April Fools’ Special – Legends of PR: Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum

March 31, 2009


April 1 being a day of tomfoolery, the first ever in a series titled “Legends of PR” will pay homage to the undisputed supreme showman and master of hoaxes, dog shows, poultry contests, publishing, theater, lotteries, museums (freak shows), circuses and straight up hustling for most of the 1800’s.

P.T. Barnum was a crafty, divisive, and exceedingly motivated man fueling his success and providing several books worth of yarns and biographical information. Read them if you want his life story. In honor of the day however, the focus will be on his epic and most historical hoaxes mixed with some provocative quotes and PR lessons. 

One of Barnum’s first great feats of fraud included the presentation of a woman nearing 80 as the 160 year old former personal nurse to America’s first president and the original G-Dubya. It was Barnum’s only attraction, held in a theater/saloon, yet he promoted it with every type of media available (lots of dead trees) and drew crowds of paying onlookers.  She died close to a year later and the man sold tickets to her autopsy! 

Another P.T. prank was the much hyped “Feejee Mermaid.” Phineas bought newspaper ads and printed pamphlets with pictures of striking, bare-breasted mermaids. The demand raged harder when he hired a “Naturalist” to vouch for the authenticity and it was set to be presented at Concert Hall on Broadway in New York city.

The “Feejee Mermaid” later landed in Barnum’s museum continuing to draw spectators. Ultimately, the aquatic attraction turned out to be the torso from a monkey carcass painstakenly attached to the lower extremeties of a large fish inspiring this quote from a Charleston Courier correspondent:

“…we shall never again discourse, even in poesy, of mermaid beauty, nor woo a mermaid even in our dreams — for the Feejee lady is the very incarnation of ugliness.”

The hoax of the Cardiff Giant may be the best one of all. Basically, a cigar maker named George Hull hired a sculpture to carve and artifically age what appeared to be a giant fossilized human. He buried the giant on his brother’s farm and dug it up a year later, unveiling it with great fanfare ultimately leading Barnum to try and purchase it. The farmer relented so Barnum had his own giant built and presented it with even more fanfare than the original Cardiff Giant saying his was the real one. The Hull’s and their business partner filed suit but Barnum argued he was only presenting a hoax of a hoax and was cleared.

P.T. Barnum had many famous quotes, one of which WASN”T, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Below are examples chosen for their relevance to PR or just because they’re the musings of a magnanimous showman.

“Without promotion something terrible happens… Nothing!”

“More persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing in nothing, than by believing too much.”

“Whatever you do, do it with all your might. Work at it, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring for a single hour that which can be done just as well now.”

“Never attempt to catch a whale with a minnow.”

“You know, I had rather be laughed at than not to be noticed at all…”

“Money, is in some respects life’s fire, it is a very excellent servant, but a terrible master.”

Phineas Taylor Barnum also served in the Connecticut Legislature and is attributed with the following statement during a debate on the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery, “A human soul is not to be trifled with. It may inhabit the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hotentot – it is still an immortal spirit!”

Arguably a moral or immoral man, Mr. Barnum wasn’t above fabrication for the sake of promotion. Times being what they were in the mid-1800’s (no twitter!?), people enjoyed the spectacles and were willing to fork over a couple bucks to see a 25-inch man or a three-legged boy to escape the monotony.

Modern etiquette forces us to be less deceitful and it is infinitely harder to get people’s attention now than it was in Barnum’s time, but there are lessons to be learned from this tireless hypemaker.

  • Never stop reinventing yourself, there’s always something else you can do well.
  • Be a labrador with a pitbull mentality. Allow people to embrace you but don’t relent until you get what you want. 
  • If the ape-man isn’t working this week, try the armless wonder or the bearded lady.
  •  If the media disagrees with you or is critical, it doesn’t mean their promotion can’t help you, it just means you have to react strategically.
  •  Persistance and audience engagement are the key to PR.

Phineas Taylor Barnum, you are the original “Legend of PR” as annointed, April 1, 2009.

Posted by: Nick

Netflix wants more green for the Blu

March 31, 2009

I used to work at a video store, and it was the coolest job I ever had until NETFLIX SHOWED UP! The store had to close because we didn’t hand deliver the movies and pop the popcorn for customers. Just kidding, I actually am a fan of Netflix. Its cheap, quick and easy, and you cant really forget that movie you were gonna rent last time because you can put it on that list. But just a heads up for those of you who arent aware, (which probably isnt that many because its everywhere) Netflix is upping what you owe if you like Blu-ray. Yep, let the riots ensue. Depending on what plan you have its going up anywhere between $1 to $9. turtle1Apparently Blu-ray has become more popular and its costing Netflix some extra dough to keep up with the demands. Therefore it costs us extra dough. But the riots wont last too long. Netflix is your best bet when it comes to movie rentals. I’m going to go enjoy my recenty delivered copy of Ninja Turtles. The one with Corey Feldman as Donatello. Oh yea.


Posted by: Ashley (intern)

Tips for young PR Professionals

March 30, 2009

I was recently approached by a young woman who is finishing her junior year of college and majoring in PR. When she found out I worked at an agency, she immediately started to pick my brain. “What can I do to get ahead?”, “How do I get a job after graduation, especially in this economy?”, and numerous more.

