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.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich