Battle of the Anecdotes

Facts are facts. Deal with 'em. Your only job is to win.

Facts are facts. Deal with ’em.
Your only job is to win.

Anecdotes are an effective way to tell a story. We all use them every day, some better than others. Politicians. Preachers. Lawyers. Business “rainmakers.” They are among the best.

Already know the conclusion you want to lead your listeners to? Plenty of examples to choose from to get you there. Some facts may actually be indisputable. But most of the time, the lesson they teach depends on the interpretation you give them.

Listen to the talking heads any day. Look at newspaper headlines, and the nuances are easy to spot depending on the bias of the publisher and author.

In the media, it’s called anecdotal storytelling. It’s a process that normally works backward. Start with the conclusion you want to prove, then find examples to buttress it and ignore those that don’t fit.

Take the recent Congressional Budget Office report on the anticipated effects of the Affordable Care Act on the workforce. What did it really say? To Republicans and the conservative media, it said that 2 1/2 million jobs will disappear over a decade. To Democrats and the liberal media, it said that there will be no decline in jobs available, but that employees will take the option of working fewer hours because they no longer need to be full-time to qualify for health insurance.

Or what’s driving this year’s volatile U.S. stock market? The media and commentators must come up with explanations daily. Economic weakness at home? Turmoil in emerging markets? Traders jittery and looking for any excuse to sell after last year’s big run-up? Take your pick.

Or whose version of “the facts” is correct in the Bridgegate scandal enveloping New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie? Your answer probably depends on your political affiliation.

In Crisis PR, it’s called spin. Facts are facts, and you must deal with them. Only a fool would flatly deny what’s already known — or soon will be. You risk losing credibility in a heartbeat.

The real question is, How can you manipulate the facts to be the most convincing?


“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”

Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Preparation & Training. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.

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