By Morgan Berk
The surprising success of Hugh Jackman’s performance in “The Greatest Showman” has brought the name Phineas Taylor Barnum back into the forefront of people’s minds. This seems like the perfect time to reflect on Barnum’s unique publicity methods and how they paved the way for some of the public relations methods we still use today.
America’s Greatest Showman was not a perfect man by any means, but his impact on the age of publicity and press agentry has left a lasting mark on public relations and advertising. A lot can be learned from Barnum and his illustrious career.
Today we know that many of the advertising and publicity tactics used by the self-proclaimed “Prince of Humbugs” were unethical at best. However, while still acknowledging Barnum’s role in the exploitation of marginalized people, it is also important to remember the good and useful things that are part of his legacy.
Advertising existed long before Barnum’s time, but he managed to usher in an era of publicity that took advertising to a whole new level. The following are four advertising or promotion methods we still see today that were brought into the spotlight by P.T. Barnum more than a century ago:
- The Pseudo-Event
Pseudo-events, also known as media events, are well planned events orchestrated for the purpose of generating publicity and media attention. These events didn’t earn their name until the term was coined by Daniel Boorstin in 1961. They existed long before P.T. Barnum, but he brought them into prominence with his loud and unapologetic brand of publicity. The “freak shows” that Barnum was most known for are a prime example of pseudo-events, as they existed for no other purpose than to draw in a crowd and stir controversy on the streets and in the newspapers.Today we see a variety of pseudo-events, ranging from press conferences, to award shows and reality TV, all events that exist purely to create news.
- Museum Advertising
To promote his American Museum, Barnum displayed oversized banners on the side of the building to announce new attractions in the museum. This is a tactic that we still see today at major museums such as the Smithsonian.
- Concert Promotion
Lesser known than his circus expertise is Barnum’s foray into the arts. In August 1850, he brought the “Swedish Nightingale” to the United States. The opera singer Jenny Lind was wildly successful in Europe, but virtually unknown in America at that time. Without even hearing her sing, Barnum invited Lind to perform on a tour across America and proceeded to generate incredible amounts of hype surrounding her arrival. Thirty thousand people were there to greet her as she arrived in New York Harbor and her tour went on to net more than a half-million dollars, impressive numbers for 1850. Much of Lind’s success should be attributed to her talent and personality, but credit for the excitement generated before her arrival can be given to Barnum, who began publicizing the tour more than six months in advance.
Live music continues to thrive in today’s society, with fans flocking to their favorite musicians’ tours in the thousands. Tickets to see major artists, including Adele, Elton John, Beyonce and Taylor Swift, sell out in mere seconds thanks to the skill of those who promote the tours, many of whom use some of the same tactics that Barnum used to make Jenny Lind a global sensation.
- Vehicle Advertising
The first actual vehicle wrap advertisement was most likely created for Pepsi Co. in 1993 to promote its Crystal Pepsi product. However, advertising on the sides of vehicles is an idea that originated in the age of P.T. Barnum. Barnum would send horse-drawn wagons through New York City that were plastered with posters and signs advertising his American Museum. Walk or drive around today, and you’re likely going to see countless buses, 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles plastered with various advertisements.
When looking back at and discussing historical figures, it is important to remember that people are neither entirely good or bad, or entirely ethical or unethical. Both may exist in the same individual, and neither should be erased. So when the topic of P.T. Barnum next comes up, his shortcomings should indeed be addressed in full measure, but his many contributions to public relations and advertising should be remembered as well. Barnum’s life has left a lasting mark on public relations and advertising, one that is certain to endure much further into the future.
By Sarah Schroll
Each day, 1.5 billion viewers watch an hour or more of videos on YouTube. Over the last five years, YouTube has increased its viewership ten-fold and the different kinds of content has expanded. Because of this, companies are contacting popular YouTubers to showcase and promote their products as social media influencer relations has increased in importance. Below are a few ways that YouTubers have changed the game for public relations.
