When I was a child and I exaggerated a story, I remember my father calling me on it. “Did that really happen?” “Are you “telling stories”? It was code for lying because at some point, if you are telling a story and the facts aren’t true, you are lying. Storytelling has a bad connotation.
Lately I see a lot of storytelling. As people market on social media, the truth becomes distorted. People want to blog with a good hook. But reality might not be that interesting, so the writer brings out the spices. If you know the person, you might be disappointed.
Of course this has always been true in advertising. My favorite example comes from The Christmas Story when Ralph goes to such great lengths to obtain a decoder ring from Little Orphan Annie only to find out the secret code is an advertisement. His disapproval is obvious and we all know we’ve learned the same lesson. My sons have learned the hard way with dreamy toy advertisements which turn out to be nothing. Over the years I’ve warned them never to never believe advertising claims until they can be checked. This is why social media has grown. We want to benefit from other people’s experiences.
But can we trust everyone?
If you know someone closely or have been involved with a situation in a blog post, you might realize it isn’t quite true. The post might be an exaggeration when you know the true story. When you discover inconsistencies, you never really trust the writer again. If you find yourself thinking “That sounds good”, you immediately remember it’s probably storytelling and discard it as false.
I strive for authenticity in my writing. I’m not out to brand myself. I have nothing to sell, no image to propagate. When I communicate, I strive not to tell stories. I want to be trusted.
When you are reading a blog post, marketing materials, or even a status update, you need to be aware of the writer’s history and motivation. If it sounds too good to be true, most likely it isn’t.
We all need to keep our eye on the truth – and stop storytelling - if we are to be truly successful.