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The Messenger is just as important as the Message

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Singer Lady Gaga volunteering on a RockCorps community project with her fans.
Lady Gaga - powerful voice

Tom Cruise being interviewed on the couch with Oprah Winfrey
Not me – and Oprah in conversation.

True Story: I was sitting on a ‘casting’ couch in a New York City studio a few years back. This was a pre-interview to get on the Oprah show – the producers were interested in the RockCorps story. So there I was trying out for a trip to Chicago where Oprah would later tape her show. The couch was made up just like Oprah’s famous couch. After I tell our story, I could sense a real buzz in the room – the producers were loving the vibe - we were going on Oprah! This was the big one. In the wrap up as I was packing my bag – the producer asked my age; she said “wow – I thought you were way younger, like 28 or 30” (I look young for my age). Within minutes I found myself out on 51st street full of disappointment looking for the closest New York subway station. Never heard from Oprah again. Ouch!


That was a painful lesson, the lesson was that the Messenger is just as important as the Message. We have since incorporated that lesson into much of our work and it is a key component of both RockCorps and Apprentice Nation.


We are on a journey to inspire youth on their life and career journey, using the power of music, the power of community and of the power of volunteering. And while our artists performances have been incredible…


Artist Tinie Temper being interviewed about his career journey for Apprentice Nation, produced by RockCorps.
Tinie Breaks it Down

…it is the artist’s authenticity and lived experience that puts power behind the message. It rings true when Tinie (Tempah) says:


“It’s all about your mindset - stay on the right side of the tracks"

And not just career advice, incredible life nuggets often drop out, for example from the legend that is Ghetts:


Artist, rapper Ghetts performing at an Apprentice Nation concert, produced by RockCorps.
Ghetts at a recent Apprentice Nation concert
“Get into the habit of saying 'no'. That's where it comes from first and foremost. I know it's hard for someone that's deep in but get into the habit of saying 'no'. It's hard at first but it helps with the mindset. Then the calls start getting less and less”.

We can talk about volunteering all day, but when Lady Gaga joins volunteers in building a playground at an HIV Center – there is nothing more powerful:


Musician Lady Gaga volunteering at a RockCorps community project.
Lady Gaga volunteering pre-gig
“What makes this organization so special is that it makes volunteering fashionable”

RockCorps is certainly not the first, nor the last, to tap into powerful messengers.

Colin Kapernick communications campaign with Nike on social activism
What Colin Kapernick has done for social activism boosted by Nike is quite literally award winning.

We are also huge fans of Global Citizen and what they have done for ending Extreme Poverty.

Campaigner and musician Chris Martin performing at a concert
No less a powerful messenger than Chris Martin himself.

It took me a while to understand this concept as I had previously believed that you just do the good work, community work, and the message gets out there. Keep your head down. People will know. The world will find you. Incorrect. I was wrong then – and it is wrong now. You need powerful messengers. If my journey doesn't convince you, the science and academics also back this up: from SSIR find the right messenger for your message and also Indian Institute of Management. If academics aren’t your thing - just take a look at the Coronation and other goings on around Buckingham Palace. For better or worse - it cuts through!


As I learned in that mock Oprah New York studio, it matters who says the words as much or more as what is said. I get it now.


Drop me a line if you’d like to hear more about how we’re continuing to find the right messenger for our work to inspire and connect with young people.


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