Reaction to Damar Hamlin’s Injury Reinforces the Power of Hope for PR

[Editor's Note: With news from Davos that BlackRock chief Larry Fink, known for his January letter, is composing one about "the concept of hope," we believe the brief essay below, a departure from our usual tips/tactics approach, is useful reading.]

A manager warned me never to use the word hope around the CEO. Apparently the CEO hated it. Those who used hope were immediately dismissed as not being strategic or critical thinkers.

That's 100% wrong.

Hope is motivation. It’s drive, support and passion. Hope is the secret sauce and inspiration rolled into one. As Andy Dufresne said in The Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Damar Hamlin's injury is a case study of how hope can amplify the support and success of professionals during an uncertain situation. Hope became a co-pilot Jan. 2 in Cincinnati as trained professionals overcame the impossible.

Preparation guided Buffalo Bills assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington that evening. He quickly administered CPR. His hope for success ensured he never stopped trying in the moment.

The hope of a community created a positive backdrop for medical professionals and Hamlin's family. It reinforced the confidence that everyone was in their corner.

Hope manifests positivity. It helps us stay focused on a successful outcome through the unknown. Hope allowed those closest to Hamlin remain positive during an impossible situation.

Hope and metrics in PR

In PR, we often are beholden to metrics. They often dictate success.

On the other hand, hope is human, and while it is difficult to measure in the traditional sense, its absence can be palpable.

As noted above, the power of hope during Hamlin's recovery was undeniable. Whether it was people gathering after the game at the hospital, lifting Hamlin's charity from $2,500 to $6M or changing the sports conversation, hope was on full display. The public became emotionally invested.

So, what can communicators learn from the response to Damar Hamlin’s injury? Consider the power of hope as a core belief set in the campaigns we develop and embrace.

In fact, the best campaigns always have hope as a co-pilot. Imagine the pink ribbon absent hope.  It becomes an odd fashion choice, not the most recognizable cause campaign of the last 40 years. By injecting hope, the ribbon becomes an iconic symbol, synonymous with discovery, love and belief in the human spirit.

While communicators should avoid relying on hope as a stand-alone strategy, coupling it with definitive action drives success. The absence of hope in communication creates lifeless initiatives, leading to inertia and ultimately failure.

As PR professionals, delivering on what people are hopeful for should always be our aspirational goal. And, when we combine our hope for success with strategy, the result is an authentic and transformative campaign that creates long-term solutions.

Jon Hendl is managing director, corporate, MMC