12 Oct A NEW POST-FACTS WORLD? IT’S ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY
You know a politician is in real trouble when they start blaming voters for not paying attention.
Take Angela Merkel, the long-time German Chancellor who has been described as the most powerful woman in the world. Over the past 12 months, her once-unassailable position has started to look shaky, primarily over refugee policy, with her Christian Democratic Union losing votes at a rate of knots.
Mrs Merkel’s explanation? In a recent media interview she complained about the emergence of a “post-facts world”, adding: “People are not necessarily interested in facts, they are just following their feelings.”
Well, she is right when she says people tend to follow their feelings, but she is wrong in thinking that this is a new phenomenon.
It’s always been the case.
Audiences are much more likely to pay attention to facts and figures when these are delivered in a way that can be easily understood – in simple language and in compelling stories that appeal not just to the head but to the heart.
It’s what good story-telling is all about. It’s why fairy tales work; they employ the enormous power of feelings (anger, fear, happiness), to deliver clear messages: Don’t talk to strangers! Don’t be greedy!
It’s why the best journalism is not a long list of facts and figures but stories about how individuals, families or communities are affected by those same facts and figures.
We see this often enough during our media coaching sessions.
Senior executives – Board chairs, CEOs, financial wizards – working overtime to bury their stories behind a wall of figures or worse, behind nonsensical “mission statements” written by anonymous committees and devoid of any warmth.
Often, these otherwise very successful executives bury their personality, too, which is why they can come across as impersonal, detached or worse still, arrogant and out of touch.
In fact, we find that they almost always have a great story to tell about their businesses, their customers and their employees but these are lost among the facts and figures.
It takes a bit of practice and some clear-headed determination to get it right – to deliver information in a way that appeals to emotions – but it can be done.
As for Mrs Merkel, I suspect what she really meant was that it is now much easier and much quicker to let other people know how you feel, whether it is via Twitter, a FaceBook post or a personal blog. But that’s another story.