Gini Dietrich

To Taylor Swift, Love Spin Sucks

By: Gini Dietrich | June 24, 2015 | 

To Taylor Swift, Love Spin SucksBy Gini Dietrich

I fell in love a little bit with Dwayne Johnson when I saw him perform “Tay-Tay” on Lip Sync Battle (and then again when he won the world record for number of selfies).

You can’t help but bounce a little in your seat when Shake It Off comes on the air.

I remember being in Boston and Chel Wolverton kept playing it on her iPhone, just to see me sing and dance along. Over and over and over again.

I’m not afraid to admit I love Taylor Swift. I know that probably renders my taste in music horrible, but Tom Webster already established that for me, so I’m comfortable with it.

Taylor Swift rocks!

And not just because of her catchy music, but because she’s a PR savant.

The PR Behind Taylor Swift

We talk about this very thing on this week’s Inside PR.: Taylor Swift is magical when it comes to communications, building a community, and creating extraordinarily loyal fans.

I’m certain some of it is her, but she also must have an incredible communications team behind her.

Case in point:

  • On social media, she posts photos of her fans and she makes it personal by showing glimpses into her life and her family.
  • 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.
  • She partnered with Target for an exclusive deluxe album.
  • She has an endorsement deal with Diet Coke.
  • If you Google “1989,” she owns the entire first page. For a year. In the 80s. That is insane.
  • She sold 1.3 million copies of 1989 in its debut week, which made it the first platinum album of the entire year.
  • She wrote OpEds and used owned media to her advantage four months before her album was released.
  • She teased fans on the social networks a month in advance.
  • She created VIP listening parties two months in advance.
  • 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.
  • She used owned media with OpEds (she wrote one for the Wall Street Journal), podcasts, and guest bylines.

And that was just for the release of an album.

Since then, she’s continued her quest to keep a highly engaged, loyal community of teenagers and adults, alike (oh don’t pretend you don’t like her!).

To Apple, Love Taylor Swift

Earlier this week, Taylor Swift dashed off an article on Tumblr, where she, according to the Washington Post, “harshly chastised the company for its plan to not compensate artists during a three-month free trial for its new streaming service, Apple Music.”

Titled, “To Apple, Love Taylor,” she describes why she’s withholding 1989 from Apple Music in a very succinct, but respectful way.

(This is important to note because we all tend to get swept up in the social media mob and we forget about respectful discourse.)

She mentions the service will be free for three months to anyone who signs up for an account.

This is lovely for all of us who enjoy listening to music and will add it to our Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, or Pandora repertoires (or, in my case, all three…don’t ask why; I have no idea).

But, during that time, Apple will not pay the artists whose music is listed on Apple Music.

She describes how hard it is for a new artist with his or her new single or album to go three months without being paid.

She goes on to say:

These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.

Imagine, if you will, you worked at a job for three months before you received your first paycheck. But that paycheck wasn’t retroactive. It started to pay you for work done in the fourth month. You worked for free for three months.

Three. Months.

Doesn’t seem right, does it?

But the Taylor Swift magic worked and Apple has now agreed to pay its artists during the three-month free trial.

The PR World Has Changed

But that isn’t the end of it for communicators.

Yesterday, Dick Carlson posted on Facebook:

Dick Carlson and Tay Tay

And that is the lesson for communicators.

  • It’s no longer about writing a news release and mass distributing it to everyone on your email list. I know this still happens because 50-70 of you send me a news release I don’t care about, every, single day.
  • It’s no longer about relying on third-party influencers to tell your story.
  • It’s no longer about the canned key messages that everyone must repeat like robots.
  • It’s no longer about controlling the message.
  • It’s no longer about smile and dial to see how many journalists you can talk to in one day about your new hire or your shiny, new product.

Taylor Swift has this figured out at the ripe, old age of 25.


  • Wrote an immaculately phrased blog post on a site she doesn’t even own (Tumblr) about the issue with Apple and stuck up for the industry and all the work artists doe every day.
  • Tweeted it to her 60 million Twitter followers.
  • Managed to get thousands of articles written about her letter to Apple in only two days.

