The USA Today editorial pages – as well as every other newspaper in America – are reporting how Barack Obama has broken the relationship with this supposed pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, after he viewed the tapes of Wright’s bizarre appearance at the National Press Club on Monday. But this blog isn’t about politics – it’s about media, and telling your story in a media-driven culture. That’s why what interests me is
a political candidate whose carefully crafted story about himself is becoming unraveled. After writing a best-selling book: “Dreams from My Father,” and building a brilliant campaign team, and running on “change” – a number of smaller distractions are starting to impact him in a significant way.
As USA Today says, “he needs to retake control of his life story.” By now you know the problems – the initial clips of Wright, and why Obama sat in a pew (supposedly) for 20 years under the ministry of a man who still believes the U.S. government invented AIDS, or says “God Da*n America,” his condescending remarks about “bitter” voters, his wife suggesting a lack of pride in America, his ties to former radical William Ayers – and more. The softballs Bill Moyers threw at Wright in his fawning PBS interview didn’t help Obama – it only raised more questions.
Whether you’re voting for Obama or not, the bigger question for all of us is “What happens when you lose control of your story?” For companies, non-profits, churches, individuals, and political candidates, your brand story is your identity. It’s who you are, and what that means to your customers, congregation, donors, or voters.
To his credit, Obama gets this, and that’s why he’s taking strong steps to regain control of his story. Yesterday’s angry – and frustrating renunciation of Wright was the first step.
I say in my book “Branding Faith” that if you don’t control your brand story, you’ll spend the rest of your life at the mercy of others who will.
Who is telling your story? Eliot Spitzer thought he was, until a revelation about using an escort service re-wrote that story. Your brand story is precious, and Obama is finding out that when there are loose ends in your life, that story can unravel easily inside a media-driven culture.
It’s not about manipulation – actually the opposite – it’s about integrity, transparency, and authenticity. After all, do YOU want to tell your story, or would you prefer leaving it to your critics, the press, or chance?