interesting to think about where to draw the line …)

    It’s so COMPLICATED.

  • sophielsenarath

    Agreed! She has done a great job. See this all listed here really shows she did have a plan–a must for meeting a goal in PR

  • Great choice. I kind of laugh that she feels her music is art at this stage. But I like Taylor and Miley I think they are pretty clever though Taylor is more mature and savvy. This is where the music snob in me rejects the music but the business person in me applauds the business. Taylor Swift is a savvy business woman. And often that trumps artistic ability (see any boy band, teen pop sensations).
    I also applaud how she can seem to sleep around and get away with it. Girl has had more break ups than anyone and seems to always end with a hit song dissing the ex and smelling like roses.

    But would this be PR or Publicity?

  • Howie Goldfarb Good points, Howie! Can’t it be both good publicity and PR?

  • Dang it!!! I was just about to write this in my comment! Gini, you so smaht! “(On that very note, you’d be shocked to hear how many people come to us two weeks before a launch and think we can pull something like this off. It takes a loooong time to plan something like this.)”

  • HeatherTweedy Me too, Heather, me too. #art

  • MaggieLaMaack

    arikhanson Publicist’s genius. She’s also been galavanting around taking instagram pics w/ buzzy celebs like Chrissy Teigen and Kate Upton.

  • MaggieLaMaack

    arikhanson …or maybe she is, who knows.

  • arikhanson

    MaggieLaMaack Do we know who is repping her? Maybe she’s doing all the work 🙂

  • ThatPrince

    arikhanson taylorswift13 ginidietrich thanks for your advice. So glad we took a photo together for my blog. Have fun. Be fearless!

  • It’s crazy how well a contrarian strategy can work.

  • JoshuaJLight Isn’t it?! I was just thinking about you. How’re things going?

  • belllindsay It’s not magic. Unfortunately.

  • JRHalloran Shaking my fist at you!

  • Howie Goldfarb It’s actually both, to JRHalloran’s point. She’s integrated all of it brilliantly.

  • sophielsenarath And yet so many of us just focus on tactics. We must do better!

  • Randy Milanovic That’s a great point! I forgot that in my list of all the things she’s done this year.

  • Eleanor Pierce I actually don’t know if there are any photos. They got destroyed in my parent’s divorce. But I’ll ask some friends if they have any.

  • biggreenpen You know what else has to be hard? Making it so personal and so approachable. People want to feel like they’re the only one to you and it’s hard to do at her level.

  • ginidietrich Randy Milanovic Ya, she rocked it!

  • HeatherTweedy OMG! I was so embarrassed when I was jamming out (on Spotify, mind you) to this catchy new tune, only to discover it was Taylor Swift. I’m telling you, the Spotify thing was a publicity stunt. You’re right …. the OpEd set her up perfectly for it.

  • Eleanor Pierce HeatherTweedy What about this…. writing is art. Should it all be behind a paywall?

  • ginidietrich  😛

  • ginidietrich JRHalloran

  • ginidietrich Howie Goldfarb JRHalloran arment dietrich should integrate the way Taylor does it.

  • ginidietrich HeatherTweedy all without a sex tape right?

  • ginidietrich JoshuaJLight yeah. Contrarian strategies are really prevalent in finance, and economics. It’s cool to see it’s application in the PR space. Of course…you’d be the one to bring it up 😉
    Things are pretty good. Had a hiccup with Facebook, and’s APIs which put us back. It’s challenging building stuff on other people’s platforms because they can change the rules whenever they want. It’s also crazy how they sometimes provide zero foresight on what they’re planning on doing with their APIs.
    Snow is in Utah, and you’re not here…lol. I think you need to plan a ski trip.
    How are things with you?

  • One additional point: If she hadn’t released her most catchy song that far in advance *and* on Spotfi, but pulled her music before the “Shake It Off” release, I don’t think it would have been as successful as it was.

    One minute you’re chair grooving to the lady when Shake It Off comes up on Spotify and the next she’s pulling it and boom! attention. 

    Also, the platinum win is damn stunning. And I bought my first Taylor album ever. (Plus I have something to torture you with.)

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  • belllindsay Yeah — this was a very well-strategized plan. She even hosted parties for her “true” fans in each of her houses and those pictures were all over Instagram.

  • Well, I paid over $150 each for concert tickets for a show that is ONE YEAR AWAY and in a football stadium, so she’s definitely doing something right. On the other hand, I will have a very excited 11-yr-old girl on Christmas morning, so it’s a win/win for both me and Taylor. 🙂 

    She’s absolutely brilliant on social media — especially Instagram. She knows her fan base, that’s for sure. And she continually tops the “Most Charitable Celebrities” list, so I can feel good about supporting that!

  • chelpixie I’m totally bummed I can’t get it on Spotify anymore. I PAY FOR IT. I deserve it!

  • TaraGeissinger Oh so she doesn’t know about the tickets yet? Hmmmm… blackmail time!

  • JoshuaJLight That is so frustrating! We were just talking about that very thing last night, in fact. It has to be super hard to work on someone else’s platform.

  • Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich HeatherTweedy All without a sex tape

  • ginidietrich chelpixie You can always listen to the YouTube video on repeat.

  • ginidietrich TaraGeissinger Nope no idea. I told her we couldn’t get tickets. It’s on Halloween night in Tampa — should be a fun time!

  • ginidietrich

    chelpixie LOL!

  • ginidietrich

    AirPR SpinSucks LOL!! My momma doesn’t like me to swear

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  • CharlesJMeyer

    bobcirino ginidietrich MattArters right after reading that taylorswift13 crushes it with Snapchat #marketing

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  • SpinSucks

    lanewrightme thePRguy Ha! The staff of Spin Sucks neither endorses nor guarantees enjoyment of the latest album by taylorswift13! ^ep

  • thePRguy

    lanewrightme taylorswift13 SpinSucks Ha! Great article, thanks for sharing. I agree with most of TS’s opinions, just not one key premise.