- PR Haul Videos
A trend with more popular YouTubers is having videos where the YouTuber strictly opens products that were sent to them from companies. With many of these videos reaching a million or more views, companies are seeing the value of sending an item to a YouTuber with the channel content in mind. This gives the company the potential of not only getting screen time for their products but also gives that YouTuber the opportunity to make a future video using their product.
- Trying products sent from companies in a video
Many companies have found it beneficial to send new products to YouTubers because it gives them visibility and credibility that advertisements and paid sponsorships do not. In the PR Haul video that is pictured above, YouTuber Tati opens a product that was sent to her by L’Oreal Cosmetics and says “I think I need to do a video on this actually, not sponsored, just sent to me.” Two weeks after the haul video was posted, Tati made a video using the product.
- First Impressions, Favorites and Haul Videos
These are videos that have little to no sponsorship attached. This style of video gives the impression that the YouTuber is providing their honest opinion of the product. If this product is liked by the YouTuber, it can be a powerful component in the consumer’s decision to buy. This is a doubled–edged sword, however, because many YouTubers will discuss products that they didn’t care for as well.
One of the oldest ways that companies have showcased their products on YouTube is through sponsorships. This could be showcasing products in a video and having a link to the product in the description or simply stating that the video is sponsored in the title. Sponsorships are mutually beneficial to both parties as both receive revenue from the collaboration. The content of these videos tend to have more of an advertisement feel and some people may not find it appealing.
By Elizabeth Fisher
Some of the most famous tweets were shared by celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and President Barack Obama, however, a teenager from Reno, Nev., may surpass all previous retweet records. Wendy’s, “Yo @Wendys how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?” Carter Wilkerson, with one simple tweet, begged Wendy’s to supply him free chicken nuggets for one year. Soon, he may exceed the highest number of retweets ever recorded.
Wendys response was simple, “18 Million.” Now, clearly Wendy’s was joking, however, one simple joke has spawned a firestorm of engagement for both Wilkerson and Wendy’s. The most retweeted tweet in the history was created by Ellen DeGeneres, which has about 3.3 million retweets. This makes 18 million from a 16-year-old in Reno, Nev., sound impossible, but the power of social media may prove otherwise.
Carter took a screenshot of his interaction with Wendy’s and posted it to Twitter with the caption, “HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS.” This tweet now stands at 2.6 million retweets and continues to climb. Wilkerson hopes that this number will continue to rise so he can receive free chicken nuggets for a year. He is now known as the “chicken nugget man” at his high school, according to ABC News.
This is a great example about how customer loyalty could create a social media buzz. If Wendy’s had not responded to Wilkerson, there would have been no attention brought to the tweet or Wendy’s. Because Wendy’s tweeted back to Wilkerson, they brought attention to their restaurant and social media.
Personification has become popular for businesses on Twitter. People do not want to tweet to companies who give all customers the same response or no response at all. By creating a personality for your Twitter, people feel like they are actually talking to a real person instead of just a machine. This, in turn, creates strong customer loyalty. Wendy’s did a great job in showing that they were listening to Carter and gave him a unique response.
By Cole Braun
Innovative Public Relations, a student-led PR firm at UCM, has organized a social media night event for five years and is more excited than ever before to launch this year’s activities. It’s funny how people believe these events are easy to execute, however, this is far from the truth. Social media is still an unrefined tundra in the last frontier of digital marketing.
Weeks of careful planning and writing are necessary to facilitate an event like this. It is much more than just tweeting about something and seeing if your audience comprehends what you are trying to say. Every sentence and word are planned for a specific reason and you have to account for cross platform posting. It requires critical strategic thinking about the choice of platforms.
Multiple publics are being taken into consideration as we prepare certain messages for the event. We want to have giveaways that will engage people in the event, so we have collected a wide variety of prizes for our multiple audiences. We think about what certain publics would like, what is something everyone would want. This is where the tactical tool of research can help. Then the next decision is, which platform is best through which to give certain prizes away.
Events can be complicated, intricate and overwhelming, so in recognizing the complexity of event planning, I wanted to share tips I have learned in preparation for this social media night. These tips can help you survive the Wild West, that is the world of social media marketing right now.
Here are 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts on hosting a social media event.
