Forget The Greatest Showman – was P.T Barnum ‘The Greatest SPINman’ of all time?

If you haven’t been aware of The Greatest Showman bubble we’ve all been living in since Christmas, do you even own a phone with acceptable 3G coverage? (or clearly you haven’t been paying the Wifi bill in your student houses).

Because if Hugh Jackman Gifs are not dominating your Twitter, or Zac Efron all up on your Facebook newsfeeds, then you’ve definitely heard the glorious soundtrack that’s been number 1 on iTunes for as long as Apple have had, well, an apple, as their logo.

For those of you who weren’t like me and went to see the musical phenomenon 3 times… yes, you did read that right (“the biggest-grossing original live-action musical EVER”)!

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But let me assure you, there are *no spoilers* in this Blog.

However, what this blog is written about is the very man (played by the delightful Hugh Jackman) that this global movie is ‘loosely’ based on – the infamous life of the legendary showman and crowd-pleaser Phineas T Barnum, which many historical critics argue is “the man who in the 19th century possibly invented entertainment as we know it today.”

He may have invented entertainment, but he also invented his own style of questionable PR.

A man full of bigger-than-life ideas – Barnum marketed to an audience interested in mass, and often crass, entertainment regardless of how factual or ethical such displays were.

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With the real question being… did PT Barnum use PR in an ethical way? Especially, when The Greatest Showman – the movie – is feel-good, joyful viewing, painting a celebratory “body-positive evangelism for diversity” and celebrating those in the world who are unashamedly different.

These different people – the ‘human freaks’ – in “the movie about a circus” have their backgrounds and anatomical achievements humorously exaggerated just a trifle by PT… for publicity purposes (of course). As the famous lyrics are musically sung by the All-Star cast – “impossible comes true… this is the greatest show.”

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Impressively, the ‘Irish Giant’ on the advertising posters wasn’t actually Irish. But the circus audience didn’t know that one… as PT says in the movie “the press will love it!”

However, the arguable thing about the real Barnum recorded in history, is that he was known to have presented “freakishness” in the form of “living curiosities” through active exploitation.

And although it’s not a spoiler, this explains why the movie shows so angry protesters outside the circus after every performance.

Unlike in the movie, which in musical style rejoices “I am me, I am who I’m meant to be” about the uniqueness of human beings, Barnum and his colleagues are said to have created ethnic stereotypes when cordoning off this swath of humanity as “different”.

The Guardian writes: “Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump has been frequently likened by political pundits to PT Barnum. A professional bullshitter with a penchant for loud rhetoric, fake news and racial prejudice? He doesn’t play down the comparison.”

So Donald Trump is the new PT Barnum?

I suppose the White House HAS been actively referred to as a ‘Circus’ in the past year…

In 1865, Barnum’s book Humbugs of the World aimed to inform the public he wasn’t a con-man – that he hadn’t achieved his rags-to-riches success story by scamming the public.

He wrote: “There are various trades and occupations which need only notoriety to insure success,” he claimed – concluding no harm, no foul, so long as at the end of the day customers felt like they got their money’s worth.

As the song suggests from the movie – “It’s everything you ever want, it’s everything you ever need.”

I could go as far as to say PT Barnum was a remarkable publicity man who knew how to work Public Relations in his career… to HIS advantage. (Maybe just not so much the people he caught in his webs whilst spinning whatever he could to achieve whatever he wanted).

The Greatest Showman musical has just reached a whopping $160.766m domestic total in the cinema, and let’s be honest ‘The Greatest Showman’ is what you will find – in PT Barnum or in Hugh Jackman’s efforts alone –  whether you agree with it or not.

It’s a thumbs up from me. 

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Chloe Campbell is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University.  LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/chloe-campbell-337b26152 / Facebook: Chloe Campbell

Conor McGregor: Ultimate PR Champion

As many of you know, great PR will create a great reputation and great public image.  There is one PR campaign however which really stands out above all others and has undoubtedly captured the imaginations of people from all around the world.  At times his bravado and outrageous comments have stirred excitement and anticipation; at other times however, his circus has insulted, embarrassed and even angered many people, leaving us feeling a little weary.  Either way, it has worked.

He is Conor McGregor:  Dubliner, rock star, world champion fighter and the greatest walking, talking PR showman ever.  Not to mention every 14 year old boys absolute idol.  The former apprentice plumber from Dublin has rapidly become Ireland’s ‘Notorious’, and all through the power of his own publicity.  Like him or loath him he is the ultimate PR champion.

In 2007 Conor McGregor quit his apprentice plumbing job and had signed on to collect benefits so he could train with MMA coach, John Kavanagh.  He quickly made a name for himself as an MMA cage fighter but in 2013 he received the call from the UFC.  The rest quite simply is lucrative history.

