9 PR and marketing lessons from ‘The Greatest Showman’

What can PR pros learn from the new movie about one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs? While the technology has changed since the days of P.T. Barnum, some things have stayed the same.

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The new film “The Greatest Showman” is based on the story of P.T. Barnum, who some believe possessed one of the brightest public relations minds in history.

Barnum, best known for his role as a founding member of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, understood promotion in a way few did in the 1800s, and was ahead of his time in the way he went about getting people excited about what he had to offer. The film’s director, Michael Gracey, likens Barnum to modern business visionaries like Steve Jobs.

So, what lessons can PR and marketing pros take away from master promoter Barnum and “The Greatest Showman”? Here are nine:

1. Understand the power of PR. Barnum understood that getting the press on his side was a powerful way to get his story out. By leveraging those relationships, he succeeded in getting the public to pay attention to his museum and his shows.

2. Combine earned and paid media. Barnum leveraged a less-than-stellar review of his show that appeared in one newspaper, using it in ads in publications across the region, offering a discount to anyone who brought the ad to the ticket counter.

The result was sell-out performances, which only drove the demand for tickets higher. As Barnum says in the film, “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.”

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