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On a Sunday morning in the middle of June 2015 Taylor Swift wrote an open letter to Apple demanding that Apple change their policy and start paying artists for the songs that customers listen to during their 3 free month trial on the streaming Apple Music.

17 Hours later, on a Sunday (!!), Apple executives publicly announced they have changed their policy due to Taylor Swift’s letter.

In a world where so many people resist being pressured by others, in a world in which Apple and many companies get lambasted by so many people that they’ve built a very thick skin around themselves, and in a world in which Apple is the most successful and biggest company on the stock market, how did a 25 year old artist manage to convince them to change their mind?

Let’s look at what she did in the letter:

1)  She started the letter with a bang.  

“I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music.”

This puts her own “skin in the game”, and gives fans, the general public and even Apple executives a powerful reason to keep reading and sharing the letter with others.  She’s not just venting, she’s revealing why she made a decision not to sell her album through Apple Music.

2)  She immediately then praises the company.

“Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music and creating ways for me to connect with my fans. I respect the company”.

Rather than criticize the company or lambasting it as you might hear one politician lambast another, thereby raising the decision maker’s shield, the letter first praises the company and what how it has helped her.

3)  She immediately also honors the decision makers.  

“the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries.”

The decision makers will likely feel this praised them directly, and likely feel honored and respected.  When someone respects you, you’re a whole lot more likely to listen and consider their point of view than if someone publicly expresses how “stupid and idiotic” you are.

This was all done before she even brings up the policy she has a problem with.

4)  She made it very clear that she was criticizing the action, not the company.

“I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.”

In the one line where she has the harshest words for the company’s policy, she also at the same time points out that it’s so unlike the company’s core guiding values that they’ve constantly acted upon.

5)  She made it about more than herself.

“This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success.”

This helped make it a call to action to help the newest and poorest artist.  Made it about the principle, about helping others who aren’t as successful yet as she is.

6)  She addressed the white elephant of the room.

“These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child.”

By addressing the top concern that might be in the mind of the reader – the top criticism that people might have against rich artist asking for more money, she brings it out and helps neuters it with this:

“These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much.”

7)  She ended on a strong note.

“We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

By calling Apple to be fair and treat others the way they expect to be treated, she made a powerful call for fairness.   The example she uses makes the letter memorable.

The result of this letter is that:

1)  She preserved the relationship she had with them either way they decided.  A lot of time an open (or “closed”) letter can burn bridges, but this open letter preserved the bridges while directly spotlighting a policy she disagrees with in the hope of getting it changed.

2)  She made it a win-win for Apple to accede to her request.   She praised them effusively in the letter, she noted how unlike Apple this policy was, and how this service might get it right.  The letter sets it up so that by publicly changing the policy, they look like they are heroes, living up to Apple’s ideals and history.

Not every letter, open or “closed, will achieve its stated aim, but we can all learn from this one that did work.

The whole text of Taylor Swift’s letter can be found here.

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