And I Say HEY: Comms Lessons from Arthur the Aardvark
If you’re not referring to Arthur as the voice for our time at least once a week, you need to brush up on your cartoon viewing. For those who don’t know (the shame!), this series followed the adventures of Arthur Read, a loveable perma-third-grade student aardvark from Elwood City.
The show first aired in 1996, and has taken on a second life as a meme, which you probably have seen if you’ve spent more than five minutes on Facebook. Despite its age, it offers many lessons for anyone navigating the 21st century. Take the episode “Muffy and the Big Bad Blog”’ where Muffy values her newfound internet fame over friendship. Or ‘Buster the Myth Maker’, which foreshadowed fake news in 2005 by casting a spotlight on lying on the internet.
I’m honestly convinced Arthur is the answer to saving the world from a certain “giant orange hate carrot” (name credit: Ben Shipley, 2017). We can make things better, by working together, and all that. Arthur is also a spring of knowledge for the PR peeps of the world. If you’re looking to boost your skills, or just want to have your heart warmed for a couple of minutes, keep reading for the comms lessons Arthur has to offer…
In the words of the wise bespectacled aardvark, “having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.”
What does this mean for you? Read. And when you’ve finished, read some more. Be curious. Take every opportunity to learn more about your craft, clients, company, competitors, and audiences. Work with a software marketing company? Great, there are thousands of them. Read everything you can about the industry – daily – so you’re coming up with new ideas.
Confidence is Key
Even if you don’t watch the show, you’ve probably heard the Arthur theme song.
It’s one minute and 50 seconds of pure lyrical genius. One of the best lines being “believe in yourself, for that’s the place to start.” Amen. Confidence is one of the most important tools in your comms toolkit. You need it to sell ideas to clients, pitch stories to media, and to make new connections. So, make like D.W. ‘I’m too smart to get mad’ Read and back yourself.
Down with those who pedal “fake it ‘til you make it”, it all comes down to being yourself.
This is a point Arthur has pushed quite heavily in its 21-year tenure. From the very first episode, “Arthur’s Eyes”, where Arthur learns to ignore the haters and appreciate his glasses, to ‘Arthur, World’s Greatest Gleeper’, in which we’re taught not to lie just to get somebody to like you. Don’t be faux.
The show may be called Arthur, but it’s at its best when storylines involve the whole gang – Buster, Brain, Francine, Sue Ellen et al.
As the theme song puts it, “get together and make things better, by working together.” In ‘Arthur Makes the Team’, all the kids vie to be baseball pitcher and arguments ensue. Arthur and Francine clash over Arthur struggling to catch the ball and Francine throwing too high. In the end, Francine shows Arthur how to shield the sun from his eyes to make the catches and Arthur teaches her how to throw straight.
As comms professionals, it’s easy to mistake people telling us we need to be a jack of all trades for having to be the best at absolutely everything. Spoiler alert: you won’t be. Extend yourself beyond your forte, but focus on combining your strengths with the strengths of each individual. Everyone has a different role to play in this metaphorical baseball game – and all the roles rely on each other.
It’s time for the days of people thinking Arthur is just a great show for kids to end. With so many great lessons around friendship, individuality and work, I’ll be watching this show well into my old age (see below image of me dressed as Buster to confirm my Arthur loyalty). Work together, be yourself and beware of fake news – it’s a simple message and it comes from the heart.