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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.”



PHA go to the GQ Men of the Year Awards

The annual GQ Men of the Year Awards took place at the Royal Opera House in London this week, with a few shock winners sending the Twittersphere into a spin.  And myself, Laura and Nick were there to witness the aftermath of the action-packed seventeenth awards ceremony.

Our client Timebased have been producing the event since it first began, and luckily for us, were able to offer us three passes to the official after-party, which of course we were not going to turn down!  After initially going into a huge panic about what to wear (cue a lunchtime AND post-work shopping spree) we couldn’t wait to spend the evening sipping on cocktails and rubbing shoulders with the award winners!

Of course, there was work involved as well, and Tuesday mainly consisted of monitoring Twitter for updates, keeping in contact with Richard, Creative Director of Timebased, and reaching out to our press contacts to keep them as up to date as possible.  As soon as the working day was over it was time to go home and get ready, while keeping an eye on social media and feeding live updates, such as the winners and what the celebrities were eating, through to the press.

As always, there were some surprises on the evening.  The response to Tony Blair’s Philanthropist of the Year award, as decided by readers and GQ Editor Dylan Jones, has received a somewhat mixed response (, and a few of the outfit choices certainly raised eyebrows, namely that of GQ’s Woman of the Year Kim Kardashian, whose bespoke Ralph & Russo skirt left little to the imagination.  There was, of course, also James Nesbitt’s ice bucket challenge; which, after he was nominated by Dylan Jones, took place live on stage!

We met at 10pm, just as the awards were drawing to a close, and after an hour of hot-desking in a local bar, over a glass of wine (or two!), and an interview with BBC arranged for 7am the next morning, our work was done and we arrived at the Royal Opera House just after 11pm.  Ushered inside through the side entrance and welcomed with a cucumber mojito, we set about celeb-spotting straight away!  Within minutes we’d spied Jessie J, Pixie Lott and Amber Le Bon, and plucked up the courage to ask David Gandy for a photo – probably mine and Laura’s personal highlight of the evening!

GQ2, pha

After a few hours of dancing to Laura Jean Marsh and having sampled just about every cocktail on the menu, we said our goodbyes to a very happy client, and made our way to the exit, not before stopping for a photo in front of the GQ branded board, and of course picking up one of the coveted goodie bags from the night.

All in all, it was a hugely successful event, attended by some of the biggest and brightest stars in the industry, and one that Timebased are hugely proud to have played a part in.  Here’s to next year and (hopefully) securing another invite!

GQ1, pha


Designer of The Year: Christopher Bailey, CEO of Burberry

Entrepreneur of The Year: Andre Balazs (of Chiltern Firehouse fame)

Chef of The Year – Tom Kerridge

International Man of The Year – Jonah Hill

Comedian of The Year – John Bishop

Philanthropist of The Year – Tony Blair

Actor of The Year – Benedict Cumberbatch

Editor’s Special – Liam Neeson

Writer of The Year – Michael Lewis

TV Personality of The Year – Peter Capaldi

Innovator of The Year – Ewan Venters

Solo Artist of The Year – Pharrell

GQ’s Legend of The Year – Van Morrison

Inspiration of The Year – New Order

Sportsman of The Year – Lewis Hamilton

Special Achievement Award – Paolo Nutini

Leading Man – Colin Firth

Humanitarian of The Year – Ringo Starr

Woman of The Year – Kim Kardashian

Most Stylish Man – Douglas Booth

Icon of The Year – Iggy Pop