Forty years of communicating ABCs from Sesame Street

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This week the classic children television program Sesame Street kicks off its 40th season – happy birthday to the birthplace of Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Count Von Count, Big Bird and all their friends.

With forty years under their belt, we thought we’d look at what we’ve learned from the colourful characters who’ve been entertaining and educating children (and their parents) since 10 November 1969.

Earlier this year, Nancy Gibbs ‘Tickle Me Obama: Lessons from Sesame Street’ article in Time Magazine made some interesting points about Obama being the first President to grow up with Sesame Street and how the show has influenced the way we talk about issues.

As Gibbs says “Sesame Street’s genius lies in finding gentle ways to talk about hard things — death, divorce, danger — in terms that children understand and accept.” She asks the question though whether we’re ready to move beyond this and hear the truth!

As a communicator you often need to translate complex ideas into simple concepts or sound bites. This is something the people on Sesame Street have mastered, through their strong characters they are able to discuss complex issues broken down into simple terms.

I think you can also learn a bit from their ability to tailor communication for varying audiences – they have content for their primary views (children) and content for the secondary audience (the parents) plus resources and information for professionals as well. Check out their blog for parents which is clever and engaging!

Another thing we can learn from Sesame Street is the way it captures the reality of the situation and deals with real issues in real places. Yes the characters are muppets but they don’t sugar coat the truth and they surround themselves with places that are relevant for their audience.

The other thing that’s great about Sesame Street is they keep it simple. Each day they deal with one letter and one number and the show doesn’t try to deal with too many issues at the one time. Think about this the next time you’re wanting to raise awareness of a particular issue or want to educate your stakeholders about a change – don’t overload them with information.

Also check out the c word’s 7 tips for creativity and passion inspired by Sesame Street character featured on PRIA website this week. We’re certain you’ll find some pointers there that will inspire your work life. 🙂

Finally, I can’t help but continue to love Google’s themed homepages – this week they celebrate Sesame Street’s 40th with a Cookie Monster for Australians.

So tell us who’s your favourite Sesame Street character – add a comment below, tweet us @thecwordagency or send us an email to info@thecword.com.au. Our favourite one is the Cookie Monster especially when he sings about his favourite c word… Cookie!!

Have a colourful week,

the c word

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