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Personal PR: the lessons we can learn from Taylor Swift

Personal PR: the lessons we can learn from Taylor Swift

Love her or hate her, Taylor Swift is one of the biggest and most successful stars on the planet. Her fifth studio album, 1989, sold more copies in its opening week than any album in the previous 12 years, and made her the first and only act to have three albums sell more than one million copies in the opening week.

At last night’s Billboard Music Awards Swift took home eight awards including the coveted Top Hot Artist award, proving it’s hard to deny her talent.

Whilst not to everyone’s taste, there are some ‘personal PR’ lessons we could all learn from the modern-day Princess of Pop.

Appreciate the people who help get you to where you are

Swift knows that she has a lot to owe to her loyal fans, so she does things like throw pyjama parties at her apartment and send out personalised gifts to fans. She sent one fan a cheque for $1989 to contribute towards said fan’s student loan.

By acknowledging the people who are your biggest supporters, it means they will continue to support you through thick and thin and Swift has successfully built a profile for herself as the ‘nice girl of pop’.

“It’s really not difficult…Now I can afford to go shopping for Christmas presents for them and ship it across an ocean. I can go on Tumblr, I can find their blog, I can figure out all this information about them, have my web team email and say, “Hey, you seem like a great fan, do you mind giving us your address and we can send you some merch.” It’s not hard.”

Be a role model

Although being a popstar doesn’t necessarily mean you should have to act like a positive role model to kids across the world, it’s a role that Swift has embraced. Unlike fellow popstar Rhianna, who told Vogue: “They want me to be a role model just because of the life I lead. But no, I just want to make music. That’s it.” Swift on the other hand, just gets on with the fact that it’s all part of the wider package.

At a time when fellow popstars such as Miley Cyrus dominate the papers for being controversial, Swift’s positive role model behaviour only gains her more respect.

“You have to be conscious of that. If you’re choosing to put out music and be out there in the public, you have to be conscious of the fact that you are a part of the raising of the next generation and you do have an impact on that.”

Stay strong in the face of criticism

Swift has dated some high-profile men in her time (including the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Harry Styles and John Mayer) and then uses those experiences as inspiration for her music. This is a common practice in the creative world – Sam Smith and Adele have both referenced their heartache as being the inspiration behind their massive top-selling hits, yet it’s always Swift that gets criticised as the ‘serial dater’.

Along with the fame and fortune of course comes continuous criticism, which Swift accepts and stays strong in spite of. Swift addresses the issues that irritate her but rises above it, by bringing back the subject matter to what she’s all about: her music.

“The most important thing for me is maintaining artistic integrity, which means as a songwriter I still continue to write about my life”.

Be yourself

At this year’s Grammy awards Swift danced like no one was watching and Pharrell was captured giving her what looked like a strong case of the evils. Headlines branded her as ‘The Worst Dancer EVER” but in true Swift style she kept her cool and didn’t let it phase her, proving that embracing who you are is the best way to beat criticism.

“I just don’t place much priority on looking cool…I think there’s this priority on having this persona of being edgy or cool or bored. And those things are all sexy. All those things are chic when you seem not to care about anything other than yourself. And I just don’t buy into it. I’m really excited by lots of things. I think enthusiasm is the best protection. It can protect you from anything.” 

Stay classy

Mindful that a large part of her audience falls under the age of 16, Swift behaves well in front of the camera, keeps her clothes on at concerts and doesn’t feel the need to use her sexuality as a form of art. All in all, she keeps it classy.

“Choose your outfits and your words and your actions carefully. I think it matters. I think it really does. You can pretend it doesn’t, but it does.”



Are our child stars doomed?

Amanda Bynes is back in the press this week and Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan and One Direction regularly grace our headlines with news of their shocking antics. Whether at the root of celebrity feuds, drink driving charges or rumours of drug abuse, the stories continue to be churned out as the world spectates at the downward spiral of our child stars. This pattern of erratic behaviour seems to occur all too often and begs the question, are the pressures of fame too much to deal with as a child?

