For many of today’s communications practitioners, it’s hard to envision what public relations and marketing were before the coming of digital and social media. It’s clear to everyone that the course of the industry has changed significantly, even over the past two decades. That said, when we look back in history, there’s also a common trend, a common thread.
The amazing public relations entertainer
While not the “father” of public relations, some of the best tactics of promotion and public “agentry” were the result of circus promotions by legendary circus entertainer P.T. Barnum. Marketing his circus as “The Greatest Show on Earth”, he was extremely #creative (and #ballsy!) in his approach to advertising and publicizing the tour. While not entirely honorable, his approach was astoundingly successful when it came to getting people in the door and making his a household name. Barnum is often attributed the famous PR quote, “I don’t care what you say as long as you spell my name correctly.”
The third oldest profession
In 1450, the Gutenberg press made the mass production of materials like newspapers, flyers, etc., easier on mankind. Gutenberg’s press was initially invented for the mass production of Bibles; shortly thereafter, presses were used for the publication of adult entertainment. The marketing and communications smarties then used it to create newspapers, flyers, brochures, and advertisements. The ease of production made it easier to spread the word about events and in 1839, this mass production caused an uproar and a ban of posters on private property in London.
Extra! Extra! Spam all about it!
Long before email marketing existed, the earliest recorded use of a telegraph for unsolicited spam was in May of 1864. In a remarkable and alarming occurrence, members of the British Parliament were woken in the middle of the night letting them know that a dental office had new hours for the summer months. Yes, telegraphs had to deal with spam.
Bold marketing strikes again!
Do you see the trend throughout history? Marketers and communicators have always been pushing the limits of new technologies to get their message out. The lesson here for all of us in the professions of PR and marketing is to constantly be experimenting, constantly be trying new things on behalf of our clients and brands. Constantly go for creative and bold uses of technology, because if you don’t, someone else will and they’ll change the market and the world.
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