Life on Sesame Street

 Life on Sesame Street

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Sesame Street.

Sesame Street has been in the media spotlight in ways it never wanted to be. First, Mitt Romney during the presidential debates, threatened to cut funding to the Public Broadcasting System, which airs Sesame Street. Sesame Street reps answered with a quick smack down of Romney’s implied assertion that the government funds the educational children’s show.  Next PR task was to order the Democratic party to stop running a subsequent Romney attack ad featuring Big Bird.

While Big Bird was safe after President Obama’s re-election, Elmo, the furry red monster, was next in the media’s sights. This week, Kevin Clash, Sesame Street puppeteer and the voice of Elmo, was accused of having a sexual relationship with a man who was underage at the time. The firestorm of scandal lasted one day; the accuser quickly recanted his story when details didn’t add up.

Sesame Street maintained a terse tone when issuing the statement on Clash, saying that management had met with the accuser, conducted a thorough investigation, and found the allegation to be unsubstantiated. “Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage,” the statement reads, “and he was disciplined.” Clash has since taken a leave of absence. Who knew life on Sesame Street could be so fraught with PR dangers?

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Sesame Street. By maintaining an impartial tone – even toward one of their own – their image stays professional, businesslike, and neutral to all who might help or harm.

The PR Takeaway: Authority comes with neutrality. Sesame Street could have used Romney’s Big Bird slam to their advantage, but they knew the political winds could turn against them just as easily. In the Elmo-Clash situation, had they shown full support for the furry monster’s alter-ego and other accusers turned up, the whole company might have been blighted. While the public, on the record statements so far might make Sesame Street seem a chilly place, the company’s neutral and  authoritative tone over the last weeks has secured its brand and singular purpose: providing the best in televised children’s education. Big Bird and friends can continue to sleep easy on the street.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR Perfect) to the media for having re-established the perception of impartiality. For the last few weeks, Team Romney has been complaining that the media is biased and not giving the campaign a fair hearing. Yet by consensus, whom did the media deem the winner of the debate? Mitt Romney! Even the New York Times and MSNBC agreed. The media changed the national conversation by not backing their perceived favorite. Who came out on top? The media!

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Team Obama. The oratory skills that made Barack Obama were absent during the debates. Even Democrat-friendly media sources said the president wasn’t up to debating par; the general consensus was that he brought a knife to a gun fight. He has two remaining chances to come back armed.


 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV AWARD FOR PR BOOMERANG: Big Bird. During the debates, the Sesame Street icon was used as a representative of the Public Broadcasting System, an entity Mitt Romney decried as unnecessary. He promised to pluck federal funding from the bird’s network nest if elected, saying “I’m going to stop borrowing money from China to pay for things we don’t need.” PBS head Paula Kerger was quick to respond, clarifying that PBS doesn’t get direct money from the government and saying, “With the enormous problems facing our country, the fact that we are the focus is just unbelievable.” Meanwhile, the Romney swipe had a positive effect: Big Bird was invited to appear on Saturday Night Live, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Piers Morgan Tonight. Sometimes it really is better to be talked about than not.