My Copywriting Lesson From the Pope
The Roman Catholic Church needs a serious brand makeover. It's gotten so bad that the previous CEO, aka Pope Benedict, gave his three weeks notice. Since he couldn't cite wanting to spend more time with his family, he intends to devote his life to prayer. Prayer? This brand really needs help.
In selecting its new boss, the church's board of directors, aka the College of Cardinals, had to pull a rabbit out of their mitre. And did they. I'm not Catholic, but Pope Francis had me at hello. I'm rooting for this guy. There are two things that I admire about him:
1. He's genuine: There's the old joke that once you can fake sincerity, you've got it made. I may be the victim of an elaborate PR hoax, but given the Vatican's previous ineptness, I doubt it. Whether Pope Francis is making his own meals or paying his own hotel bill, this guy is genuine. He's the Joe Biden of the Holy See, but without the gaffes.
In my experience, most CEOs and company presidents are genuine in their desire to provide quality products and services to their customers. I've met a couple of scoundrels over the years, but to the credit of our industry, they are few and far between. So if most of us are genuine, what's unique about this quality? Pope Francis combines it with something that makes him exceptional at communication.
2. He speaks to the heart: Notice that I didn't say he speaks to our emotions. There's a difference. When Francis chides priests for not baptizing infants of unwed mothers, he scores points with believers and nonbelievers alike. He speaks to our hearts and lets us decide what emotions to feel. Too often as marketers we attempt to speak to our customers’ emotions without speaking to their hearts. We come off as carnival barkers.
I'm a political junky and a fan of the Sunday morning talk shows. GE, which owns NBC and its "Meet the Press" program, runs commercials in these time slots because it knows that government influencers, market makers and potential stock owners are watching. Instead of running a talking head of Jeff Immelt saying how great GE is, the company has developed a campaign called GE Stories. There's nothing about titanium this or microns that. This particular example shows a video of cancer survivors meeting the people who made the imaging equipment used to detect cancer. When I checked this morning, the video had 2,135,304 YouTube views. This commercial has touched people.
That's what Francis does: He speaks to the heart. It's early in his papacy, but it looks like he has some things to say, and I intend to listen. I may not agree with him, but so far he's proven himself a master of communication.
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.