Country star Jennifer Nettles on balancing being an artist and 'a brand'

Nettles said artists will either "get on this train or get left behind."

Photo credit: Matthew Honovic
Photo credit: Matthew Honovic

NEW YORK: For a long time, Grammy Award-winning country music artist Jennifer Nettles did not appreciate being called a "brand."

"I was like, ‘If you call me a freaking brand one more time, I am going to come out of my skin,’" she said at PRWeek’s Hall of Femme on Wednesday. "But the reality is, in this day and age, the lines between [being an artist and a businessperson] overlap in ways they never did."

Before the digital age, if fans wanted to know something about their favorite artist, they had to read it in a magazine. Nettles noted that she prefers the idea of artists being represented by just their art and the "mystery" they used to be shrouded in.

"But at the same time, it is what it is, and we are either going to get on this train or get left behind," she said.

Artists now get greater visibility and scalability and that offers celebrities such as Nettles a bigger megaphone through which to share their art.

"If I can keep that higher goal, I don’t resent it nearly as much," she said.

Discussing the value of having a publicist, Nettles said they act as "super-important filters."

Not all artists know how to speak "corporate language" that will get people’s attention in the way it should or that people understand, she said. That’s where publicists or PR staffers can help.

"We speak the language of artists; we speak in metaphors," Nettles said.

Women to watch

Esther Mireya Tejeda, VP and head of corporate comms and PR, Entercom Communications
"[Communications pros] are beyond being storytellers. We are actually protectors of brands and revenue. We are living in a world where consumers or listeners have very high expectations. We are being held accountable for our content and behaving in the community that we serve in the way that is aligned with the principles we stand behind. When that doesn’t happen, they will protest and boycott. Advertisers will pull dollars."

"Why wait for a crisis to happen? Why not bring crisis comms people in at the very beginning and help us not have a crisis at all."

Thien Ho, executive director of corporate communications, Dine Brands Global
"The smartest executives I have worked with know what they don’t know. When you are vulnerable enough to know what you don’t know, you bring in people from cross-functions into the conversation."

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