Storytelling In Search Of The Facts

At MPRM Communications, we are privileged to work with some amazing storytellers, from independent filmmakers to entrepreneurs who set out to change the world. But just like the proverbial shoemaker’s children who go without shoes, they often need help in crafting their own stories. Because it is our business, we are also keen observers of other practitioners of the art of storytelling, whether in service of an issue, business, promotion or simply to entertain. What we plan to undertake here is a weekly look at the different ways storytelling can be used from transporting audiences to motivating change to building a business or creating awareness.

There is fake news and then there is really fake news. The first is what has become the go-to response to real news that the recipient doesn’t like, the second is dis-and/or mis-information, whether it is coming from conspiracy theorists, foreign governments or individuals in power for whom facts are irrelevant.

As a society we appear to be moving to a “choose your own adventure” style of fact selection, primarily based on politics, which in turn determines your personal information channel, something that has grown increasingly narrow. It is dominating news coverage. And we’re certainly seeing it in the response to the election results.

Fiction instead of facts has real world consequences. We saw it pre-Covid with the anti-vax movement which led to measle outbreaks in certain areas because people had become convinced that the vaccine was more dangerous than the disease it prevented. Covid has become a tale of two stories: one that mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding large groups will mean reducing illness and death based on data from health organizations around the world, and the alternative that it’s no worse than the flu, will go away real soon and that masks don’t really work. The problem is that people are dying.

This election week is the culmination of multiple narratives, ranging from a belief in the potential for massive voter fraud, the dismissal of potential foreign intervention and voter suppression activities that disproportionately impact people of color. A peaceful election and transition of government is something that we have always taken for granted. But this year saw a President declaring for months that he might not accept the results and who is now insisting that the votes he doesn’t like are illegal. This has been an incredibly stressful week and it’s still not over.

While we appear to be a deeply divided nation, the record turnout demonstrated our shared commitment to the importance of the individual vote. The media, traditional news and social platforms alike, exercised extreme caution in projecting winners and have taken great care in educating viewers and users on when they might expect final results. While half of us will be unhappy with the result, we will ultimately accept it and then hopefully turn our attention to the needs of our local communities.

So what does this mean for us as communications professionals?

  1. Credibility is important.
  2. Don’t over promise.
  3. Communicate beyond your target audience