Behind the Scenes: Anna Kate Womack on Taylor Swift’s PR Magic
Anna Kate Womack, a graduate of the University of Florida with a background in public relations and a passion for pop culture, joins us for an insightful interview. Anna Kate’s journey in the world of PR, influenced by her Swiftie fandom, offers a unique perspective on the power of storytelling in the music industry. Join us as we delve into the intricacies of Taylor Swift’s PR strategies and their impact on her authentic portrayal as an artist.
HELLO ANNA KATE WOMACK, WELCOME TO ABOUT INSIDER! TO KICK THINGS OFF, COULD YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY IN THE WORLD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS AND HOW YOUR FASCINATION WITH POP CULTURE AND MUSIC, PARTICULARLY AS A SWIFTIE, HAS INFLUENCED YOUR CAREER PATH?
I came across public relations through my involvement in theater. I always knew I enjoyed storytelling and being creative, but was unsure how I wanted to incorporate that into my future career. When I was in college at The University of Florida, I got involved with publicity for a theater club. It was then that I realized I could combine my love for the arts and entertainment with writing through public relations. I then worked for the company Permanent Press Media to help represent and publicize artists such as Dua Lipa, Zayn Malik and Madison Beer. I really enjoyed the work I got to do on this team and that is what helped me. I was specifically interested in publicity underneath the umbrella of public relations. I am now a publicist at Otter PR and get to collaborate with clients to help shape their brand through storytelling. In terms of my love for Taylor Swift, it started at a very young age as her debut album “Taylor Swift” was one of the first CDs I owned. I went to her Speak Now World Tour in 2011 and have been a fan ever since, as I just went to her The Eras Tour this year. In addition to her music, I have always been fascinated by her skills as a businesswoman and her ability to craft a message, whether that be through her songs or PR moves.
CAN YOU SHARE SOME INSIGHTS INTO HOW TAYLOR SWIFT’S STORYTELLING ABILITIES HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO THE AUTHENTICITY OF HER PR STRATEGY?
Overall, Taylor tells her own story. She is in charge of writing her narrative. She has proven she owns the right to tell her story through the re-recordings of her albums to ensure her own songs are “Taylor’s Version.” Through this honest form of songwriting Taylor has created a vulnerable and personal relationship with her fans as she has given them insight into her life experiences and feelings. This has transcended to her PR strategy because she also gears her efforts to her fans through initiatives like easter eggs as she sends fans on scavenger hunts for promotional content. She has stayed consistent with her honest songwriting while still showing she is able to adapt and adjust her brand according to the stage of life she is at in the moment.
TAYLOR SWIFT HAS SEAMLESSLY TRANSITIONED THROUGH DIFFERENT “ERAS” IN HER CAREER. HOW HAS THIS STRATEGY ALLOWED HER TO MAINTAIN VERSATILITY AND ARTISTIC GROWTH AS AN ARTIST?
Taylor’s music style and PR adjusts according to which “era” she is in which allows her to get creative with branding. Depending on the era, she utilizes colors and public appearances to shape the era which has allowed her to explore different genres and reputations. However, while she does make these aesthetic changes depending on the era she enters, she has always remained consistent in who she is as an artist which is an honest songwriter who writes songs about her life, feelings and observations.
THE USE OF DISTINCT COLORS ASSOCIATED WITH HER ALBUMS IS A UNIQUE ASPECT OF TAYLOR SWIFT’S BRANDING. HOW DO THESE COLOR CHOICES CONTRIBUTE TO EACH ALBUM’S OVERALL AESTHETIC AND THEME?
Taylor assigns one prominent color to each album which establishes she is entering into a new era. This allows her to further establish her brand and the overall image she wants to be portraying at the time. An example of this is the album “Lover.” This album is associated with the color pink and detailed a time in her life in which she was in a committed relationship and there was an overall positive and youthful tone illustrated through her songs such as “Paper Rings” and “Cornelia Street.” This is a drastic change from the previous album, “Reputation”, which is associated with black and represented a more rebellious stage of Taylor’s life.
TAYLOR SWIFT HAS RESPONDED TO CONTROVERSIES THROUGH HER MUSIC, AS SEEN WITH THE ALBUM “REPUTATION.” HOW DOES HER SONGWRITING PLAY A ROLE IN SHAPING HER PR STRATEGY AND PUBLIC IMAGE?
An example of her ability to adapt her music and respond to life experiences through music is her transition from “1989” to “Reputation.” “1989” was a very public time in Taylor’s life where she was commonly seen walking around New York City with her girlfriends in well-crafted outfits. She utilized social media a lot during this time to give insight into her personal life. Then, Kanye West came out with the song “Famous’ ‘ in 2016 and claimed Taylor was lying about the fact that she did not give him permission to use a vulgar lyric about her in the song. So, Kanye and Kim Kardashion started a Twitter trend stating #TaylorSwiftIsCanceled and #TaylorSwiftIsASnake. Taylor’s response was not engaging with this trend at the time but instead deleted everything on social media and released the album “Reputation” in 2017, embracing the “snake” persona through branding. This allowed her to take control of the narrative and not stoop to the level of those making fun of her, but rather continue to release music that illustrates what she is going through in that stage of her life. She is strategic with announcements and makes sure to yet again have control over her narrative as it is clear she is deciding which era she is entering next.
