Tom Garrity

Popularity vs Credibility

In Reputation on March 8, 2009 at 1:52 pm
PopularityAs expected, an interesting discussion surfaced today on Meet The Press. The topic was the trouble the Obama administration continues to have trying to keep the recession from becoming a depression.
Once everyone agreed with the Obama talking points, that this was a problem inherited by the administration, real dialog (and rhetoric) started to take place.
A passing comment stating that this was an issue of popularity versus credibility caught my attention. 
The argument was based on President Obama’s great popularity among the people but lack of credibility that he had any experience to propose solutions for a tame economy let alone one that is in a death spiral.
Are the two, popularity and credibility, mutually exclusive? Yes and no.
Typically the two go hand in hand to help establish a brand. In the campaign, your credibility is supposed to build popularity. But, this election cycle, the sitting President lacked so much credibility and popularity that the typical ground rules went out with the mantra “anything is better than what we’ve got now.”
Who is popular: Britney Spears, Mickey Mouse, Tom Cruise.
Who is credible: Colin Powell, Albert Einstein, Walter Cronkite.
As you can see, it is difficult to have your foot successfully planted in both camps.
Presidentially, H.W. Bush was the most qualified person to hold the office, but he wasn’t the most popular.
Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were more popular than credible (ok, I can’t believe I just used both names in the same sentence).
President Obama is clearly popular. But we desperately need him to be credible. His administration’s latest approach of establishing short-term objectives and readdressing strategies based on the changing market will help him to establish a greater foothold in the credibility camp.
Given the choice of being either credible or popular which would you choose? Or, better yet, how do you want people to refer to you: I liked him/her; or, He/she was right.
So, is it possible to be both popular and credible? For a time, yes. But in the long run, you have to decide which is more important.
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