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Thursday, 2 December 2010

All Marketers Tell Stories

Picture of the book cover for All Marketers Tell Stories
All Marketers Tell Stories
Seth Godin's got a new cover on his seminal book: All Marketers are Liars - with the Liars scored out to read: All Marketers Tell Stories.

So what's with the name change? I really like the fact that someone with Godin's status is happy to say, I got it wrong - especially about a book that is so influential. After all: he says "The ideas in this book have elected a president, grown non-profit causes, created billionaires and fueled movements."

However, I remember the first time I saw the original title. It really stopped me in my tracks. All Marketers Are Liars is a brilliantly provocative title. Would the book have been so successful with the milder title? Possibly, given Godin's great track record in insightful thinking, but this way, he gets the benefit of the booster rocket original title and a new lease of marketing life with the re-naming.

He says "We believe what we want to believe, and once we believe something, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth." And argues that the problem is: "When you are busy telling stories to people who want to hear them, you’ll be tempted to tell stories that just don’t hold up. Lies. Deceptions." and cites people like Joe McCarthy getting away with lying about the “Communist threat” for a while and bottled water being punted as purer than tap in developed countries.

In today's global connectedness, that doesn't work: falsehoods are quickly revealed.

And for all the talk about spin in PR, I think most experienced PR people, used to dealing with astute journalists and editors, have known the dangers of telling a whopper for a very long time (well before the rise of social media). Most PRs would counsel about the potentially damaging consequences. Whether their masters took their advice is another matter.

Hopefully they will with this book which counsels asking the 3 simple (but absolutely vital questions:

“What’s your story?”
“Will the people who need to hear this story believe it?”
“Is it true?”

Mindful of the power of stories and the consequences of straying from that which can be defended, I've certainly asked clients questions like this many times.

For the truth is: PR can't whitewash anything. But it can help limit the damage. By consistently getting the positive stories out there, we build a foundation of goodwill. We encourage organisations to celebrate the good they do and to seek external recognition by gaining kite-marks and awards: honestly won accolades that may well give them the benefit of the doubt if something goes wrong.

And we learn to engage the interest of editors, who are surely some of the toughest audiences on the planet, by telling stories in an interesting way.

Thanks to hundreds of thousands of years sitting around the camp-fires without a pixel in sight, we are all hard-wired by evolution to remember and enjoy a good story.

PR blog posted by Penny Haywood Calder at PHPR Ltd, Edinburgh, UK

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