● DO: Engage your audience with fun and exciting content.
If you want your audience to engage with you then you need to give them a reason to hit the like button and respond back. You will not get far just telling people to go somewhere else online to do something. Be creative here, make a silly pun or add a goofy image. Don’t be another block of text in the news feed.
● DO NOT: Copy previous work from local similar attempts.
It looks silly and confuses the public. They are not paying attention to who is doing it, only that something is happening. So don’t embarrass your organization and step all over the work done by previous groups.
● DO: Provide a variety of opportunities for all in attendance.
Not everyone in attendance is going to be a Twitter user, or a Snapchat user. So if you want your event to be engaging, make sure to interact with all audiences in some form. Alienating one audience may compromise their engagement and your brand image.
● DO NOT: Make it an obstacle course for the audience.
Making it a hassle to participate is not how you create a successful event. No one wants to download this, click here for more or have to jump across multiple platforms for one prize. Your audience will instantly lose interest if they have to take too many steps. Make it simple such as, “reply with the answer to this question or send us back a picture.”
● DO: Plan ahead!
I know this seems like a silly thing to say, but it is important. Social media is still a Wild West world and anything can happen. So plan ahead for an inappropriate response or someone trying to abuse your competitions. Create a plan of action for any incident that could possibly happen. If something never happens, that’s great, but it’s better to be prepared.
● DO NOT: Be afraid of collaboration.
Sometimes you aren’t going to have all the answers, that’s okay. That is why it’s fun to bring in people from outside organizations to share ideas. By working with multiple individuals, you will have the chance to get tips and tricks you never would have considered. Collaboration is a key tool in the world of public relations, but sometimes it’s not the best tool. If those partnerships are not ideal, then separate. Don’t just burn the bridge.
● DO: Thank your sponsors!
If you have brought in outside groups or businesses to help sponsor giveaways or other parts of your event, thank them. Giving them appropriate acknowledgement could strengthen their future participation. Keep your side of any commitments you have made. Showing gratitude to groups that help you put on your event is essential to its success and future endeavors.
● DO NOT: Try to plan last minute.
Lack of planning creates heartache, confusion and makes for a sloppy event. So plan ahead. Last-minute work is messy work.
● DO: Keep note of all interactions.
Paperwork may be stressful at the time, but it makes life so much easier further down the road. This helps with keeping track of promises made to sponsors and what sponsors have done in the past. When you go back to them for the next event, you have record of their previous contributions, which can help make their decision in participating again easier. Essentially, you will have all the answers for them so all they have to do is decide how much support they can provide above last year’s efforts.
● DO NOT: Forget the reason for your event.
It is easy to get so hyped up about your social media event you forget the reason you are doing this in the first place. An immediate example is our event this Thursday, Feb. 16, #teamUCM Social Media Night. The purpose behind this event is to foster a strong sense of community between the University population, local businesses and citizens of Warrensburg, Missouri. Though the main audience is UCM students campus, we cannot forget the other factors. If we lose sight of that, then the event can easily fall to shambles.
Social media is a tool for all, not just college students and teenagers. It can be part of a strategy to make your event engaging. Remember this; research, critical thinking and tactical decision-making are your best tools in the Wild West-like field of social media.
By Brittany Green
When Twitter was first launched, people were uncertain how successful it would be. Now in 2016, there are millions of users and more than 500 million tweets sent out every day. People are using Twitter to find news, share information and connect with people and businesses around the world. It has become a very powerful tool, not only for social purposes, also to help businesses market their brands.Some of the most successful companies use Twitter because it allows them to reach a large audience, interact with them quickly and keep them updated with content information.
Chipotle is a great example of a company that efficiently uses Twitter to interact with it’s audiences. According to a 2011 Nation’s Restaurant News Study, 90 percent of the company’s activity on Twitter is responding to customers through @mentions. Chipotle currently has 743,000 followers that it can interact and share content with. That is certainly amazing, but also something that, in principle, any business can do. If you’re interested in using Twitter to build your brand, here are some tips to help you get started.
