Establishing a common belief

The view from the U.S. (and of the U.S.) just got whole lot better with the inauguration of our new president, Barack Obama. Even though the stock market keeps plummeting and the nation’s financial brain trust warns of more impending disasters, hope springs eternal.

Indeed, 2008 was a tough business year here—and all around the world—and the forecast for 2009 doesn’t seem much better. Still, small things, like Obama signing an executive order to close Guantánamo within the next year and mandating that going forward our governmental processes include a responsible level of transparency, make a big difference, even if the “action” associated with those declarations hasn’t yet been implemented.

Sometimes just saying it makes it so, if who is speaking is believed to be credible by a majority of those listening.

Building a consensus is, after all, what each of us does everyday for each and every one of our accounts. Many times, however, spurred by anxious clients, a short-term result — hard-won editorial coverage, a well-received event with a big buzz factor, a media tour that opens a couple of stubborn press doors — can blur our sense of what PR is really about: establishing a common belief first within an inner circle of influencers and then transferring it into an entire market, so much so that simply saying something makes it feel and appear like an action has already taken place.

This is the promised land in both politics and in PR, and getting there requires a devotion worthy of pilgrims on the journey. What’s essential to “getting there” is taking advantage of high-visibility opportunities and putting one foot in front of the other,  a common message, clear communication, an honest connection, unshakeable confidence and a promise of changing how we view the world or at least some small part of it. And most of all it demands unwavering leadership.

As PR specialists we often redirect the path of a campaign and thereby relinquish our vision for it and leadership of it to the client, for any number of reasons, not the least of which is our desire to “please” the client. Witnessing Obama’s textbook single-minded, stay-in-the-moment, be-always-engaged, go-in-a-straight-line campaign, with its equal measures of vision, truth-telling, caution, optimism, inspiration and integrity, was the single most impressive demonstration of consensus-building I’ve ever witnessed. It has prompted me to recommit myself to the betterment of my agency, my profession and my country.

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