When I was graduating college and entering into the work force, I was among the fortunate few who landed a fantastic job before my final commencement. The economy was much better, and more employers were willing to take on entry-level positions. But with so many qualified and well-established people out of work, for a student just entering the mix has an incredibly tough road.

As I sat and talked with this girl about her future, and the path that I took to get where I am, I thought the conversation would make a great blog post for all those out there in the same situation. I did a little digging and found some great advice form various sources, including the PRSA and another blog, Mopwater PR, hosted by the DC-based firm Miller Littlejohn Media Group. The tips below come from Amadna Miller Littlejohn, editor of Mopwater PR + Notes.

  • “Be a squeaky wheel. Many newbie job seekers send their résumé and then do nothing. Making one or two follow-up calls is not enough. Until someone tells you “the position is filled,” keep calling, e-mailing and inquiring. Sure, it may seem like you’re annoying, but you are making yourself memorable, and that’s key.”
  • “Know your target. Make sure you include the terminology used within that industry, and/or by that company, when submitting your information to them. This can range from the job titles to the industry/company jargon they use.”
  • “Don’t rely on your computer. Yes, the Internet is a powerful networking tool. And, of course, network on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But, face-to-face contact can be more powerful. Attend local professional networking events in industries you’re interested in. Interested in a marketing career? Attend your local American Marketing Association chapter mixer. Each month, attend as many “live” networking events as possible. Not only will you make a lot of contacts, but also you’ll become better at “selling yourself,” which can help when you interview.”
  • “Make business cards. Don’t arrive to networking events or job interviews without business cards. You can even make your title “Job Seeker in Finance” (or whatever you’re looking for). On the back print a few bullets about yourself-education, degree, strengths, etc. These can be like mini-résumés, and they give you something interesting to hand to people (versus writing your contact information on a napkin at an event). Make your own cards, and get them printed inexpensively through online services like LogoMaker.com.”
  • “Thank you cards. Whenever your return home from an interview or networking event, or even from casual encounter with someone you met at a party where you discussed your employment, send a hand written thank you note to everyone you met. People tend to send thank yous via e-mail, but a hand written note makes a big impression nowadays because very few people send them!”
  • “Be “employed” through volunteering. If you’re unemployed, use some of your free time to volunteer at a local nonprofit. That reflects well on you when interviewing. You can say that you volunteer 15 to 20 hours per week for XYZ organization and your tasks include A, B and C. Employers want to know you’re “doing something” other than looking for a job full-time. It also shows them you’re hard working and not just sitting around your home waiting for a job.”
  • Get an internship. Employers want people with more experience. As we all know, as a recent graduate, you aren’t going to have much. No your camp counselor gig probably won’t help you. Reach out to local agencies, manufacturers and other businesses to see if they have the need or interest in an intern. Once you are at an internship, understand that you will probably be doing a lot of grunt work and most likely not getting paid for it. No one starts at the top. Always ask knowledgeable questions, do your work well and listen to everyone and everything you are taught. You never know when it might come in handy. If your lucky, the company you are interning just might hire you upon graduation. If they don’t, you have valuable qualifications you can add to your resume.
  • “Publicize Your Job Search: Blog About It. Tweet About It.If you’re job hunting, you probably have a little time on your hands, so why not set up a job search blog, or a Twitter page at the very least. You’d be surprised how much exposure you can get from putting your experiences out there. Believe it or not, some people just love to help others, and may see your need and be able to hook you up with an interview, job announcement or more. But they’ll never know about your search if you don’t spread the word that you’re looking.”
  • Head to the Top. Talk to people who know people—preferably people who know lots of people. Befriend the heads of your local (and national) professional organizations. Request a sit-down with leaders in your field. I know what some of you are thinking. “Why would the leaders want to talk to me?”You’d be surprised at what people are willing to do when you ask them. Find someone who knows your target and request an introduction. If you don’t know someone who knows the person you’re trying to reach, use Google or LinkedIn to connect the dots. Make a phone call or send an e-mail introducing yourself. Detail your experience and your goals. Ask for what you want. They may not have a job to hand you, but chances are, they’ll know someone who will. And be patient. Once you begin talking to the right people, and they begin mentioning your situation to their people, something will eventually open up.
  • Start a blog. Not “just” a blog-a blog that covers the news and information about specific companies, or industries, where you’d like to work. You can then contact the company(s) and let them know you have a blog that is “about them and their industry.” This can attract their attention and give you an edge over just submitting a résumé. Even micro-blogging on Twitter using this strategy is smart.

There are hundreds of things that you can do, to help start your career on the right foot. The key is to be persistant, knowledgeable and forward thinking. The students who take extra measures, will have a better opportunity down the road.

If you have any other tips to share with young PR Professionals “in training” please leave them in our comments.

Posted by: Lauren

Lego Scanner

March 29, 2009

Completely uneccesary and awesome.