Use the search feature
One of Twitter’s most powerful tools is the search feature. It can operate as a “global human search engine” of sorts and allows people to find others on Twitter with relevant information to share. Researchers also can look to see which topics are trending to stay informed and gauge audience interests. Hashtags (#) can help people immensely when searching. Just put a “#” in front of a topic and a lists of relevant tweets will appear. This can save you a lot of trouble and makes it very easy to search.
Know your audience
It is VERY important to know your audience. This will help you communicate clearly and make information relevant to them. If the content is not interesting, they will quickly move on to the next thing that interests them. The search feature can be very useful for learning about your
target audiences. It can tell you what is trending and their opinions on what’s going on. Another option is to look at various profiles and start collecting information. What are their interests and opinions? When are they active? Who do they follow? Which demographic groups do they belong to? These details can help give you an edge when creating strategic messaging for your audiences.
Customize the profile page
This plays a BIG role in visitors’ decisions to either read your content or move on. If your page is boring and doesn’t attract visitors, they probably aren’t going to follow you. The profile page should grab the visitors’ attention and convey who you are and what you’re about. While customizing the profile page, perhaps the most important decision is choosing a good avatar, as it will appear next to every tweet that is sent out. Make it something recognizable and eye-catching. Brand logos often fit well here since they are usually designed with these ideas in mind. An attractive banner image is a nice touch as well, and don’t forget to include links to your other social media accounts and/or website in order to create deeper engagement.
Tweet interesting content
This one may seem obvious, but bland content is still a common mistake that plagues the social media of many businesses. The Twitter feed is built around scrolling endlessly through a series of short posts. To escape the monotony, many people just scroll until something grabs their attention. Content should be fun, interesting and useful. Common themes or ideas in your content can help to establish your brand identity and keep readers coming back. Interesting, personal content is what separates your brand from everyone else, so use it to your advantage.
Engage with other accounts
Engaging with other accounts, particularly those within your industry/field, can be highly beneficial. Building relationships can help to build your reputation, grow your brand, increase awareness, provide sources of interesting content and keep you informed. This can also keep you informed about what your competitors might be doing and the state of the market.
More and more businesses are using Twitter as a professional communication platform, and if you follow these tips, yours can be one of them. On that note, remember to follow Innovative PR on Twitter and Facebook.
By Molly Olten
Fine Brothers Entertainment, a popular YouTube channel, recently launched into crisis mode. The creators, known for popular videos such as Elders React to Dubstep and Kids React to Old Computers, announced plans to allow other video makers to “franchise” the brothers’ video formula. These plans also include trademarking the word “react.”
This is where the issues start.
The response from the YouTube community has been overwhelmingly negative. Creators feel threatened that trademarking a vague term like “react” could create numerous problems for other YouTube users and ultimately hinder creativity. Their fears were immediately confirmed as numerous videos were taken down for infringement. Ironically, several YouTubers have made their own reaction videos to the news.
So what can PR professionals learn from all of this?
The Fine Brothers are essentially dealing with a crisis. Although quick to respond, their strategy has not met the needs of the affected audience. Here are three lessons PR professionals can take away from this situation.
Listen to your audience
When their plans to trademark became public, the brothers’ substantial 13 million subscriber audience began to voice its opinions – loudly. In the early stages of the update a dialogue began between the brothers and their audience,
however, eventually as the situation worsened, the brothers backed out. They began deleting negative posts and questions. Bad move.
This amount of backlash deserves to be properly addressed. An audience wants more than anything to be heard. By silencing negative responses, the outrage will only grow. The conversation will be taken somewhere else – somewhere a brand cannot adequately communicate.
Clarify and then clarify some more
Part of the problem with the Fine Brothers’ announcement was their lack of clarity. They didn’t understand the fears of the YouTube community or how this would threaten their creative freedoms. Because of this misunderstanding, the Fine Brothers employed side-stepping language and vague examples. They tried masking the intentions of their initiative. This fueled speculation by concerned audiences and left the consequences up for interpretation.
Although a company may have been planning a change for months, when the announcement is made public, the information is totally new to audiences. There will be plenty of questions, and organizations need to have answers. If they do not receive adequate responses to their questions, the audience will make its own assumptions and this can add to the problem. Clarity is key.
