In discussing the Age of Conversation concept, we've talked of the importance of getting others connected so compellingly with the core values of a product, or company or cause that they become willing evangelists, helping spread the good word to others. They connect to the words, the branding that expresses that core set of values, and to the central "point of view" that resonates for them. Sometimes this results in word of mouth marketing, a seriously powerful means of marketing for any campaign.
The most extreme example of people buying-in to the message is political campaigns, where people, especially young people, get so charged by their fervor for a particular candidate's message, they happily give up paying jobs to work without salary as foot soldiers in the army of aides necessary to get a politician elected.
The other night over dinner I talked with a friend whose daughter, a bright college graduate eager to make her mark, joined up to do advance work for Elliot Spitzer in his hard fought campaign to become governor of the State of New York. Her work was so impressive, following his successful election she was offered a full time job working on the Governor's staff in Albany.
Her mother told me it's difficult to describe the depth of her daughter's sense of betrayal by this man whom she had seen as an icon for "doing the right thing." Here was a man whose words rang so true to her own ideals she was willing not just to spread the good word about him, but to delay getting a paid job until after the 8 months of his campaign in which she worked 24/7 to get him elected to the highest position in New York State government. She said it was his words, the way he articulated his core beliefs (or what she thought were his core beliefs) that won her over. So his downfall, after news of his employing prostitutes (the very kind of business he fought so hard to eliminate while Attorney General), was particularly painful for her.
Now, disillusioned, she is cynical about all politicians, about all who mouth the words that describe right-minded behavior. If Elliott Spitzer could betray her trust, who can she trust? Was she a fool?
I suppose one of the toughest things we learn as we move from childhood to adulthood is that along the way some people will disappoint us. Despite our sense of caution and careful vetting of those whom we meet for the first time (think Facebook, MySpace, Match.com!) there will be some who prove unworthy of our trust. I wish for this young woman and all the rest of us that we are not so fearful of being burned by the bad situations that we risk lighting the match on new opportunities, new paths to take. We must have faith rather than cynicism in order for a culture to thrive.
So watch the words you use, lest someone believe them at their peril. If you are inauthentic in what you say, you may negatively impact those around you far greater than you can imagine.