Swiftly Building Bonds: The Art of Propinquity in Taylor Swift’s World

Taylor Swift is a master at connecting with her fans. What can we learn from Tay Tay about building connectioncreating propinquityas we embrace the hybrid and remote work world? 

The mixtape was how the youth of my generation connected with others. There was beauty in the art of crafting the perfect playlist that conveyed a message, an ethos, emotions. Sharing the mixtape was like sharing oneself. It was like giving a Valentine, saying, “I like you.”   

I spent many hours in front of my gigantic boom box, waiting for my radio request to come on so that I could press “Record” and “Play” at the same time to capture the song on my Memorex tape (go look it up, kids) so I could share it with my friends. I can say that I was an agent of propinquity back then.  

Fast forward to today and the music landscape has changed dramatically. The shift to digital distribution, the impact of social media, and the creation of global music communities through online platforms have reshaped today’s music industry.  

Social media has shifted how an artist builds her brand and connects with fans. Authenticity has become a cornerstone. And meaningful connections with one’s audience happens in many different ways.  

Taylor Swift is a master at connecting with her fans and as a result, she has spawned a tribe of followers across the globe. What can we learn from Tay Tay about building connection — creating propinquity — as we embrace the hybrid and remote work world? 

Music as a Common Ground

Taylor Swift is an accomplished songwriter and storyteller (and poet, if we’re being honest) and her ability to write relatable songs has transcended cultural and geographic boundaries. Her songs explore love, heartbreak, resilience, and self-discovery—universal experiences that resonate with people from diverse backgrounds and ages.  

Propinquity in Practice: Create shared Mission and Values 

Can your employees recite your company’s values like they can a Tay Tay song? If so, great! Swifties (as her fans are called) have common ground in her music. Your company’s shared mission and values is your company’s anthem and can be the rallying point for employees in remote and/or geographically disbursed locations. Consistently integrating the mission and values into various aspects of remote work and regularly reinforcing them through recognition and open communication maintains a strong connection to your company’s core principles, especially in a remote setting. 

Global Fandom

Swift has cultivated a massive and diverse fan base that spans continents and has created a virtual community through her music. Social media is her propinquity tool, and Swift is a master at leveraging it to engage with her fans. She uses these channels as two-way communication and sharing tools; she not only engages with her fans, she also inspires them to engage with each other. They share their interpretations, cover songs, and personal stories related to her music. This interconnectedness amplifies the sense of virtual closeness among fans. 

Propinquity in Practice: Use technology to build community 

Leverage digital communication tools to enhance connection and collaboration. You don’t have to be a TikTok star, but learn some of the features of these digital tools and use them! And encourage and create non-work team channels on Slack or other collaboration platforms so employees can connect on more than just team projects. It’s not uncommon to see active engagement in Slack channels around sports, TV shows, cooking, working out. Employees can share their personal interests, get and give advice and encouragement, and organize get togethers around common interests. In addition, channels or platforms for recognition help to recognize the achievements of employees and build a culture of recognition.  

Taylor Swift with fans

Concerts and Live Event Experiences

Swift’s global tours are sold out in minutes and give fans from diverse backgrounds and different geographies an opportunity to come together to celebrate her music. These concerts become spaces where the shared experience of singing along to her songs creates a profound connection among the audience. 

When touring, Swift often organizes meet-and-greets with fans. A select number of fans have backstage face-to-face interactions with her. She also organizes fan-centric events, such as the “Secret Sessions,” where she invites a select group of fans to her homes to preview new music before its official release. These events create exclusive, intimate experiences for dedicated fans. 

Propinquity in Practice: Schedule in-person events 

Swift’s live concerts are the ultimate vehicle for her to build connection with her fans and for her fans to connect with each other. Whether your company is fully remote or hybrid, scheduling in-person opportunities for employees to connect goes a long way in building propinquity.

Some companies have all-hands retreats. Others do more region-specific meet-ups. Encourage your traveling executives to take additional time to connect with others in the organization besides their team. And remember to include times to connect about things outside of work. A casual happy hour bowling or dinner. Coffee with the team. An escape room session.  

Building stronger connections on things outside of work makes the work relationships even stronger.  

Authenticity, Accessibility, Resonance 

Swift is active on social media and she uses these platforms to share updates about her life, projects, and to interact directly with fans. She often responds to fan comments, occasionally engages with fans through live streams and Q&A sessions. 

Swift has evolved as an artist over the years, experimenting with different genres and styles. She also shares parts of her life in her documentary film, Miss Americana, in her interviews, and of course, in her songs. This willingness to evolve and grow and share her heartbreak and challenges in her music and on film resonates with fans who may be going through their own journeys. She shows her fans she is human and has the same anxieties and insecurities in her life as her fans. Her fans are able to relate to her on a more personal level and embrace her even more because of her willingness to show her vulnerability.  

Propinquity in Practice: Cultivate authenticity and accessibility 

Being genuine and true to oneself can create a deeper connection with others. It’s okay to be vulnerable as a leader. Seize every moment you can to connect with your employees. Go beyond surface-level questions like, “How are you?” Ask, “What has been the highlight of your day so far?” or “Is there a particular goal or dream you’re currently working towards?” And remember to share your answers too. 

Structure your accessibility with practices like standing virtual office hours and regular check-ins, especially if your company is remote or hybrid. If you’re in office, get out from behind your desk and sit in the open area every once in a while. Be present in the moment! Put your phone away and turn off your messaging alerts when you’re meeting with an employee. Be approachable in your demeanor. Smile, maintain eye contact, and display open body language to make others feel comfortable approaching you. 

Like the music industry, the workplace has changed dramatically. We’ve gone from mixtapes to streaming and from in-office as the norm, to hybrid being the standard. While it may seem that building the kind of connection that was easy to do in person is a thing of the past, there are many tools and practices available to build a different kind of connection. You just need to be intentional about it. 

I no longer use mixtapes as the tool for building connection, but there are other ways that I can tell someone I like them. It’s the heart emoji on an Instagram post, the forwarding of relevant LinkedIn articles to a colleague, and the thumbs-up emoji on a Zoom call that facilitate the expression of my emotions and is how I can connect in this digital world.  

Take a page out of Tay Tay’s songbook and you too will start creating a fan base of your employees. 

Photo credits 

Via Wikimedia Commons: Paolo Villanueva, @itspaolopv  

Via Wikimedia Commons: Screenshot from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdGBc5m3hc4 

About the Author:

Jocelyn Manuel brings two decades of rich and diverse experiences and expertise to her role as Director of Consulting Services at +One. From the first touchpoint throughout the entire client life cycle, Jocelyn is passionate about helping organizations—and the people who comprise them—to achieve lasting success by cultivating a positive and impactful workplace culture.