Everything We Need to Know We Learned from Mister Rogers

Mr. McFeely and Me

As a New York City publicist who specializes in on-screen entertainment for kids, I’ve worked with some of the most popular and successful shows in the children’s TV playground for decades. Though my experiences working with the different kids’ brands my team and I have represented are unique and each one is a gem in its own right, I found that promoting Fred Rogers and the 50th anniversary of his Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood this year to be a labor of love. It helped give me a spring in my step on my morning commute. It was a good feeling. A very good feeling.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, that widely and long beloved children’s series, was and always will be inextricably linked to Fred Rogers, the man on TV with whom I often visited as a child myself. Publicizing it has been like celebrating a dear old friend. I never got to work with Fred directly, but it dawned on me one day in looking over an email about the freshest batch of “love letters” we secured from media across the country for Fred Rogers Productions around the 50th  anniversary milestone that I was now part of the fabric of the show’s history, woven into the tapestry with those both before and behind the camera, who lovingly helped shape and amplify the series, extending the wisdom and mission of the man at its center.

This has been the “year of Fred” – from the PBS documentary and the one from Morgan Neville on the big screen to the Forever postage stamp, the Paley Center, the Google Doodle, the Jeopardy! category, and other such public celebrations and reflections. And all this Fred feting will continue strongly into 2019 with the feature film starring Tom Hanks as Fred, a new book of Mister Rogers’ poetry and more.

In working to shine a spotlight on the series in its 50th year, I got to meet Mr. McFeely (David Newell), talk with TriStar Pictures execs about the best time to release the news about Hanks being cast for the upcoming movie, and have dinner with Newell and Nicholas Ma, Yo-Yo Ma’s son, both of whom appeared on the show – but the real treat (and trip!) was getting to promote the work of the incomparable Fred Rogers.

And though one of Mister Rogers’ main messages was always “you are special,” it quickly became apparent from the PR campaign we drove that my own love for Mister Rogers and the diverse, socially-conscious, “woke”-before-its-time TV neighborhood he created, wasn’t special or unique, but rather universal, something broadly and deeply shared by so many from my own generation, one of the first to call this remarkable TV friend our own, as well as all the other generations with which he so meaningfully connected over his career-long commitment to serving children.

That 2018 has been Fred’s year is especially apropos. The concept that everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten seems to need some extra reinforcing these days. Politics are a reflection of and on our society. Instead of political heroes, kids today are getting the message that disparaging or bullying others, rather than helping to support and raise them up, as Fred always modeled for us, is accepted or encouraged. And though politics is a grown-ups’ sandbox, it’s kids who have repeatedly come up in the crosshairs, ground zero in the scary ongoing narrative – whether its putting an end to the DACA protection program, siccing ICE on immigrant families where they live or work or, most recently, the forced separation of children from their parents at the border. From this distinctly non-neighborly stance, it’s a slippery slide to violent crimes against certain groups of people – like the tragic shooting of black shoppers at a Kentucky supermarket and of congregants at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, hometown to Fred and Mister Rogers Neighborhood, in the past month alone.

Mister Rogers said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Publicizing the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood has brought back so many fond memories – speedy delivery! – for me, for the media covering the story and for audiences across the generations. Fred’s wisdom and messages of kindness or expressions of care, as he referred to them, not only still resonate with so many, they’re needed now more than ever. And by taking a page from Mister Rogers, we could all help set the stage for far more beautiful days ahead.

This article is also on CommPro.

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Five Musts for Making ‘Magic’ on Social Media

rabbitWhether it’s for a $1 billion+ preschool brand, a top-rated TV series or a thriving toy, tech or consumer products company, following these basic guidelines will help you build and maintain an active and engaging social media presence that makes people want to follow you. By taking some time upfront to consider and serve up content that best resonates with the audiences you’re most looking to reach, you can grow the fan base for your property or company, meaningfully and exponentially, each day – just like magic!

  1. Mind the time – To maximize the number of eyeballs seeing and engaging with your clever, carefully-crafted content on social, make sure you know what times of day, days of the week and even days of the year tend to be more “high traffic.” Though it’s been shown that you can nab the highest rate of click-throughs on Facebook from 1-4pm, tap into the most popular time for tweeting from noon to 1pm and take advantage of the best time for sharing on Instagram from 2am-5pm, it’s also important to evaluate the high traffic times specific to the key audiences or demos you want to connect with. As an entertainment PR and social media firm steeped in all things kids and family, we often look to engage with moms and dads on the social pages we manage for top children’s brands across various platforms. We’ve seen that parents of young children, not surprisingly, tend to keep very different hours on social than your average Joe (or Jane)!
  1. Tap into the public mind – Social posts that give props to seasonal times, holidays, special “moments” and other universally-observed or celebrated occasions often garner much higher engagement then evergreen posts, and that includes promotional giveaways – though who doesn’t love a freebie any day of the year? By putting out a CTA (aka call-to-action) for families to share a Halloween pic of their little one dressed up as a character from one of the hit kids’ TV shows we represent, we tap into two sweet spots at once for our fan base: one of the most popular family-friendly holidays of the year and the strong pull among parents to share images of their adorable preschooler experiencing a memorable milestone.
  1. Exercise economy of words – Pictures and videos are the most valuable currency on social. Their built-in “ooh,” “ah” (and “aw”) factor coupled with their ability to capture attention quickly and communicate messages at a glance, make visual-centric posts king. A picture can be worth a thousand words, especially on social, so keep in mind a post need not be copy heavy to be “picture-perfect” for effectively attracting and engaging fans and followers.
  1. Be the place to go – If your brand’s social pages deliver elements that can’t be found anywhere else, it makes followers that much more likely to visit and engage that much more often. Be it a sneak peek or behind-the-scenes look at an upcoming film, launching series or episode or a promotional giveaway of a new toy, tech introduction, or even a coupon code, making your social feeds a destination for things that aren’t available elsewhere helps strengthen fans’ connection with the brand in a more personal way that makes them want to follow and engage again and again.
  1. Don’t post in a vacuum – Though it’s essential to put thought and strategy into developing and scheduling your own posts, it’s also important to remember engagement on social is a two-way street. By taking the time to “like,” comment on or share posts from those who have done the same for you (and even their followers with an eye to building up your own page numbers), you are participating in a dialogue, rather than simply broadcasting what you want to say. It’s like that party guest who talks only about himself as opposed to the one who engages others in conversation and makes fellow partygoers want to spend more time with them.

Grand Communications is a PR and social media firm headquartered in the heart of the nation’s #1 media market, New York City. Founded in 2001, the agency expertly drives visibility and buzz for world-famous children’s entertainment, lifestyle and tech brands through top media, influencers and across social around the clock. Among the series and brands the agency represents are global preschool sensations Peppa Pig, PJ Masks and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood as well as top toy, tech and consumer products companies; Emmy Award-winning documentaries and more.

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