Article by: Joe Vitale
"I am indebted to the press of the United States for almost every dollar which I possess..." -- P.T. Barnum, 1891 Charlie Stratton was a little boy who would not grow. He was destined to be less than three feet tall.
His parents accepted the fact that he would never become a full sized adult. The neighbors felt sorry for the nice family and their midget. But no one saw an opportunity for greatness. No one saw the potential for fame and fortune. No one, that is, until one man came along in 1842 with an eye for hidden possibilities. That man was P.T. Barnum.
Barnum taught the child to sing and dance. He taught him to express himself, to accept how he looked, to feel good about who he was. He also taught the boy how to charm and entertain crowds. And he named the young prodigy a name that still lives today: General Tom Thumb.
Years later, after Tom was rich and world famous, his Connecticut neighbors would shake their heads and smile. "We always thought little Charlie was a nice boy but not very special," many said, "but we never knew he would become a celebrity until Barnum took him and Barnumized him."
P.T. Barnum took many people who were talented but unknown and made them rich and famous. While Jenny Lind was known as the greatest Swedish soprano in all of Europe, few had any idea who she was in America. Yet Barnum hired her, managed her, promoted her, and Jenny Lind became so famous that 30,000 people met her ship when it docked in New York in the mid 1800s. Again, Barnum had practiced the art of "Barnumizing" someone.
And to prove that his techniques worked, when Lind decided to save money and manage her own concerts without Barnum's help, her crowds grew smaller. Lind didn't get media attention. And she returned to Europe without fanfare. Yet it was the same Jenny Lind that the crowds had gone wild to see under Barnum's art!
That art is not lost today, of course. Throughout 1997 I smiled whenever I saw an article on the singer Jewel. Here you have a woman barely out of her teens, with only one CD released at the time, making front page headlines and cover stories on national magazines. Last I heard she had been hired to write her autobiography (!) and was paid more than a million dollars for it. Yet Jewel is barely an adult! How is this happening? Clearly, Jewel is being Barnumized.
And that's how anyone can become famous today. You need someone skilled in the art of Barnumizing. There should be a latent talent or trait that can be publicized, of course, but even that can be gotten around. Richard Branson, the tycoon founder of many businesses, including Virgin Records and Virgin Airlines, Barnumizes himself by creating balloon flights around the world. Whether he actually succeeds at the trip doesn't matter. His events bring himself international publicity. And he is not promoting any talent except maybe the bold desire to be famous.
I've been personally fascinated by publicity and publicists since I began researching P.T. Barnum a few years ago. Here's a taste of some of the people I've discovered:
* Harry Reichenbach was an audacious silent movies publicist who made people famous in the early 1900s. In fact, his incredible creative ideas helped stop World War I.
* Edward L. Bernays helped make such stars as the singer Caruso famous. And he got American women to smoke with a publicity event he helped orchestrate in 1929.
* And publicists today continue to Barnumize people like chicken soup authors Mark Victor Hanson and Jack Canfield. One reason Deepak Chopra remains a bestselling author is the publicist behind him: Arielle Ford.
But let's forget actors and actresses, authors and speakers, singers and celebrities for a moment. What about the average person? What about you? Can you be Barnumized? Can you be made famous?
Without hesitation, I say yes. The secret is in hiring a publicist who knows how to find or create a news worthy subject out of you or something you do.
There isn't any one way to fame that fits for all people. Sometimes all you need is one wild event to draw attention to everything else you do:
* Barnum once showed a preposterous "Fejee Mermaid." The curious half-monkey-half fish increased his ticket sales 33%.
* In our own century a circus once displayed a "Unicorn." While everyone knows unicorns aren't real, ticket sales increased 55%. Again, the one publicity stunt drew crowds to see everything else being offered.
But you don't have to be wild and crazy to get attention. In an article I wrote titled "Hidden Selling," I talk about the various people who are getting rich and famous by sponsoring events that serve a good cause. Bill Phillips, for example, is selling people on the idea of getting fit. He gives away his book, and a video, and holds yearly contests. He donates his money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. All of this is making Bill internationally famous. How does he make any money? He sells nutritional supplements. Back this fact is "hidden." What Bill is doing is getting fame, and then using that fame to make money. Very, very smart.
