It is becoming hard to trust pollsters. For example, the polls all predicted that Donald Trump would lose the U.S. election and did not see Brexit coming. It is also becoming harder to attach importance to what experts, journalists, politicians and bosses have to say, coached as they are by communications specialists and often masters in the art of distorting the truth for their own benefit.
The public arena today is drowning in a mass of confl icting opinions and competing rhetoric. We have now reached the stage that anti-fake news legislation is in the pipeline. By swelling the number of distribution channels, digital technologies add to the confusion – but they also provide antidotes, such as by facilitating the exchange of critical analysis.
Against a background of lies and untruths, how can you employ storytelling, which has traditionally been a powerful mobilization tool? Be authentic, ethical, discerning and back everything up with hard data.
Multiple truths influence our worldview
Reality is complex. The truth has many faces. A range of differing narratives can be based on the same set of facts, depending on perspective or the particular context and words used. Environmentalists and climate skeptics, for example, hold opposing views on global warming founded on the same data. The former predict an upcoming disaster, while the latter minimize or deny the impact.
The expansion in digital technology has been accompanied by an upsurge in the number of sources of information and explosion in competing truths. Online information is condensed (just 280 characters for a tweet), and loses the context needed to assess facts properly. Communication techniques that are knowingly aimed at misleading have also progressed. In the world of politics, spin doctors have flourished, based on the model of Alastair Campbell (Tony Blair’s shadowy consultant) and Frank Luntz, communication consultant for the French Parti Républican. Natural safeguards have been undermined. On the web, experts viewpoints are given less sway and are questioned by one and all.
Macdonald argues that multiple truths have a strong infl uence on our worldview, and that this is something we need to be aware of. Furthermore, we should be capable of using truth honestly as a way of mobilizing others.
Using storytelling wisely
The fact that all truths are relative should not lead to a sense of futility or inaction. You can still use storytelling artfully to contribute to the good of your company, and even to the good of society. How? By defi ning your vision and backing it up with facts, you can create an engaging story – as well as inspiring storylines for the future – that deliver an inclusive vision and achieve constructive objectives.