Find Your Rally Cry

Great leaders have used amazing one-liners during crisis. Straight talk with a call to action from the top has the power to inspire us. Calm us. And motivate us to be more than we thought we could be.

Just think of great calls to action like:

  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”
  • Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
  • President John F. Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon.”
  • Mother Teresa’s “Live simply so others may simply live.”

We’ve even been called to action when there are sounds that evoke our emotions, such as the unmistakable “Oo-rah” called out by the Marines.

Song lyrics, too, generate action like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” or “Imagine” by John Lennon. Most recently, Taylor Swift mobilized voters with her song “Only the Young.”

But today, right now, during the pandemic’s economic turmoil and our sense of uncertainty, what are you choosing to say? And how might you use your words to create cultural elevation within your organization at a time desperate for leadership, clarity and direction?

Following the 2008 auto crisis, the “Imported from Detroit” ad campaign by Chrysler used the pulse and sound of Eminem to underscore a city’s unwavering ability to rise up. “This is the Motor City. And this is what we do,” he said. And it uplifted not only Detroit, but a nation.

Empathy. Grit. Determination. These are the qualities we crave at times like these. Storytelling, your storytelling, your call to action is what will mobilize.

You don’t need a million-dollar ad campaign. You don’t need a world-famous song. But your team needs your voice. Now is the time for you to find your mantra. Give your team something to rally around and then get to work.

Here are three ways you might apply your rally cry, your mantra, your call to action: 1) Use it as your sign-on or sign-off for each team meeting, 2) create an internal communication campaign using real stories of team members living out your words, or 3) develop an employee challenge that enhances participation and engagement in bringing your words to life.

Whatever you choose, be consistent. Leverage this moment as a time to intentionally lift up those around you to be more and do more. And remember, never underestimate the power of your words.

Bridget Krage O’Connor is owner and founder of O’Connor Connective, a strategic marketing communications firm committed to helping organizational leaders communicate and get results. Learn more at

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