One of the easiest ways to begin to seek fame is to write a book. You still have to promote the book, of course, but as an author you have an excuse to get publicity. That's what Evel Knievel wanted when he called me. He wanted me to help him write his life story. He knew that a book could bring him more fame. (I turned him down.) Many other people know this fact, too, from Donald Trump to J. Paul Getty to Madonna, and that's why they write (or hire someone to write) books for them.
By now you've heard the quote from Andy Warhol that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. My belief is that if you create fame for yourself that sticks, that fame will be a credential you can bank on for the rest of your life.
Take Evel Knievel. His publicity stunts Barnumized him in the 1970s. Yet we still know his name today, thirty years later. He wedged his name into public awareness through his fame tactics. And he's still cashing in on his name. In fact, his name is so strong that it has helped launch the career of another daredevil: Evel's own son, Robbie Knievel.
Most people know the name Tom Thumb today, as well. Why? The fame Barnum created for his little friend still lives. Fame can do that for you, too. It can become a lasting advertisement for who you and what you do. From then on, everything you touch will get automatic attention. Tom Thumb used to sell toys and other products. So did Evel Knievel. As a result of their fame, these otherwise mediocre products sold. The products weren't important, it was the name associated with the products. The more famous the name, the more easily the products sold. That's why Pepsi hires the latest hot stars to appear in their commercials. Their fame brings favorable attention to Pepsi.
But what if you can't afford a publicist? Easy. What you have to do is become your own publicist and Barnumize yourself.
Let me explain:
A year or so ago I wrote a news release that helped make Jeff DeLong---barely 28 years old---wealthy. The headline read:
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (or anyone else); Unusual cards don't greet, say Hit The Streets
Paul Krupin of the ImediaFax news bureau sent it out by fax and email. As a result, Jeff did twenty radio interviews the day his release hit. The Associated Press picked up the story at least twice and spread the word to the media nationally. The number of times the story was reprinted is impossible to tally. But as a direct result, Jeff's website sales at blasted to $20,000 a week. (A week!)
What made his news release so successful?
1. There was news here.
I didn't have to dig too hard to see that Jeff's greeting cards were newsworthy in and of themselves. (You send his c-ya cards out when you *end* relationships.) Too many people send out news releases without any news. They are thinly disguised ads. Editors hate ads. They want NEWS.
2. We tied it to current news.
Valentine's Day was right around the corner. While Jeff didn't want to tie his release to that event, I knew that doing so would cause the media to grab his release. It helped make his news relevant. Whenever you can tie your product or service to existing news, you up the odds in being used by the media.
3. We distributed the release to select media.
Paul Krupin hand picked a list of media contacts. What you send out has to match the interests of those receiving it. Don't send artillery news to an anti-gun newspaper.
You can get publicity for virtually any product or service. The media is desperate for news. Provide it and they'll advertise your business. But how do you find the right news angle? There are at least three ways: (1) Have news, (2) invent news, or (3) tie your business to current news.
Jeff's release was an example of one and three. (His cards were news, and we tied it to Valentine's Day, which was current news.) Here's an example of number two: Inventing news.
When Barry Michaels in Australia hired me to write a release for his clothing store, I had to hunt to find the news angle. I talked to him and learned that because he was getting bogus orders online, he started calling virtually *everyone* who contacted him. This turned out to be a breakthrough. Customers were in awe that a retailer in Australia would call them. Not only did Barry stop the bogus orders, but he increased his sales with this extra personal service. So I wrote a news release with this headline:
Retailer Finds Way to Turn Bogus Orders Into Profit; Australia teaches the globe how to make money online
As a result, the Investors Business Daily called him. Since that is a national publication, Barry's news release will turn into *thousands* of dollars in free publicity. Very nice.
Finally, let me tell you what I did a few months ago. In mid-June I bought a mermaid. Yes, a mermaid. P.T. Barnum had one and I figured it would be cool if I did, too. It turned out to be a disappointment and I felt like an idiot for getting it. But then I saw a publicity opportunity. So I wrote a news release (using method number two) that began with this headline:
Barnum Expert Suckered Into Buying "Real" Mermaid; Discovers curiosity as powerful marketing tool
The response stunned me. The editor of the American Legal Association's newsletter asked if they could run the story. Radio hosts wanted to interview me. An A&E Biography TV show on Barnum plugged my book, causing my book to sell out overnight. Ah, I love this!
The point is, news angles are everywhere. Start to think like a reporter, get creative, and plug you or your business *within* your story. It's the key secret to getting rich and famous today----within only 90 days---and with or without a mermaid!
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