He celebrated his ninety-fifth birthday less than a week ago. His lifetime audience over his career is estimated at over 2.2 billion people. Among the numerous awards and honors he has received are both the Presidential l Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He has been named one of Gallup’s Most Admired Persons fifty-five times including forty-nine consecutive years. He has been recognized by music associations, universities, media organizations and has highways named after him.
As one of the most notable and well known Christian Evangelists he has been applauded, lauded, adored and revered. For millions he is the voice of salvation. Yet the very same person has been chided, ridiculed, taunted and jeered. There is no shortage of people who consider him to be self-serving – living a life of pretense.
He is no stranger to controversy with countless doubters, detractors and cynics. Yet in the face of his detractors his success is unquestioned. This Friday’s Fearless Brand is Billy Graham.
Fearless brands live with conviction.
You don’t have to be void of controversy to be a fearless brand. For that matter you don’t even need to be liked to be a fearless brand – as demonstrated in my feature on Donald Trump. It is conviction that allows a brand to be fearless. Conviction comes from having the clarity of purpose derived by combining your passions with your competencies…and being relevant.
Controversy can arise when people who don’t find your value relevant take exception to your message. That is going to happen. It does not matter what you do, who you are or how genuine you may be. The best answer to controversy is to start from a basis of authenticity, achieve full clarity of your brand and then be consistent. That is conviction.
He grew up on a dairy farm in North Carolina and was raised in the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church and is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. His early career aspiration was to be a military chaplain. He came to realize that for him, the Bible was the infallible word of God and that his was a voice to deliver that message to the world.
Graham is no stranger to controversy. He turned down a $5,000,000 offer from NBC to go on TV opposite Arthur Godfrey. He preached with – and was occasionally at odds with – Martin Luther King Jr. He was friend and adviser to many presidents notably Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan – Republicans all – yet he is a registered Democrat. He supported Israel and received the Torch of Liberty Plague from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith yet was heard making what appeared to be anti-Semitic remarks on the Nixon tapes. (comments he has either apologized for and/or explained were taken out of context).
The point of all of this is quite simple. Being authentic, knowing your value and its relevance and being consistent lead to conviction. Conviction allows you to deliver your maximum value – even in the face of controversy.
It is important for me to point out that with this blog I am not endorsing any beliefs – religious, political or otherwise. Nor am I disparaging any beliefs or actions. I do admire the conviction with which Billy Graham leads his life.
Perhaps it’s that conviction that’s been the key to his living into his tenth decade. There is no doubt that it’s a key to his being a fearless brand.
Bill, another great post. I always learn something new about both the people you cover and branding.
Conviction seems to be noticed more when it is a little more extreme though people in the middle can still have conviction, it isn’t usually mentioned as their defining trait (or brand).
Doug, I am happy that you are receiving value from this series – I know that I get great value from your comments. Featuring subjects who tend towards the extreme does help make my point, however, your observation is quite correct. Conviction isn’t always clearly visible but it is a very key trait in any fearless brand. Thanks for your input – it’s much appreciated.
Bill, finally got around to this one and to Doug’s point, another great post and information on one of the great “fearless brands” of our time. Going beyond the man himself, sticking to your personal drive and convictions are the foundations of success – we all need to remind ourselves of that along the way.
Thanks for your comments Gary – Bill Graham certainly is a role model for sure and a great example of fearless branding also. 🙂 I love that you read this post on the same day you read the post on Howard Stern – opposites in so many ways yet, at the same time, they have so much in common.