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Conor McGregor is now the reigning lightweight champion of UFC, he is the face of UFC and the sport’s biggest name.

He puts himself into headlines, he doesn’t just talk; he proclaims wild, bizarre and often insane pronouncements that simply cannot be ignored (a bit like Donald Trump, but maybe not as bad).  Take the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight of 2017; Mayweather was favourite to win, he was undefeated in the boxing ring and is arguably the world’s greatest ever boxer.  This however did not stop the ostentatious McGregor who had never boxed professionally in his life, “I’m gonna f**k this boy up. Make no mistake.”  He remained so confident in his ability, “Tell Floyd and Showtime, I’m coming. … I want $100 million cash to fight him under boxing rules because he’s afraid of a real fight.”  At this, every Irish lad quit their job, booked the flights and swiftly made their way to the bright lights of Vegas – seriously.

While UFC or boxing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, or indeed the insults traded, through relentless and intense publicity, Conor McGregor has grabbed the attention of the world and made headlines.  The public had a thirst for the spectacle that these two mega-personalities were creating each week as the so called, ‘biggest fight of the century’ grew closer.  In the end, the luck of the Irish may not have been on McGregor’s side but yet, he was a triumph for PR.

He is Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor.  Arguably Ireland’s biggest sporting star and despite his entertaining bravado, a very much respected sportsman.  Conor McGregor represents every working-class lad (or lass) from Ireland who wants to take a chance; the class which Conor McGregor personifies is real and current.  They too get up early and work hard, they compete with immigrants in the job, housing and health sectors, their wages are stagnating due to the economy and competition from abroad, yet they get on with it, they work for themselves and remain ambitious, much like McGregor.  They get out there like he did and do it themselves.  In Conor McGregor, the Irish see a hero.  Through mastering his craft, achieving success in PR and becoming ‘The Notorious’, McGregor is a self-made, successful and respected sportsman who never hid his ambition.  He is a representative of Ireland and what many Irish people stand for today.

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Conor McGregor: Ultimate PR Champion, Ultimate Fighting Champion.

Lauren Hill is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-hill-a7807a151/  

 

Putting the PR in Pregnancy

What do you do to boost your image and get people to talk about you? Create news. And this is exactly what the Kardashian/Jenner PR machine is talented at.

You don’t have to like them, but on some level, you have to admire what this PR savvy family has done with our obsession with fame – accurately assessing it, exploiting it and profited significantly by it.

Nothing is unplanned when it comes to their publicity – the strategically leaked stories and careful management of the not-so-staged Snapchat or Insta story. When your product is the life you lead, then you have to keep it interesting, even if that means celebrity feuds, divorce and unclarified rumours – which leads us to the spectacular PR strategy behind Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy reveal.

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In late September initial word of the pregnancy broke and sent the world into a wild frenzy. We waited with baited breath for Jenner to give us some sort of sign or drop a hint to validate the news – but nothing. Months went by with Momager Kris Jenner neither confirming or denying the news and the other sisters remained surprisingly tight lipped, with Kylie remaining remarkably coy – or is it koy? Finally, on 4th February, just hours before the Super Bowl and after months of speculation regarding her pregnancy, Kylie finally broke the silence and confirmed the existence of her pregnancy and the birth of her baby girl.

The family are the epitome of an efficient PR machine, with Kylie’s pregnancy demonstrating how less is more to keep the public guessing and follower numbers growing and how a firm grip on the latest and best ways to exploit social media platforms is vital.

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Jenner released a statement on her Instagram, justifying the months of silence which had led to fostered intrigue and sustained attention on the Kardashian/Jenner clan for almost a year. By neither confirming or denying the pregnancy, Kylie smartly let people to build conversations and propose ideas of their own and so we became so invested in the details that we waited for news, which was in this case – a baby.

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A true testament to the power of good PR.

Mallory Blair, the cofounder and CEO of Small Talk PR, stated “announcing hours before Super Bowl stokes vitality,” she writes, pointing to the crowd mentality of such an event and the likeliness that those gathered together will discuss current events. “It also creates brand alignment with a major, national cultural moment.”

Speaking as a PR professional, Mallory expects that Kylie’s next steps will reflect the same careful strategy. “I’d guess that she’ll parse out the remaining assets as exclusives which will continue to get her leverage in how her story is shared and which of those stories receive the most attention,” she said. “For example, offering the first official baby photo or her first Q&A verses a first broadcast interview are all things that can be used to set the terms of what is and is not shared as a condition of the exclusive”.

Time alone will tell.

Amy Greer is a second year BSc CAM student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: @amyagreer & LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/amygreerrr