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Prince, ‘The Artist’: Even His Name Began with ‘PR’

April 29, 2016
byLaura Van Eperen inCreative Services, Public Relations
Prince microphone

We’ve lost quite a few musical legends this year, but none more towering, it seems, than the diminutive, 5’2” giant of an artist known simply as Prince. Or, at times, as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” Or simply as “The Artist.” Or simply as… a non-spoken symbol.

So much has been said about Prince since the tragedy of his recent, untimely death. How his music pierced the soul… how gifted he was to have been able to play more than 20 instruments and to have produced all of his own music at such a young age. How generous he was in offering his songs to fellow artists… and in quietly supporting so many important causes.

But one thing I’m not sure has come through is how the very attributes that Prince possessed are also exactly the qualities and strengths that one should expect from a good public relations agency or PR professional. Prince may have been a bit of an enigma in his public personality, but he was also somewhat of a PR genius. Heck, even his name started with the letters: PR!

Consider these five characteristics of Prince’s persona and how each is consistent with the attributes you should look for in a great PR team:

  1. Talent.  Even those who didn’t like Prince’s music or his image generally concurred that his talent level was off the charts. Any PR agency – or any business or professional entity – is only as good as the talent it attracts and keeps. Technology and innovation play a role, but nothing is more important than the quality and capabilities of the people who make up the team.
  1. Creativity. Justin Timberlake summed up the brilliance of Prince’s creativity and artistry in this way: “Prince, to me, is the ultimate artist. The thing that I love about Prince is he really makes his own rules and I think that in creating something like music, you really shouldn’t have any rules.” Unlike the music business, there certainly are plenty of rules to adhere to in the world of PR, and for good reason. But one unstated rule of thumb is that clients count on their PR strategists to consistently deliver a fresh and creative perspective on how to address their challenges – the kind of advice that may not always be readily available among the internal team within a business or organization.
  1. Credibility. In an era of bonafide lip-sync-ers, auto-tuned vocalists and choreographed “boy bands,” Prince always stood out as a true “artist,” with Hendrix-like guitar skills and an uncanny sense of what would appeal to the music-buying public. PR agencies are expected to guide their clients through a multitude of communications challenges, launch whiz-bang media and marketing campaigns, and create unique opportunities to advance their clients’ goals. Their reputation and their authenticity mean everything, in terms of earning trust and building strong relationships.
  1. Brand management. Nobody – nobody – in the music business reveled more or obsessed more about “building” and “managing” the brand than Prince. The various name changes… leading at one point to the most straight-forward brand of “The Artist.” The color purple – observers last week proclaimed that he practically owned it? Who owns a color? As we all know, brand management is at the heart of everything that goes on in the world of public relations and marketing. Prince understood this, intuitively.
  1. Results. The bottom line for any successful pop star – or PR star – is that you deliver results. You may not need to have a string of #1 songs, a handful of Grammy awards and perform at the Super Bowl, but you do need to make sure that your strategies, tactics and efforts achieve the desired impact and make a measurable difference – if not an enduring legacy, such as that of Prince.
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