What happens when facts meet a story?


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You know that when scissors meet paper, paper loses. But do you know what happens when facts meet a story?

More often than not, when facts meet a story, facts lose. Case in point: the Brexit hullabaloo, or how Britain recently divorced the European Union (EU).

It all began with the fine people of Britain hearing a story about how their 43-year-long marriage with the EU was a bad one. How bad? Practically deadly.

Was the story factual? Heck no.

That’s not me talking. That’s countless prominent British citizens talking. Their famous athletes (e.g. David Beckham), business leaders (e.g. Michael Kevin O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, aka Europe’s largest airline), entertainers (e.g. Daniel Craig, aka the current James Bond), writers (e.g. John le Carré), etc. all argued that Britain’s marriage with the EU was a good one. (See an article about this in the Telegraph.)

What’s more, the same folks (that is, those in favour of Britain staying in the EU) actually had facts to prove it. For example, the British-based EasyJet airline is the second largest airline in France. And the only reason why EasyJet was granted the privilege to serve the French market was because Britain was in the EU.

There was only one problem that those forward-thinking folks in favour of Britain staying in a marriage with the EU overlooked. And it was a big one. The problem: in life and in politics, facts can’t replace a story. Only a story can replace a story.

We all know what happened next. However slight, the majority of the Brits believed the story that their 43-year-long marriage with the EU was not just repetitive, but actually very bad. So they decided to divorce the EU. :(

Let’s wrap this up.

What can we learn from the above? Whether you seek to inform, persuade, or delight, you will get better results if you start your quest with one simple question. The question? Ask: What would people love? Would they love to hear more facts, or would they love to hear a good story?

Jun 26, 2016

p.s. The NY Times posted a follow-up story on the above topic on Jun 28. See http://nyti.ms/292VgXJ. It’s all about how Brexit proponents’ false promises (that’s NY Times’ phrase, not mine) keep on crumbling.