There’s no such thing as bad publicity

Recently a good friend of the agency, entrepreneur David Cummings, published a blog post on P.T. Barnum’s 20 Rules for Making Money that got me thinking. Every PR person knows P.T. Barnum, the founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus and a proven American showman and businessman, is widely credited with the expression, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

A born self-publicist, Barnum never missed an opportunity to promote himself, his business ventures and his pithy thinking. What David published goes to prove there really was “wood behind the arrow” with Barnum when it came to his business advice. All businesses, large and small, can glean a few gems from Barnum’s 20 Rules for Making Money.

I few of his rules I really like include:

  • Avoid debt
  • Don’t get above your business
  • Advertise your business
  • Be polite and kind to your customers
  • Preserve your integrity

Barnum was credited with many clever sayings, and while I’m not sure these 20 rules are really his (I did not spend the time researching it as I trust David), it really does not matter. It just goes to show solid business advice is timeless.

As entrepreneurs and business people, we need not fool ourselves into thinking we are blazing new trails. The truth is there are always learnings from those that have gone before us. Advice we can take into our modern enterprises. We just need to look for it.

As an aside, there is no real proof Barnum coined the phrase “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” In fact, The Phrase Finder notes the topic of the origins of this phrase that every PR person has heard (or uttered) countless times:

“The proverbial expression began to be used in the early 20th century. The earliest version that I have found in print is from the US newspaper The Atlanta Constitution, January, 1915: ‘All publicity is good if it is intelligent’.”

In addition, Barnum is widely, but erroneously, credited with coining the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

By Mike Neumeier, APR – March 30, 2016

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