After the storm of protests just a few days after the initial announcement, the brothers uploaded an update video. Despite the fast response, the creators seemed rehearsed and not genuine. It seems that the Fine Brothers still think their audience considers them to be just a couple of guys making funny videos, but this is not the case. Their channel essentially functions as a business, and the viewers know this. Many of those who responded to the update commented on its forced nature and rehearsed appearance.
Audiences know when an explanation is coming from a place of sincerity or insincerity. An obligatory, seemingly forced “sorry” will not suffice when the audience is deeply connected to the issue.
Know your audience, respect it and own up to the mistake.
Eventually, the Fine Brothers realized the error of their ways and decided to back down from trademarks. In an effort to save their reputation, they released a statement recanting all their future plans. Despite this gesture, the brothers’ YouTube channel has suffered significant subscriber loss and serious damage to follower loyalty. Overall, this was the best and only move the brothers could make.
The bigger picture: While this crisis brings up serious questions about trademarks and fair use, PR professionals can take a few notes from the struggle. Know your audience, be clear and be genuine. This is solid advice for nearly any situation, but it’s especially important in crisis situations.
by Nikki McClaran
If you got your iced caramel macchiato at Starbucks last week, you probably found “Race Together” written on your cup. No, this was not a challenge to initiate a store-wide coffee drinking competition, but Starbucks’ attempt at a social awareness campaign about racial inequality.
The idea: Initiate conversation about diversity through your cup of Joe.
The outcome: Serious backlash, a shut-down Twitter account, and the halt of the campaign the week of its launch.
This was not Starbucks first dive into social issues, the Starbucks Foundation being a large part of the global corporation. So, how did this campaign manage to fail so miserably, even with such good intentions? Looking from a purely PR perspective, Starbucks’ committed two missteps that really burnt the beans.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Racial inequality has been a serious topic in the news this past year with headlines from the Ferguson, Mo. crisis and Eric Garner’s death. Unlike Starbuck’s past campaigns that addressed AIDS and jobs in America, this social issue stands out in that it is at a peak of tension with two distinct sides. Making customers believe that Starbucks was truly invested in the issue rather than being financially opportunistic required thorough planning- something Starbucks failed to do.
Planning comes at all levels, and not only did the corporate executives not know how to handle the situation (spoiler: that’s next), the baristas didn’t either. Videos of baristas being unaware of the program or not wanting to discuss it began popping up all over the web.
Starbucks, I get that you’re a big company and it’s hard to get everyone on the same page, but with such a heated topic, better preparing the ones who are primarily responsible for executing the campaign might be a good idea, especially since you were just accused of creating gentrification. It could prevent you coming off as a money-hungry corporation, seeking to capitalize on sensitive issues.
Brew up a crisis plan, and actually follow it.
Social media is like coffee. It has the ability to brighten your day and energize all of your efforts, but it also has the capability to give you really bad breathe before that 8 a.m. meeting. As an active social media beast, you would think that Starbucks is prepared for the negative consequences social media can bring, but that didn’t seem to happen. Almost immediately after its launch last Sunday, Starbucks began receiving serious Twitter backlash.
— Cameron Gray (@Cameron_Gray) March 17, 2015
Doing my part to #racetogether by saying “Django” when asked by the starbucks barista for my name.
— Desus Nice (@desusnice) March 21, 2015
Did Starbucks start their #RaceTogether thing yet? I’m about to get an iced coffee and need to know if I should bring my Baldwin quotes.
— Marquita (@MarqRobinson) March 20, 2015
I’m assuming (and hoping) that Starbucks had a crisis plan established, yet rather than follow it, they responded the worst way you probably could- they didn’t. Corey duBrowa, Starbucks’ senior vice president of communications, fueled the fire by supposedly blocking Twitter accounts that responded negatively to Race Together and deactivating his own account. Bad move, duBrowa.
