Examining the PR Strategies of Self-Made Billionaires: A Case Study

Every business owner understands that profits are driven by sales, but many fail to realize the role PR plays in producing sales. PR connects to and engages with a target audience better than traditional advertising or marketing. It gives a business a sense of personality that the public can connect to, influencing their buying decisions.

Self-made billionaires use PR for the same purpose. However, they often eschew common PR methods in favor of more unique strategies.

These examples will offer an overview of four self-made billionaires and the unique ways they have perfected PR to establish themselves and their success.


Self-Made Billionaire #1:  Kylie Jenner

Though born into the wealthy Kardashian family, Kylie established herself as an independent business woman through her Kylie Cosmetics line. Worth $1 billion as of March 2019, Kylie succeeded in carving out a niche for herself in what is a notoriously difficult and crowded field.

The most impressive part of her story is that it began back in 2015 when she was only 17. Kylie built a massive following on social media (over 100 million followers on Instagram), growing an audience through direct interaction and by producing meaningful content.

She has since become one of the most successful public personas in influencer marketing. She didn’t set out to use social media to advertise at first, but when it came time to launch her first products she was able to market to her audience directly. Through years of social media posts, she cultivated loyalty from her followers while honing her voice.

Influencer marketing is powerful because of the inherent personal connection and the continued growth of social media: you’re likely to reach many more people directly through an influencer’s post than you would a standard web ad. In fact, studies have shown that the average influencer campaign makes $6.50 for ever $1 spent.


Takeaways from Kylie Jenner:

One cannot simply jump into influencer marketing and hope to generate ad revenue. It takes time to build credibility and an audience.

The key is to know your target demographic and connect to them in ways beyond simply trying to sell them something. Creating content with value and raising awareness for causes they care about brings attention to you, which in turn builds into influence.

If you start marketing before you’ve developed a relationship with your audience, your efforts will fail.

Self-Made Billionaire #2: Mark Zuckerberg

Naturally curious at a young age, Mark Zuckerberg began designing software as early as his middle-school years.

His desire to increase connectivity between people can be seen in an early instant messaging program he built during this time that allowed the computers in his father’s office and his home to communicate with one another. By the time he reached Harvard, he had built several other projects before developing Facebook.

Initially open to a few college campuses, Facebook grew to be a worldwide phenomenon once it was made available to the public, making him a billionaire ($64.4B on 3/13/19) in the process.


    Though Facebook as a platform has several aesthetic and functional advantages over the social media websites that came before it, its real success can be found in Zuckerberg’s dedication to an ongoing goal.

With Facebook he wanted to open up communication on a massive scale, allowing users to better connect with like-minded individuals and bring citizens from around the world together without filters or delays.

Though it’s since evolved to include other uses (such as business advertising and gaming), this desire for connection is what unifies Facebook’s design philosophy, and users are kept informed of this with each update.

Takeaways from Mark Zuckerberg:


A clearly-stated purpose is excellent PR. It tells your audience what your brand is about and what you want to achieve.

If you let your goals be known and show how you’re working towards them, you’ll attract the attention of those sympathetic to your goals.

Self-Made Billionaire #3: Elon Musk

Like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk took up an interest in computer programming at a young age, leading him to start several innovative tech companies as an adult.

He’s perhaps most famous for funding and eventually becoming the owner of Tesla, Inc., the developer of electric and smart cars as well as several solar power initiatives. He’s also the owner of SpaceX, a manufacturer in the aerospace field with aims of developing a colony on Mars.

He’s made his mark and found his current status by building and selling successful companies. Today he has an estimated net worth of $21.3B according to Forbes.


    Yet another parallel to Zuckerberg is how open Musk is with the public. His intentions of building a better world through more accessible tech are well known, but his honesty doesn’t end at mission statements. Musk is well known for his honest, sometimes brash opinions on Twitter, which are loved by fans (even if it may cause him some personal trouble from time to time).

When it comes down to how he communicates, Musk doesn’t come across as the typical billionaire CEO. While his goals remain important to him, he doesn’t allow them to compromise his authenticity.


    Takeaways from Elon Musk:

Being authentic carries more weight with your audience than industry jargon and lingo. To put it differently, a business need not communicate with its customers like a business. Honesty through the filter of a corporate veneer doesn’t speak to the average consumer.


People connect with, and respond to, honesty. Period.

Self-Made Billionaire #4: Richard Branson

Worth an estimated $4.2 billion in 2019, Branson started his career as an entrepreneur with no advantages. An average student with dyslexia, a teacher told him upon his graduation from high school that he would either end up in prison or end up a millionaire.

His first venture was a small magazine called Student. On the success of this, he began selling records, leading to the formation of what would become the Virgin Group with his Virgin Record Store. Currently, he works in various travel fields (including space travel), healthcare clinics, and hotels.


Branson is widely known even to those unfamiliar with his many successful business ventures thanks to his often over-the-top PR stunts. From driving a tank down New York Fifth’s Avenue and pretending to blow up the Coca-Cola sign to driving across the English Channel in an amphibious car, Branson shows that he takes his brands seriously without taking himself seriously.

His sense of fun promotion has earned him the label of an eccentric billionaire, but with every stunt, he leaves an indelible imprint on the public, and he knows each time how the audience will react.


Takeaways from Richard Branson:

Putting a public face on your business in the way Branson does broadens your reach by associating the chosen figure with your brand.

Grabbing your audience’s attention is an effective way to advertise and promote your brand, even if you aren’t trying to sell them something directly in doing so. It keeps your business in the public consciousness and maintains their loyalty. ‘

Unique methods of publicity (like Branson’s stunts) have a much longer lasting impact.

Brand Perception is Imperative To Billionaires and Businesses Alike

With these examples in mind, it becomes obvious that the self-made billionaire understands there’s more to a successful business than having a quality product or service.

Brand image plays a major role in both success and failure. Developing a brand image that resonates with your audience requires you to think about how you want to be perceived, and then identifying the right tools and techniques to really engage with your audience.