7 PR lessons from Justin Bieber

The teen heartthrob offers some sound advice on fans, hard work, and hair.


Our family cut the cable cord earlier this year. So far, it’s working out great. We watch less TV, and the TV we do watch is much better.

But last month my daughter stumbled on the Justin Bieber bio-pic “Never Say Never” on Netflix. At age five, she’s already a fan. We dance to Bieber songs on Saturday mornings in her room. (OK, maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but she’s my daughter. Come on!)

So, when she saw the movie, we had to watch it.

Of course I was a bit hesitant. After all, normal grown men don’t listen to Justin Bieber. Then again, I’ve never done anything the “normal” way. I appreciate musical genius, and Bieber is a definite musical talent. You don’t have to like him, but the kid has a musical gift.

Here’s the other thing: While I watched the movie, it quickly became clear that Bieber is a PR genius, too. I counted seven lessons I learned from the Biebs. See if you agree:

1. Work one-on-one with customers.

Bieber is famous for his fan interaction-the one-on-one attention he gives all his fans, not just his biggest ones.

Consider Avalanna Routh, the six-year-old who is also known as “Mrs. Bieber” for her devotion to the star. Routh recently passed away, but before that Bieber met the young girl and buoyed her spirits with the amount of time he spent with her. This is just one example of the way Bieber connects with his fans—even those who have little chance of making it to the arena to see him.

As communicators, we focus a lot of time and energy on attracting many eyeballs. We rarely focus on just two. But can’t that one-on-one attention turn into the rabid word-of-mouth so many companies crave? Just look what Bieber is doing.

2. Give, give, give.

There’s a nice scene in “Never Say Never” where Bieber’s people troll the streets of Toronto before a show to talk to young girls in a neighborhood. It’s obvious the young girls are Bieber fans.

After chatting with the girls a bit, the team offers them tickets to the show. The girls are floored. They go nuts. They scream. They jump. They jump some more. And then they run off to tell everyone they know how Justin Bieber gave them free tickets to his concert.

By giving away those tickets, Bieber not only cemented loyalty with two life-long fans, he probably won over more people—the friends and families those two girls told this story to for the next month.

Many companies struggle with giving products, services and ideas away for free. But the reality is the more you give, the more you get. Isn’t that the mantra we were all told as kids? How come we forget that when we start working on behalf of organizations?

3. Have fun.

I challenge you to find one moment in “Never Say Never” where Bieber doesn’t have a smile on his face. He is the epitome of photogenic. And it comes across naturally—he’s not faking it. He’s having fun. He’s enjoying himself. It’s something we could all learn from, not just those of us in PR.

4. Know the power of one fan.

You know the song “One Less Lonely Girl”? Well, I do because it’s my daughter’s favorite Bieber song. In the movie, Bieber makes a habit of picking one girl out of the crowd during the concert and asking her to come on stage for this song. He gives her roses. He puts her on a pedestal (literally). He makes her feel like the most loved and important person in the room. It’s basically every Bieber fanatic’s dream come true.

He understands the power of one fan, and the power of all those other Bieber fans seeing her realize her dream. How can you channel the power of that one fan for your organization?

5. Know it’s all about the hair.

Just kidding. I got you though, didn’t I?

6. Share the love.

In the movie, Bieber asks Jaden Smith to perform with him at his huge show at Madison Square Garden (as well as Ludacris and a few others). This is obviously a tactic performers have used for years. They bring in other performers to give their show an extra oomph.

In this case, I don’t think Bieber needed the extra oomph. So why did he do it? Because Bieber seems to be all about his community: his fans, road team, family, and partners.

Think about what this means for your company. What partners can you promote from time to time? Can that help you achieve any of your strategic goals? We spend so much time thinking of ways to promote our businesses that we sometimes forget we can reach our target audiences through our partners from time to time. And they are usually more than happy to help contribute to our success.

7. Work hard, but don’t overdo it.

There’s a scene in “Never Say Never” where Bieber’s voice coach encourages him to cancel one show to save the entire tour. Bieber had issues with his vocal chords after he gave some 100-plus shows without missing a single one.

In that scene, you can tell Bieber wants to do the show. He doesn’t want to let down his fans. He doesn’t want to miss a show. He is one hard-working kid. But everyone around him tells him he has to postpone it to save the tour.

Don’t fall into the same trap Bieber almost fell into. Work hard, just don’t work yourself to death. I have a saying I picked up a while back from a mentor and boss: “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” This is so true.

Those are the lessons I learned from the Biebs. (Did I really just write that?)

What about you? If you’ve seen the movie (read: if you also have a five-year-old daughter), what do you think? Do you have any lessons to add?

Arik Hanson is principal of ACH Communications. A version of this article originally ran on his blog, Communications Conversations.

(Image via)

Topics: PR

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