Taylor Swift surprised the world yesterday when she dropped her first op-ed. News of the lyricist’s piece spread like wildfire generating more than 150 comments on The Wall Street Journal website, in addition to more than 20,000 Facebook posts, 10,500 tweets, and 600 LinkedIn posts about the article. And that’s not even counting the other media outlets that wrote about her op-ed.
Swift offered her optimistic take on the future of the music industry. And, while it didn’t provide any groundbreaking news, what it did (in fewer than 1,200 words) was create a conversation around a topic she’s passionate about. What more can you ask for from an op-ed?
But how did an op-ed that seemed to have hearts and flowers written in the margins spark such attention? What we found interesting was not so much what she said but the process and forum in which she chose to spread her opinion.
Swift could have gone directly to traditional entertainment outlets such as Rolling Stone, Billboard, or the Hollywood Reporter (which ultimately covered it anyway), but she chose The Wall Street Journal. Why? She wanted to talk to a different audience. She even mentioned it herself when she said she’d already been communicating her opinions on this topic directly to her fans. But she wanted to target record industry executives, business folks and even the parents of many of her fans. Recognizing who she wanted to reach and identifying an outlet that could touch each of those audiences was crucial.
The way she wrote the column was important too. The Wall Street Journal is known for its business-focused, often analytical writing. But Swift’s column is intentionally accessible. She kept to simple sentences, analogies and concepts. We all know what happened next—every outlet from Huffington Post to People and The Wire wrote about what she had to say because it was easy to quote from and share. Smart thinking on her and The Wall Street Journal’s part.
Swift remained authentic to her personality and tone. She didn’t fill her op-ed with business rhetoric and industry jargon. Rather, she acknowledged her position as an “enthusiastic optimist” and went on to use language that you might hear in one of her songs or live interviews.
In an increasingly competitive media environment where news sometimes suffers from editorializing and deadline pressures, the op-ed is becoming an increasingly powerful tool. Instead of waiting for a reporter to raise a question and cover a topic, individuals are creating their own content to control the message. Taking the time to create authentic, quality content can make a tremendous impact on a person and her business.
We are in the midst of a content revolution where the corporate and legal worlds are seeing the value of a combination of earned (traditional PR and media relations) and owned (content created and controlled by the person or company) media. It becomes a way for businesses to act like media companies and create the journalistic-quality content that either the company publishes itself or shares with traditional media. It’s something we see working within our own Content & Publishing practice.
While professionals in the B2B space may not be taking home Grammy awards at the same rate as Taylor Swift or have the fan base that can fill a stadium, they can drive the conversation in their own industries by being authentic and making calculated risks when it comes to their message. It can be a difficult balance, but as this op-ed shows, one that can have its rewards.