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Com Connect takes on public relations (Taylor’s Version)

Dr. Rachelle Pavelko speaking to students about Taylor Swifts reputation.
Photo by Payton Egnew

“There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation,” Taylor Swift said on Instagram in 2017.

On Sept. 12 in the Global Communications Center, Associate Professor of Communications Dr. Rachelle Pavelko hosted the first Com Connect of the semester titled Public Relations (Taylor’s Version).

“We’re [the communications department] always trying to think of new things that our students can easily connect with and put through the lens of media and communication studies,” Pavelko said. “Between my teaching area and my personal interest in Taylor, there’s so much going on in terms of things that she’s doing really well.”

Alongside Pavelko stood assistant professor in journalism and Com Connect organizer, Dr. Cory Barker, who moderated a Zoom call that students could join instead of attending in-person.

Pavelko started off the event by highlighting the three main topics that she wanted to address: reinventing Taylor’s persona, deploying Easter eggs and merchandising the merch.

When discussing how Swift became the star she is today, Pavelko started at the very beginning with her self-titled debut album “Taylor Swift.”

“Very country, right?” Pavelko said. “We’ve got big hair, a southern twang…This is a far cry from her penthouse life.”

Pavelko then explained how Swift’s first era had religious undertones and how “slamming screen doors” portrays the life she was living at the time, before discussing Swift’s 2022 album “Midnights.”

“She [Taylor Swift] has grown up in front of us,” Pavelko said. “We see her age throughout her career, which also is going to impact her actual image and her lyrics.”

Along with growing up, Pavelko explained, Swift has also dealt with criticism from the media in all aspects of her life, including how she looks and who she dates. In response, Swift used comments toward her as inspiration for another era.

In doing so, Swift has been able to create a sense of relatability to fans who might be experiencing similar challenges.

The conversation opened the audience to consider Swift’s reinvention of herself and what it offers her and her fanbase.

Pavelko then described how Swift has dropped “Easter Eggs” throughout her career and how this tactic has fans using their investigative skills to predict what she will drop next. These Easter eggs are what people call the hidden clues Swift leaves throughout her work.

“I wanted to do something that incentivized fans to read the lyrics because my lyrics are what I’m most proud of out of everything that I do,” Swift said in a quote provided by Pavelko.

By dropping these Easter eggs in her Instagram captions, her outfits and music videos, Swift always keeps her fans searching. When looking for these signs, listeners analyze her lyrics and better understand them.

“I feel like these Easter eggs make it a lot easier for fans to feel more connected to Taylor,” junior journalism major Hermes Falcon said. “It’s like getting to know more about her in addition to streaming her music.”

The conversation was turned to the audience again where attendees answered questions about the correlation between the Easter eggs and a mutually beneficial relationship for Swift and her fans.

For the final topic of the night, Pavelko pulled up a picture of the covers of Swift albums “Reputation” and “Lover.”

Using these examples, Pavelko described how Swift’s fan base has started to heavily associate colors with specific albums. For instance, when fans see the color pink, they think of “Lover.” 

Swift’s PR team took those colors and created color variations of the same merch item – vinyl records – ranging from a “Rose Garden” to “Tangerine.” These variations of merchandise have people believing Swift is fishing for extra sales.

More speculations of this claim have risen since the announcement of the Eras Tour. Exclusive merch lines have been created for the tour, and fans aren’t loving the designs. Pavelko explained that, nevertheless, fans still want the exclusive tour merch for its value and to show support for Swift’s full ownership in the rights to her music.

With every album re-release, fans grow more supportive of what Swift was trying to achieve. The Eras Tour gives people a chance to support Swift for becoming her own person and be in an inner circle of people who attended a concert.

Pavelko mentioned a sense of competition that arose between fans. Surprise songs that Swift performed every night became a battle between who went to the concert with better songs.

When the “Ticketmaster War,” (what fans called the process of purchasing Eras Tour tickets), turned into chaos, no one seemed to blame Swift. Frustration was, instead, aimed at Ticketmaster.

Swifties create a sense of family and stress the importance of sticking together. Swift even makes public apologies that get people to grow closer to her defense.

Pavelko ended the night by revealing that her favorite album is “Evermore” and told all Swifties to unite.

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