Amanda Bynes rose to fame with The Amanda Show on Nickelodeon aged just thirteen and from there went on to star in Hairspray, feature on the front pages of Vanity Fair and win numerous TV awards. However, over the last few years her increasingly strange behaviours have hinted at psychological problems, all of which have been well documented by the media. There were the celeb twitter spats which saw her comments become more and more outrageous, rumours of drug addiction and most recently shoplifting charges. Having looked a little further into her story, I have found one of the saddest aspects to be the fact she is now estranged from her parents. In a time when they are needed the most, her family support network has broken down.

Image Courtesy of Amy Wood, flickr. com

Image Courtesy of Amy Wood, flickr. com

Justin Bieber recently came under scrutiny for a series of seemingly racist videos which showed him singing offensive songs, aged 14. The media went into a  frenzy and he was blackmailed as people tried to extort him and make a quick buck out of his poor judgement. Photos were also leaked of Justin smoking weed that saw him taken swiftly off his ‘role model’ pedestal and then there were mentions of speeding and car crashes in his £150,000 Ferrari. With a loyal fan base of ‘Beliebers’, JB has a wealth of youngsters looking up to him.  The downside of this, is that aside from his talent for singing, his every mistake will be read about all over the world and we all know that negative headlines sell.

Aged 20, JB is supposedly one of the current most hated celebrities in the USA. It seems he has burnt most of his bridges in the celebrity world and alienated himself from the paparazzi. Although he has grown up with the pressures of his celebrity status, he needs to take some responsibility for his disrespectful actions, of which there are countless. His story thus far has an element of self-destruction and he almost seems to be setting himself up for failure. Other similar examples include Lindsay Lohan, who spent time in prison and battled an eating disorder, and Britney Spears who famously had a meltdown in 2007 which involved shaving off all her hair whilst supposedly being addicted to amphetamines.

This year, the UK X Factor has lowered its entry age from 16 to 14 to draw in ‘fresh talent’. The decision has come under much scepticism and judge Cheryl Fernandez-Versini has been vocal about the fact she thinks this is too young. I am inclined to agree, given that the audition process sees candidates publicly ridiculed for poor performances whilst the judges make cutting remarks. Furthermore, numerous candidates have already been rejected for ‘not being ready’, so the change seems a little counter-productive.  Past winners of the show have gone on to be dropped by their record labels and have failed to maintain their success after being told they are the ‘next big thing’. I don’t feel it would be fair to face a 14 year old with this level of disappointment and inconsistency, especially when a school education may be at stake.

Reality shows such as X-Factor can literally catapult people into the limelight overnight and this combined with the rise of social media, means fame and

Image Courtesy of Catherine Laight, flickr. com

Image Courtesy of Catherine Laight, flickr. com

celebrity status can be obtained more quickly than ever. One Direction are one of X Factor’s most prominent success stories, with 122 awards between them, a world record and millions of pounds to their name. However, with the media waiting in the wings to make or break these stars, it was only a matter of time before band scandals started surfacing as we have seen.

So, what is the solution? These young stars need a strong network of people around them to support, ground and manage expectations. A reliable agent, publicist and accountant that aren’t only in it to make money, and have genuine concerns for their wellbeing are necessities. Kris Jenner’s family tie to her Kardashian clan may be the reason they have all been able to deal with the trials and tribulations of fame despite being one of the highest profile families on the planet. In times of crisis, reputation management PR may prove essential but preventing these scenarios from arising in the first place should be the priority.

It seems unsurprising that growing up in the limelight can lead to a premature mid-life crisis- how can anyone be expected to know what the fame package comes with in their early teens? Although success clearly has many benefits, this downward pattern repeats itself all too often and the power that comes with money and fame cannot be taken lightly. The future of 1D, Justin Bieber and this year’s young X Factor hopefuls remains to be seen but regardless, they need to be prepared for what could lie ahead. Although talent can shine from a young age, fame comes with a lot of baggage and a child is not equipped with the maturity and life experience to deal with this single-handedly.