What You Can Learn from Tay-Tay

Sure, Taylor Swift is on her fifth album and she’s spent years cultivating a community, but she didn’t have any of this five years ago. She, like the rest of us, had to start somewhere.

Michael Peggs interviewed me for his podcast, You University, earlier this week and he asked me if you can only start with one area in the PESO model, where would it be.

I said content, hands down.

You have the huge opportunity to tell your story, build your brand, create expertise and thought leadership, drive market share, and create ridiculously loyal customers if you consistently create content people care about.

Start there.

Get really good at content. Then build your shared media. Then paid. The earned media will come from all of that work. They will be calling you for interviews, content syndication, and quotes.

You will have built the public relations mecca. It won’t happen overnight—this is definitely a marathon, not a sprint—but it will happen and it will work and you will be a hero.

The next time your boss, client, or company executive wants you to write a news release with the idea that it will bring you fame and glory, show them the Taylor Swift example.

Now if I could get Jawbone to add me to their board so I can advise on their wearable technology. I may need a few million more Twitter followers first.

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!

  • ggSolutions123

    ginidietrich Fascinating case study in superb #comms & branding for sure, Gini, and aligned w/ SpinSucks (Still reading it btw)

  • ginidietrich

    ggSolutions123 Oh…you mean because it’s 1200 words? I had to cut myself off!

  • ggSolutions123

    ginidietrich I wonder who Taylor’s advisors are They’re uber effective. She can represent NYC all day every day #dreamsdocometrue

  • ginidietrich

    ggSolutions123 No one talks about who is behind her, but they have to be super savvy

  • Get a room! 🙂

  • Come on @ginidietrich you just want to be invited to be in her next fierce video…I see what you’re up to. But seriously, Taylor’s strategy will be studied in textbooks in years to come; it’s a thing of beauty.

  • Did you catch the piece where TS is allowed to break your camera gear if you don’t meet certain media recording rules?

    The last Inside PR spent way too much time talking about the Blackhawks.

  • Digital_DRK GO HAWKS!

  • rosemaryoneill Shhhhhh!

  • RobBiesenbach You’re just jealous!

  • Somehow I just KNEW you would write about this, Gini! I freakin’ love what Taylor did here. She’s a brilliant communicator and there are so many lessons to glean from it all. I love your point about starting with content. I get calls every day to help with social media programs. But, without content to back it up, it’s just going to fall flat. Content fuels everything!

    I think the other thing that makes Taylor stand out is that she’s not afraid to plant a flag and stand up for what she believes in. Because she continues to do this, people keep talking about her. I think that’s another huge lesson here. If you want to stand out, you have to stand up and be bold.

    I could go on and on!


  • kaitfowlie

    ginidietrich SpinSucks “If you Google “1989,” she owns the entire first page. For a year. In the 80s.” #MicDrop.

  • I have to profess to being a bit of a Tay-Tay cynic – that she might have had a small hand in her ‘immaculately phrased’ tumblr post may be true, but I’ve no doubt it passed through the hands of several dozen comms pros and legal teams (heck, probably even Apple’s comms dept) before it made its way onto Tumblr!

    What this does show is that her PR team are great at targeting fans where they’re most likely to be (i.e. Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram etc.)

  • ginidietrich

    kaitfowlie RIGHT!?! It’s crazy.

  • hanstacey Oh I totally agree. There is no 25-year-old on earth who is this savvy, especially without communications training. But she still is one of the best community builders I’ve ever seen. Period.

  • lauraclick You know, that’s really true. When people ask me about blogging, I always say you have to choose something you believe in and always stand up for it. It may be more comfortable to sit on the fence, but that doesn’t work.

  • whitney_fay

    I LOVE Taylor. Of course, it might help that I have a 9 year old who is obsessed but regardless, I’ve been paying attention to her PR tactics for a while. She’s just so smart with how she goes about everything and yeah, sure, she has a PR team helping but it’s pretty clear she doesn’t just sit back and let them tell her exactly what to do. You can tell a lot of it is her voice.

  • travispeterson

    I’ll confess it here.  I’m a fan of the TSwift.

  • travispeterson Shake It Off! Shake, shake, shake it off!

  • whitney_fay I wish I had the nine-year-old excuse.

  • travispeterson

    ginidietrich YES.

  • travispeterson THAT’S RIGHT!

  • bobledrew

    I know there’s lots of people who enjoy dissing Swift. But to my (ever-aging) eyes and ears, she’s done an essentially perfect job of managing herself and her brand. She’s not yet gone the oh-so-tired route of finding the most extremely sexual stuff she can do. She does lots of nice things both VERY publicly and not so much. She melds her music to her own personal image. She finds ways to tend her most devoted fans like a master gardener does her flowers or a farmer her crops. 

    Middle-of-the-road by modern music standards? Yup. Hugely successful? Undoubtedly. And seemingly far more happy and well-adjusted than many of her cohort are. 

    I don’t think she’s the greatest singer in the world; I don’t think she’s the best songwriter I’ve ever heard. She’s a competent enough instrumentalist. But she has mastered the craft of making and performing good songs and not alienating any members of her audience. 

    Musically and brandwise, she’s like Tiger Woods before his fall from grace.

  • bobledrew You know it’s interesting to read this from you. I have a fair amount of friends in the musical community and they all tend to fall into two camps. Either they echo exactly what you said, or just outright hate her and ridicule how inept of a musician she is. But when it comes down to it, what you said is spot on. 

    If you look at the career as a whole, she might not be the Beethoven of our time (Beethoven, I’m sorry, I love you…please forgive me for even coming close to that comparison), but she puts together the pieces needed to be really great. I’ve known a lot of really amazing musicians who just can’t put together all the right pieces. They might technically have far greater skills than Tay Tay, but not enough people know for them to care. The total package does matter and she’s mastered many parts of it.

  • ginidietrich travispeterson Look at you. A blog creeper to coming out right here on Spin Sucks. What a wild week for you Travis!

  • Besides Shake it, I have to admit I haven´t listen to any other TS songs. And I heard of Shake it from the video with the police officer dancing in his car (which I think I saw somewhere on Gini´s FB ;)). So yeah, I am big fan. :))
    But I am a fan of her PR strategy. I very much loved what she did for her fans last Christmas, when she posted videos with her wrapping and then delivering them personally to fans´ homes. Of course she has a great communications team behind (I read somewhere that it was Edelman), she can´t do it all herself, but still she does a great great job.

    So, yes, I am a big fan of TS PR strategy.

  • bobledrew Poor Tiger Woods. I really hate to see him fall like this, but it is fun to see others win.

  • LauraPetrolino bobledrew You know my vision of Spin Sucks is to change the perception people have of the PR industry. I know it’s pretty altruistic and that it may never happen in my lifetime, but I’m pushing hard toward it. I use this as an example because there is a camp of communicators who think I’m an idiot and too naive and, well, downright dumb.

    But I feel good about the work I’m doing. I feel great about the team I’m building. I love the community here. I love to see others beating the drum. Does that mean everyone can and will succumb? No. But my passion is still very much alive and I try hard not to listen to the criticism.

    At a different level, TS is much the same. She’s a huge success. She sells out her concerts. She can make Apple fall to their knees. It’s probably just fine that musically she’s not super talented.

  • Corina Manea You mean my obsession has rubbed off on you?!

  • Yeah, couldn’t help but notice the double standards on display when it came to artists – good call there, sir.

  • ginidietrich Well, just don´t tell anyone! 😉

  • ginidietrich LauraPetrolino bobledrew You know this comment makes me want to do a cheer right?

  • travispeterson

    LauraPetrolino ginidietrich CREEPER? Wow only four days and already with the name-calling…I must be doing something right!

  • bobledrew

    ginidietrich LauraPetrolino bobledrew I don’t mean to say she isn’t talented. It’s the PACKAGE that’s the talent. She’ll never be a virtuoso singer. Or a guitarist. But she strikes _social_ chords — that’s her genius.

  • I looked and I looked and I can´t find it! I give up and choose the easy way out: please send me your interview on Michael Peggs podcast. Thank you very much.

  • Gini Dietrich


  • I will now go down in history as the person who stalks Gini with Tay-Tay. 

    That’s not a bad history to have. 

    Tay is a PR genius.

  • raelyn_martin

    I loved you when you came to talk at UO, but now I love you even more. I am a BIG fan of Taylor Swift!