— Brianna Leigh (@raininblack) March 17, 2015
And now Starbucks’ chairman and CEO, Howard Shultz, is defending that the halting of the campaign as planned and intended. I hope this is true, rather than a last-minute attempt to justify the company’s actions.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to visit Starbucks for my soy, no foam latte. Honestly, Starbucks has done a great job with social media engagement and humanitarian events in the past. This just wasn’t Starbucks’ cup of tea and from it we can see the value in proper campaign planning and crisis management. Want to espresso your thoughts? Comment below.
by Jonathan Haile
Stock photos are obviously staged, somewhat awkward and often very expensive. There is rarely anything unique about them. The same thing can be said about promotional campaigns for upcoming movies. There is usually a poster, then a teaser, then a trailer, and finally TV and print ads. The funny thing is that when stock photos meet film promotions, you find a fresh way to get people interested in your movie. Kudos to marketers behind Twentieth Century Fox’s new film, Unfinished Business.
About the film
In the movie, actors Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco (playing an inexperienced business pro named Mike Pancake) head off to Europe, bidding to win the business of a huge client, but the trip goes awry. With Vaughn at the helm, you can expect this won’t be a film for families.
The images, available for free on Getty Images, are perfect spoofs of easily recognizable stock images. In the series of photos, you’ll see Vaughn, Franco and Wilkinson (clearly Photoshopped) looking positive and productive, and positioned to exude ideal business professionals in their ideal work environments. While a lot of companies aim to be more appealing to the public with senses of humor, it’s not hard to imagine seeing this on a website soon.
Why this is great
As I touched upon above, movie promotion involves a formulaic process. The process is the most effective way to get people into theater seats. That’s why studio films make money hand over fist, and independent films don’t. The process is boring, but marketers do a lot of things, big and small, to energize the campaigns. My favorite example is (bear in mind, for a television show) HBO’s placement of a giant dragon skull on an English beach; a promotion for its hit series, Game of Thrones.
Granted Fox’s use of stock photos is significantly smaller, in scale and effort, than a beach dragon, doing something new is always appreciated by marketers and film fans, alike. Will the movie be good? That remains the big question, but in the meantime, I’ll continue to commend whoever thought of this idea. I hope those looking for business-related photos on Getty Images are doing double-takes and laughing at what they find.
by Nikki Carpenter
For public relations students like myself, there is not an experience quite like Innovative Public Relations. To be honest, I did not know what I was getting into when I joined IPR. I had no idea what projects I would be assigned to, who would be on my team, and the skills I would quickly develop. The only thing I had to compare it to was a sports internship from over the summer.
In August, my team learned that we would be collaborating with the firm’s first off-campus client. Larry Schnieders, a retired corporate executive and UCM PR alumnus, wanted to share a story connecting two Kansas City high schools that have been housed at the same location. Both of the schools and their students prospered when all odds were against them.
The focus of our campaign is to utilize a crowdfunding platform to acquire the funds necessary for the shooting and editing of the film. As specialists with marginal knowledge of this unique fundraising technique, we found ourselves spending our time researching everything possible. From tips to statistics to looking at successful pages, we quickly developed a strategic approach in order to raise the necessary funds.
In partnership with Through A Glass Productions, “Together We’re Stronger” revisits the extraordinary story of Bishop Lillis High’s unexpected Missouri basketball state title in 1961. The team consisted of transfer students and a first-year coach. The film will have interviews of the players and coach of this team, who have gone on to be successful. One player was twice-elected mayor of Omaha, Nebraska. Another went on to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
The documentary will also follow Lillis’ legacy through the building’s current tenant, DeLaSalle Education Center. DeLaSalle is a charter school with alternative-style curriculum, and the only school of its kind in Missouri. DeLaSalle relies on donations and fundraisers to provide at-risk youth a personalized education to improve learning and life skills. The film is expected to bring a new audience to the school that has already reached its capacity of 300 students with a waiting list.
The crowdfunding campaign to raise $18,000 will continue until Dec. 7 on Kickstarter. Check out the page here! For up-to-date information on everything regarding this project, make sure to like “Together We’re Stronger” on Facebook and follow the film on Twitter.
Pictures via Hank Young and Kali Schnieders