TAYLOR SWIFT OFTEN REFRAINS FROM ENGAGING PUBLICLY IN NARRATIVES AND CONTROVERSIES. HOW DOES THIS APPROACH ALIGN WITH HER AUTHENTIC PORTRAYAL AS AN ARTIST?
As I mentioned before, Taylor lets her music speak for her and this allows her to gain control over narratives without overly engaging. Taylor has remained consistent in her writing style and branding and has refused to back down to criticism. When told she writes too many songs about her relationships, she has continued to write vulnerable chart-topping hits like “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” about relationships and personal experiences. When told she is too vocal and bold, she responds with songs like “The Man” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”
CAN YOU PROVIDE EXAMPLES OF HOW TAYLOR SWIFT’S PR STRATEGY HAS EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS, ESPECIALLY IN RESPONSE TO CHANGING INDUSTRY DYNAMICS?
An example of Taylor’s PR strategy evolving is The Eras Tour and her current PR strategy. The Eras Tour is a clear example of her different “eras” and branding style over her music career. The tour is a celebration of the support her fans have provided for her re-recordings and her ability to take control over her narrative and songs she has written. She is in a very public time of her life which is a drastic change from her life prior to The Eras Tour. Taylor kept her previous relationship with actor Joe Alwyn very private and therefore did not make a lot of public appearances herself and was hardly at events such as award shows and red carpets. Since the announcement of The Eras Tour and her breakup with Joe Alwyn, she has been seen at most music award shows, walking around in public with her girlfriends and at Chiefs games cheering on America’s heartthrob, Travis Kelce. She has transitioned from a very private and “settled down” period of her life to a public, new chapter more similar to her 1989 era surrounded by girlfriends and in the city. She is embracing her success and public affection as a leading artist in the industry. It is not coincidental that 1989 Taylor’s Version will be released October 27.
TAYLOR SWIFT’S ABILITY TO CONNECT WITH HER AUDIENCE ON A PERSONAL LEVEL IS NOTABLE. HOW DOES THIS ASPECT CONTRIBUTE TO THE SUCCESS OF HER PR CAMPAIGNS?
As mentioned previously, Taylor’s PR campaigns are geared towards her fans and further this personal relationship she has fostered throughout her music career. Through easter eggs taylor sends cryptic messages to fans for them to decipher and determine what she is announcing next. This extra attention to detail shows Taylor’s fans that she is just as involved as they are. In addition, while Taylor’s music is personal, it is also relatable. The Eras Tour celebrates Taylor’s music from the beginning to what it is today, but it also lets fans reflect on their lives throughout Taylor’s music career and her music has grown with them as well. Songs like “Fifteen (Taylor’s Version)” and “22 (Taylor’s Version)” were written from Taylor’s experiences at those ages, but illustrate very clearly the feelings everyone has felt at those times. Her ability to be vulnerable with fans allows them to connect more with her music and find ways to relate it to their lives as well. This type of relationship with fans is what led to soldout stadium tours.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT LESSONS CAN OTHER ARTISTS AND PUBLIC FIGURES DRAW FROM TAYLOR SWIFT’S PR APPROACH TO BUILD AND MAINTAIN A STRONG PERSONAL BRAND?
A major component of Taylor Swift that other artists and public figures can adapt from Taylor Swift is her individualism and boldness. She is quite literally taking back her music that she wrote herself through her re-recordings and in doing so she has proven that she has control over who she is as an artist and the music she produces. I think she is an example for a lot of female artists who might feel timid to be vocal and stand up for themselves. She has also been an example of how to maintain who you are as an artist while still exploring different music genres and not limiting yourself to what people expect of you. Sometimes it is ok to surprise people.
LASTLY, LOOKING AHEAD, WHAT EMERGING TRENDS OR SHIFTS IN THE PR LANDSCAPE DO YOU FORESEE, AND HOW MIGHT THEY IMPACT THE STRATEGIES EMPLOYED BY ARTISTS LIKE TAYLOR SWIFT IN THE FUTURE?
PR has been very prominent in the media – both negative and positive PR strategies. An example of a negative strategy was Joe Jonas’ PR moves regarding his divorce with Sophie Turner. Joe’s PR team was quick to the narrative, making accusations about Sophie Turner in regards to being a mother and partying. This aggressive approach to paint Joe as the supportive father and Sophie as the “party animal” has faced a lot of backlash. The public has instead made it very clear they support Sophie and her ability to be a mother and still have fun. The public support of women such as Sophie Turner and Taylor Swift and their abilities to wear multiple hats has been a positive shift in the media. With audiences being very vocal through platforms such as TikTok, there is more of a two-way communication happening in which the people’s opinions are strongly influencing the media and celebrity narratives. It is important for celebrities to take into consideration the opinions and demands of younger generations that are helping shape the media industry, while still staying consistent with their individual brand.