A 3-D scanner made from Legos. I found this on Engadget and I cant understand why they didnt just make the whole freaking computer out of Legos. This play peripheral includes drive components and sensors, and is run by the Mindstorms NXT. Check out Engadget for a video of this thing in action. Props to Philo Hurbain for combining old school fun with new school tech.

Posted by: Ashley (intern)

Are Ghost Twitterers Tainting the Site?

March 27, 2009

Yesterday’s New York Times article “When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking” presented some interesting points regarding celebrities, politicians, and other public figures who are “embracing” social media outlets to build their brand and provide fans with a greater level of access to them.

As a PR professional, I realize that I may have only a half of a leg to stand on to debate this matter because certainly we ghost write for our clients and are typically the master minds behind branding and messaging, however ghost twitterers seems to be a bit contradictory to the cause. After all, isn’t the success of Twitter due to its users answering the question “what are you doing?” Is it me, or does ghost tweeting seem to undermind the organic nature of Twitter?

A brand must be managed and I 100% agree that celebrities themselves are a brand. I also concur that (even for little ole’, non-celebrity me) Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites have become a time commitment and ultimately anyone’s time is money. However, I believe there is a vast difference between a “personal” account, celebrity or not, and other company or brand accounts (see OmniMount and URC on Twitter). Both share news, promotions, and building community, but I don’t think anyone assumes that the CEO is on the other end of our clients’ accounts.  Well, we all know what happens when we assume, don’t we? But, it seems naturally misleading if nothing else.

If the intention of a celebrity account is to provide intimate access to their thoughts, activities, even rants and self-promotion, why should fans bother following celebrities like Britney Spears or 50 Cent who have enlisted social media managers to manage their accounts for them? To be fair, Britney’s page qualifies that updates come from “her team, her website and yes, even Britney herself.”

I find myself having to agree with Shaquille O’Neal, a prolific Twitterer who has more than 400,000 followers, who the article quoted as saying, ‘“If I am going to speak, it will come from me.” He added that the technology allows him to bypass the media to speak directly to the fans. “It’s 140 characters…” ‘

What do you think? Would love a good Friday afternoon debate.

Posted by: Katie | find me on Twitter

The Ultimate iPod Dock

March 26, 2009

Here at CasterBlog, we’re not above the occasional bit of self-promotion (or rather, promotion on behalf of our clients) every now and then, particularly when it’s warranted, as is so often the case with our clients. So please indulge me here.

Universal Remote Control has a sick new product called the PSX-2 Personal Server that is the ultimate iPod dock. Bar none. End of story.

Universal Remote Control PSX-2 Personal Server

Universal Remote Control PSX-2 Personal Server

The PSX-2 essentially turns your iPod into a full-featured music server.

You know how most iPod docks provide a TV screen interface that basically mimics the iPod menus? The PSX-2 (which you can control via a remote and a TV or, for the real high-end, URC’s swanky MX-6000 touch screen), transforms those iPod menus into a much more user-friendly and much more functional interface that lets you do things with your iPod you could never do before.

For example, with the PSX-2, you can “Play More from This Artist/Genre/etc,” or shuffle on similar parameters (for example, “Shuffle Indie Rock”).

You can create on-the-fly-playlists, which makes the iPod more convenient and social, especially in a party environment.

You get alpha search capability. No more need to get endlessly jiggy with the scroll wheel to find an artist whose name begins with “T”, for example.

You get cover art!

The PSX-2 interface on a TV screen.

The PSX-2 interface on a TV screen.

There’s no longer a need to navigate through seemingly endless nests of iPod menus to get to what you want.

And it’s so much more. But I’ll stop there.

URC’s Mitchell Klein put together a cute lo-fi video that displays some of the PSX-2’s capabilities.

If you’re a serious iPod user and you want to get the most out of the little bugger, I highly suggest you check the PSX-2 out. Here’s where you can get your very own.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled CasterMusings, already in progress.

Posted by Joe Paone

OmniMount Delivers for Habitat for Humanity

March 25, 2009

In light of the current economic situation, more and more people are falling on hardships. Left and right people are losing their jobs, losing their homes, and sometimes a lot worse.

OmniMount has decided that there is something they can do to help their community. This week, the company donated product to their local Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Phoenix, AZ.

Habitat ReStores are retail outlets where quality, used and surplus building materials are sold at a fraction of normal prices. Proceeds from ReStores help local affiliates fund the construction of Habitat houses within the community. Many affiliates across the United States and Canada operate successful ReStores-some of which raise enough funds to build an additional 10 or more houses per year.

Materials sold by Habitat ReStores are usually donated from building supply stores, contractors, demolition crews or from individuals who wish to show their support for Habitat. In addition to raising funds, ReStores help the environment by rechanneling good, usable materials into use.

While OmniMount takes strong measures to help their dealers and suppliers, this donation was something the company knew would help on a whole other level. By supporting Habitat for Humanity’s efforts, they could give back directly to those in dire need, especially those in the Phoenix area.

If you or your company are interested in donating product to Habitat for Humanity, visit their website for a list of ReStores near you. If you aren’t able to donate product or monetarily, Habitat is always looking for volunteers. To learn more about volunteering programs, visit the Habitat website.