Radical or just rephrased? The power of tone of voice

It seems fitting that the Pope’s first news conference was held on board an airplane as the words he uttered have quickly made it across the globe, not least with the help of Twitter.

Referring to the gay population, he said: “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?”

Was this a groundbreaking change of view from the head of the Catholic Church or simply a change in tone, not substance?

It is well known that the Catholic religion upholds that everyone should be treated with love. The Catechism, the official collection of Catholic doctrine, states that gay people should always receive “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” So instead of marking a major shift in the Catholic attitude to homosexuality, perhaps Pope Francis is simply rephrasing what the Catholic Church has already said. There is no indication that he will upend the Church’s opposition to same sex marriage, for example.

What this does bring to light is the power and importance of the brand ambassador. Indeed, since his inauguration in March this year, Pope Francis has come to represent a new wave of Catholicism. He is well liked for his ‘plain words’ – ‘pray for me’ is quickly becoming a slogan – and his humble lifestyle and the fact that he drives a Ford Focus is a key part of his image.

In the world of public relations, we often talk about the power of brand ambassadors. It’s fair to say that Pope Francis is the perfect example of that – it was recently reported that he is the most influential world leader on Twitter, with the highest number of retweets worldwide. In fact, the only person to surpass his follower count is President Obama, and we all know the value of social media in his election campaigns.

Whether what Pope Francis said is new or simply rephrased, what’s interesting is the impact that his words have had.

The modern way that he approaches his role and his desire for a humble lifestyle have created a figurehead with mass appeal. It could be said that Pope Francis has done for the Catholic Church what William and Kate have done for the Royal Family. Did you think I get could get through a whole blog post without mentioning them?