I did it. I confess. I bought Taylor Swift’s 1989 and I play it more than I should. I first noticed Taylor Swift a few years ago when my sassy, blonde-haired niece was singing songs like “Mean,” while riding down the road in a backseat booster. Recently, though, I saw a news story about Taylor Swift, and even more than her catchy lyrics, the story made me think. This young celebrity (and multi-millionaire) has figured out public relations.
So, like her or not, what can we learn about school public relations from Taylor Swift?
1. Keep your message simple, but memorable.
Swift’s first number-one song, “Our Song” was originally written for her high school talent show. However, with her simple lyrics and catchy music, Taylor Swift became the youngest artist to write and perform a number-one country song. Simple, but catchy.
Our song is the slamming screen door,
Sneakin’ out late, tapping on your window
When we’re on the phone and you talk real slow
’cause it’s late and your mama don’t know
Each and every day, our role in school PR is to share the miracles happening in schools and districts. How? Keep it simple and focus on kids. We do not have to find something earth-shattering or have front-page news every day, but we do need to pay attention to kids and know what keeps them engaged in learning. Engaging lessons and programs: that’s where you’ll find great stories, photos, or videos.
2. Share your success.
Not long ago, while Taylor Swift was jogging in a Nashville Park, she saw some young girls and families having portraits taken. They saw and recognized her, too. Instead of ignoring them or running by, Swift asked to have her
picture taken with them. This obviously thrilled the young fans and will be forever remembered by the families. The story was then shared by the families, their friends, co-workers, and also made the local news
. A very small, even unnecessary act, just like that. Taylor Swift knows her fans have made her successful, and the impromptu photo shoot is just one example of how she shows fans appreciation through small, simple gestures.
In schools, we’re in the people-business, too, and more importantly, young people. So, do we take the time to provide those little extras for our kids and stakeholders? Do we make sure guests feel welcome? Do we value opinions of others and make them feel part of our team? A little extra effort can go a long way. Plus, doing things because they’re good for kids (not to get attention or media) almost always leads to the most genuine and best type of PR.
3. Create your own brand.
Taylor Swift is her own genre of music. She can write and sing country, pop, whatever, and it sells (obviously). She even helps promote other brands and has big-name endorsements from companies like Diet Coke, Keds, and CoverGirl. She has her own style and it is known worldwide! She also knows her audience and the importance of continuing to be a good role model, so parents (and Aunts) continue to buy the music, tshirts, concert tickets, etc., etc., etc.
Each school and district also has their own brand, too. Whether large or small, with years of tradition or new in town, each school image and brand is unique. We must make sure that our school brand is positive, portraying our schools and districts as great places to learn, to work and as thriving centers of our community. Our work in communication, positive and timely, establishes this brand through our stories, our achievements, and in how we treat people.
And a bonus: Sometimes you gotta, “Shake It Off.”
Just for fun, lyrics from Swift’s most recent songs:
Not everyday in school PR is going to be fun. A little white stuff falls from the sky and based on the decisions made, you “got nothing in your brain…. or that’s what people say….” Sometimes, people do dumb things and you get asked all of the questions. And unfortunately, sometimes bad things happen and we have to deal with them the very best we can. So sometimes, yes, we just shake, shake, shake it off and keep cruising to another, better day.
(Song cover by my niece, Kylie B.)
KYSPRA President, 2014-15