Pope Francis

Lessons From the World’s Greatest PR Man

 You won’t find him ensconced in a fancy office in New York or London. Or wining and dining journalists.

And you can't hire him; he’s contracted exclusively to a single client.

Like all great PR the media coverage he generates, may or may not be painstakingly orchestrated, but leaves a clear impression of spontaneity.

And PR isn’t even his full time job.

That is a little more involved as head of the Catholic Church and leader of 1.2 billion Catholics.

Because right now, the world’s best PR guy, hands down, bar none is—his holiness Pope Francis.

Being the first Pope to take the name Francis sent a message from the start.

After the aloofness of Benedict XVl, Pope Francis is strategically as well as statistically fresh.

In the six months following his election, he has spectacularly re-positioned the Catholic Church.

So successfully that in Italy he enjoys approval ratings of 85% among non-Catholics and 96% among Catholics.

In these six months, he has changed a brand persona of detachment and irrelevance to one of tolerance and inclusion.

He dramatically included Muslims and women in the traditional Easter foot washing ceremony.

He has reached out to gays, agnostics and atheists.

Six million people came out to hear him say Mass in Rio de Janeiro.

The latest installment came in the shape of a Renault Quatrelle with 185,000 miles on the clock, a gift from 70 year old priest Father Renzo Zocca.

Fittingly the Quatrelle was designed as a people’s car – Renault’s riposte to the Citroen 2CV.

Better yet, it came in symbolic Papal white.

{Papa's got a brand new...}

Reportedly Pope Francis will use it for pootling around Vatican City.

It’s a cute story and the Pope’s PR halo is more remarkable given the bad press the Vatican itself has been getting.

Pedophile priests have regrettably, become part of pop culture.

While the Vatican Bank’s long flirtation with less than divine financial practices is like a bad running joke.

The latest gag involves a cleric, a private jet a couple of shady characters, and 20 million euros in cash.

The bank’s shenanigans have been receiving world-wide media attention ever since Roberto Calvi was found hanging from London’s Blackfriars Bridge in 1982.

Clearly there are some deep rooted organizational issues as well as PR issues here.

Pope Francis has pledged to reform or close the bank.

In the meantime at least he takes media questions on the subject.

It’s more than surface gloss.

This Pope has achieved something truly remarkable, something that eluded the Catholic Church for at least a generation.

And no blue chip PR firm could have done it with such authenticity.

Pope Francis has made the Church likeable.

And perhaps more importantly, signaled that a window of change if not wide open, is at least ajar.

On the flight back from his visit to Rio, where the Mayor spontaneously renamed Copacabana beach Pope-a-cabana for the duration of his visit, the Pope said, “I haven’t done very much”.

But little things make big things happen.

Perhaps he was just following the lead of one of his favourite saints, Thérèse of Lisieux, who said: “Do ordinary things in an extraordinary way”.

It may not be secret sauce but it’s certainly working.