Three Public Relations Lessons from The Simpsons

Like everyone who grew up in the ‘90s, The Simpsons was a constant cultural presence. In my preteen years, I envied my classmates whose parents let them watch the show. In my teenage years, I caught up by watching episodes in syndication on a nightly basis.

Now that the show has completed its impressive twelve day, 552 episode marathon, it got me thinking about what public relations lessons we’ve all learned from the citizens of Springfield. I’m by no means a superfan, so please channel your inner Comic Book Guy in the comments and share the lessons you’ve taken away in the show’s decades-long run.

Think before you go on the record: In “Bart Gets Hit by a Car,” Bart and Mr. Burns offer their testimony of an accident that happened earlier in the episode (referenced in the title). Bart portrays himself as an innocent angel and describes Mr. Burns as aiming to knock him off his skateboard. Mr. Burns describes himself in a flattering light while describing Bart as a hellion. Besmirching the reputation of a grade-schooler? It didn’t do Mr. Burns any favors.

A good message goes far: “Marge vs. the Monorail” is considered by many to be one of the best episodes of The Simpsons. In it, Springfield’s residents have to decide how to spend $3 million on infrastructure. Marge proposes fixing up Main Street, but that idea is soon forgotten as a pitchman shows up and sells the town on a monorail. Real-life communities aren’t as gullible as Springfield, but it shows that a catchy tune and slick presentation can get your message to resonate.

There’s a right way to manage your reputation: And there’s buying all the media outlets in town and controlling their editorial content, as Mr. Burns does in “Fraudcast News.” Managing your reputation with an iron fist isn’t the way to polish a tarnished reputation. Perhaps Mr. Burns should have tried an op-ed first? 

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