10 Internal Communications Hacks We Learned From Taylor Swift

Employee Experience Inspiration Values and Culture

Last month, Taylor Swift was one of the speakers at NYU’s 2022 commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium. The Grammy award winner admitted that she was 90% sure the main reason she was invited to speak was because she has a song called 22. Taylor’s fans love her creativity, her narrative storytelling, and her willingness to be vulnerable and real. They relate to her because she is human and not afraid to bare her heart and soul through her music.

In her speech, Swift shares some life hacks that we believe can make us better internal communications professionals. Her speech reminds us of the basic human experience that we all share in our lives. Here are our 10 takeaways from Taylor Swift’s commencement speech:

1. We are all patchwork quilts

Every one of us is a patchwork quilt made up of experiences, people, and moments that have shaped us. As a group of employees who come from various backgrounds with both different and shared experiences, an organization is one giant patchwork quilt. We need to embrace this idea of the patchwork quilt because no one has made it to where they are right now without each of the pieces that make up their lived experience. As internal comms experts, we should be creating safe spaces to “display our patchwork quilts.” By telling our stories, we build community and connection which contributes to a meaningful employee experience.

2. Catch and release

Life can be heavy. Work can be heavy. And while we are all navigating, balancing, and trying to juggle personal and professional lives, we need to know what to focus on, what to care about, and what to leave behind. This means building a culture within your organization that encourages employees to not dwell on mistakes but to learn from them.

3. Dream

Taylor reminds us that work, struggle, sacrifice, study, and dreaming gets us to where we are going. This isn’t a set cycle in which only one of these things happen at a time, but they are things that need to be encouraged and discovered within all of us. Employers need to cultivate a space where people can learn, grow, and dream. The employee experience should not be all work, struggle, and sacrifice, but include space where all 5 actions are supported to allow your employees to grow.

4. Learn to live alongside cringe

Whether you love or hate Taylor Swift, you can probably say that Taylor lives amongst the “cringe” and she’ll be the first to admit it. Because cringe is unavoidable, it’s weird and its hilarious. I’m sure you’ve participated in trends and phases that were fun at the time but retrospectively make you cringe. As organizations evolve and change, it’s important to embrace the past including those cringy detail or moments (remember when we all commuted to the office every day?). It allows space for human feelings like being awkward, uncomfortable, and even playful while also acknowledging progress and growth.

5. Be eager

We live in a society that makes us think that trying is uncool. But we shouldn’t be ashamed of trying. Taylor Swift reminds us to not hide our enthusiasm for things. At the end of the day, we do spend a lot of time at our jobs. Being eager to create a healthy workplace culture that is focused on people should not be shameful. Don’t shy away from being curious about the stories that live in our organizations. Be eager about the moments that matter and the events that can build connection and community.

6. Mistakes are part of the human experience

Mistakes happen. We’ve all been there, and we know that it’s in the aftermath makes you realise you’ve either lost or gained something. But either way, it’s the people who support you that are the gift. If a mistake happens, don’t shame your employees – no one is perfect. Instead, create a learning environment where psychological safety grows.

7. Trust yourself

Trust your gut instincts, desires, fears, scars, and dreams. This doesn’t mean that you won’t screw up sometimes, but there is something very human about trusting our intuition and our own professional expertise. Let’s face it, the power of internal communications to shape the employee experience and contribute to the organization’s success is not obvious (understatement of the year) to many people in your organization. Internal communications professionals should trust themselves and their expertise. Learn when we need to turn and run or stand-up and stay (remember catch and release?) It’s in these times where we need to trust ourselves and confidently step into our roles.

8. Let go with grace

Following the idea of trusting yourself, there are also times when we need to let go. When it comes to letting go, do it with grace. Showing grace within internal communications can mean bringing honor and credit to the person or topic at hand. Removing shame from the workplace leaves a lot of room to bring grace into the organization’s culture.

9. Love the craft

Working in internal communications means you probably have to filter through a lot of information. Reading, learning, developing, and writing strategies often begin with big concepts, but there is, and should be, a thrill of narrowing it down. Getting into the nitty-gritty of being clear about what you want to say and developing the right “hook” that captivates your audience is what loving our creative craft is all about.

10. Progress and evolution

As internal communication experts, we know that listening to the wisdom of those who have come before has brought us to where we are now. But sometimes the right thing to do is to throw out the old schools of thought in the name of progress and reform. We are obsessed with learning how to develop new strategies and understanding the human experience to create a more meaningful employee experience. It’s finding a balance between learning and listening to the old and creating something new that makes us thrive.

Taylor Swift is one of the most successful artists of our time. She does it by following these life hacks, being fearless, willing to experiment, and vulnerable. Her life hacks are good reminders that we are all human. If our jobs as internal communications professionals is to play a leadership role in building a more human workplace, there’s no better place to start than by being human yourself.  If you want to explore more, reach out. We would love to chat.

Written by Sacha Jackman while listening to betty by Taylor Swift.