Keeping It Candid: PR Lessons From the Kardashians

Whether you love them or loathe them, you can’t deny the power and influence the Kardashian clan carry. They’ve managed to turn what could have easily been fifteen minutes of fame into a billion-dollar empire through shrewd business acumen and savvy PR placement. Well-timed pregnancy announcements, cosmetic fails and powerful ‘alliances’ have all helped the Kardashians create a hugely successful brand that spans countries and generations. While the world they inhabit may be out of reach for most, the tactics ‘momager’ Kris and the family have adopted to grow their brand are surprisingly accessible. Owning your brand narrative, leveraging a multi-channel approach to communication, and turning a crisis into an opportunity are all techniques businesses can utilise to manage their brand’s presence, no matter what sector they’re in.


Keeping to the narrative


The Kardashians shot to fame in 2007 arguably after Kim’s sex tape leaked and her friendship with Paris Hilton led to a reality TV show with her family. Ultimately, the show is testament to the power of owning your own narrative. While tabloid gossip pages and walls of shame are quick to post dramatic, and at times, unfavourable headlines, the show has always ensured that the family gets their side of the story out – even to the point that their narrative often overrides the tabloids. Who can forget the episode where, after much media hype about their feud with Taylor Swift, Kim and Kanye shared Swift’s voice notes apparently exonerating Kanye? Or when the clan wanted to set the record straight about the accusations raised in Caitlyn Jenner’s loaded Vanity Fair interview?


The show’s apparent ‘access all areas’ angle enables the family to engage with these tabloid headlines and offer the ‘authentic’ reaction they want the audience to see while also presenting them as relatable and genuine. Businesses too can adopt this approach, not necessarily through a reality TV show, but by taking a proactive approach to their owned content strategy. Regular authentic content – videos, blog posts, thought leadership articles and social posts – that touches on your customers’ priorities in a tone that truly represents your brand will help create a loyal fanbase that’s ready to jump to your defence.


Keeping connections


Another way the Kardashians manage the family optics is through close relationships with their target media. Carefully chosen ‘leaks’, comments and exclusives to the likes of The Daily Mail and TMZ provide a mutually lucrative relationship. News of both Khloe and Kylie’s pregnancies broke on TMZ conveniently coinciding with new seasons of KUWTK and ultimately driving viewers in their millions.


This is no accident. By providing a constant stream of content to key journalists, they’ve been able to build strong relationships which the family can use to their advantage. While you won’t want your company’s dirty laundry aired in public, the tactic of keeping key journalists up to date with relevant comments and key milestones is a great way to get them on side. This open dialogue works both ways and means journalists will eventually come straight to you when a relevant story crops up, giving you another opportunity to get your message out there. Similarly, legit tip-offs or off the record chats are also welcomed.


Keeping it in the family


While each member of America’s ‘first family’ has their own personality and brand to some extent, none of them works in isolation and there is plenty of cross-over and collaboration to reinforce their messaging. These partnerships are then consolidated across multiple platforms and media, whether that’s TV, print or Instagram. Adopting a coherent multi-channel approach is another effective way for businesses to strengthen their brand presence. The family’s various business ventures from Kourtney’s lifestyle brand to Khloe’s clothing line and Kim’s venture into the legal profession all play out on TV and social, enabling them to reinforce messaging and get instant feedback from fans. The tip here is to create authentic content which clearly communicates brand values.


Similarly, they’re also savvy when it comes to tapping into their siblings’ fanbases – both Kylie and Kim have collaborated on their individual makeup brands – which again reinforces the overall family brand while also allowing each of them to expand their own market. These collaborations work well because there’s a natural connection that comes across authentic. Consumers are savvy and can spot inauthenticity, so when it comes to collaborations across social and products, do your research and find a company whose values align. Similarly, when communicating these with the media make sure you’ve got a joint comms strategy that is completely aligned.


Keeping cool in a crisis


It’s never been so easy for consumers to call out brands which fall short of their expectations. Clear communication is key to crisis management and brands that take a proactive approach tend to fare better. Like any brand, the Kardashians have had their fair share of crises, but through good PR have often been able to turn into a business opportunity. Take rumours that started circulating in 2014 that Kylie had hap lip fillers. This became the catalyst for her makeup empire, Kylie Cosmetics, which started out selling lip kits and which cosmetics giant Coty recently bought a 51 percent stake in for $600 million.


Admittedly, not every crisis will lead nicely into a profitable business venture, but if your business finds itself being called out it does provide a good opportunity to take an honest look at the company and make changes for the better.


Keeping a pulse check


These Kardashian mishaps – let us not forget Kendal’s tone-deaf Pepsi ad and Kim’s recent Covid birthday bash – are a clear reminder for companies to keep a constant pulse check on their brand to ensure that it evolves with their customers. Specifically, the Kardashians tread a fine line between being totally relatable and inhabiting a world most of us can only dream of. Brands which are transparent and adopt authentic values, using the multiple PR tools at their disposal will come out on top.


Katie is a Communications Consultant at TopLine Comms