4 PR lessons we can learn from Kesha’s legal battle


Innocent or guilty? Kesha has been in the media spotlight before for her edgy pop music, but today her media attention comes from a legal battle that has communication professionals hanging at her every move.

The pop star claimed Dr. Luke, her producer, sexually abused and threatened her. As a result, she wanted out of her contract with Sony music in order to create music with other labels and producers. A whirlwind of social media support, celebrity endorsements and legal analysis created a scenario in which public relations professionals can learn from, regardless of whose side they’re on. The following are a few of these lessons you’ll want to take note of.

1. Give genuinely

Throughout this legal battle, several celebrities, especially musicians, have vocally shared their support for Kesha. However, Taylor Swift’s declaration of support was a little different. She donated $250,000 to her fellow pop star.

Kesha’s mother’s Twitter reaction to Taylor Swift’s donation. (www.etonline.com)

Kesha’s mother’s Twitter reaction to Taylor Swift’s donation. (www.etonline.com)

As a PR person, the important thing to note is how Swift went about this and how it impacts her brand. Swift did not come out with a statement bragging about her donation, although she did have her representatives prepared with a classy statement.

She showed generosity and empowered a fellow woman within her industry. Consider talking to your company or client about giving back. While the decision to make monetary (or other) donations should always come from a sincere desire to help, it’s also a great way to show people what causes you support and motivate their audience to give back too.

2. Loyalty works wonders

When two million people tweet in favor of your cause, you know you’ve got a loyal fan base.

Following the court’s decision to not let Kesha break her contract with Sony, millions tweeted their support. PR Daily reports these tweets included hashtags like #FreeKesha and #DearSony.

This exemplifies how building relationships with your audience, consumers, brand ambassadors, etc. is one of the best things you can do for your client or brand.

A screenshot of Kesha’s Twitter profile, in which she’s been regularly thanking her supporters. (Twitter, @Kesha)

A screenshot of Kesha’s Twitter profile, in which she’s been regularly thanking her supporters. (Twitter, @KeshaRose)

Talk to them as individuals, find out what’s meaningful to them, don’t take publicity for granted, and think carefully before you post content. As you foster loyalty over time, your key publics will fight for you when the time comes to handle a crisis or face a competitor.

3. There’s power in a written statement

This lesson comes from the perspective of Kesha’s producer, Dr. Luke. He’s undoubtedly been enduring a media firestorm during this legal battle. However, he hasn’t remained silent and he hasn’t dramatically lashed out against Kesha or her supporters.

He did post a string of tweets outlining his side of the story and his defense that he was raised right and respects women. The statement released by his lawyers is a little more blunt.

In a situation like this involving so much media coverage, Dr. Luke’s approach appears well thought out. He let his lawyers take the more controversial stance with the press, while he took a more personal and explanatory stance while addressing his Twitter audience. If he had remained silent, he would have risked letting other people talk for him and appearing guilty.

4. Staying silent can hurt your brand

While Dr. Luke has been somewhat vocal, Sony has not. They released a statement in late February (the legal battle began in 2014) stating there’s nothing they can do about the contract but they’re doing what they can to support the artist.

The company neglected to show genuine concern for Kesha, other women in the industry, loyalty to their producer or what they will do to keep tabs on abuse in the future.

According to Levick, the Sony label has the power to handle the situation and do less damage to their brand, but by staying quiet they’re actually hurting themselves. This presents the tricky balance between staying quiet until the storm passes or risking that lack of communication can make the storm bigger.

When you’re handling a crisis, evaluate how your audience is responding. More often than not, staying silent will escalate the problem.

Kesha’s legal battle presents some of the difficult decisions we have to make in the communications world. Whether you’re working for a company, celebrity or cultivating your personal brand, paying attention to media news can provide you with some valuable lessons.

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