The Tar Heel State's seal

The Tar Heel State's seal

“You talk about a dream,
Try to make it real.”
— Bruce Springsteen

While Latin is rarely taught in schools these days, every North Carolina student today and for the past 100 years is familiar with three Latin words:  “esse quam videri.”  Or “to be rather than to seem.”  That’s our state motto, and it’s everywhere from the floor of the State House to government agencies’ Web sites.

That adage popped back in my mind this morning as I read news reports on President-elect Obama’s appointment of Nancy Killefer to the newly created White House post of Chief Performance Officer.  As CPO, Ms. Killefer will work with federal agencies to set performance standards and hold agency managers accountable for progress.

In Obama’s words, “Change and reform can’t just be election-year slogans. They must become fundamental principles of government.”  Hailing the post as “one of the most important” appointments he will make, Obama said Killefar is charged with restoring fiscal order and reforming government.

Talk about a challenge.  Geez . . .

Killefar brings some serious street cred to the post.  She currently serves as a senior director for McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s leading management consulting firms.  Killefar also served as an assistant secretary of the treasury in the Clinton administration.

By establishing an executive-level position with responsibility for improving the overall effectiveness of our government and appointing someone with hands-on experience, Obama took an important step in helping build public confidence in his leadership style and judgment.

Whether Killefar can succeed is up for debate.  But whether Obama’s announcement was a smart public relations move is pretty darned clear.  It demonstrated two core principles of any effective public relations program, whether it be for a non-profit association, multi-national corporation or the U.S. government:  accountability begins – and ends – in the CEO’s office, and actions speak louder than words.  Note Obama’s comment about “election-year slogans” and “fundamental principles” – i.e., rather than just talking about doing something, the Obama Administration is taking concrete action.  To be rather than to seem.  Talk about a BGO.

And they say Latin is a dead language.