The Power of Truth

The Power of Truth in Communications

A new website, a new truth

For our new website we chose a quote by marketeer and entrepreneur, Seth Godin, which we think tells us an important truth;

“People do not buy goods and services, they buy relations, stories and magic”

This is something that chimed with our own philosophy of communications and it made sense to have it as a frontispiece. Having come from what you might consider a ‘pure’ storytelling background, in creative writing, television drama and film, storytelling is central to what we have created in Tin-Can Telephone. Story is my prime motive, it is the spine of all good communications.

What does ‘story’ mean?

People buy into stories. For thousands of years, we have gathered around the campfire and told each other stories. It is the essence of being human. The telling and receiving of story is what has moved us beyond basic biological imperatives. Before modern forms of communication, stories told within families and tribes were the means of discovering the world, learning what was dangerous and what was bountiful. The role of the travelling storyteller was fundamental to the cohesion of a people. Shared stories are what bind us together. There is a great power in storytelling, we convey the experiences of other human beings into the mind of the listener.  We take them on a journey that ideally engages their emotions, then it becomes a journey they care about. When the listener cares about the journey, then it is like hypnotising a subject, they’re ready to receive your message.

Story is the means of persuasion

There are several means of persuasion. Plato was writing two and half thousand years ago about the power of rhetoric; “The art of winning the soul by discourse”. This is primarily an intellectual pursuit, an attempt to construct logical arguments able to withstand cross-examination. This works well in certain environments, such as the courtroom or the political platform. Another method is coercion. If you don’t do this, then something awful will happen. Some of us are old enough to remember the HIV/AIDS adverts of the 80s – a prime example of coercion. It can also be very effective given the right circumstances. The opposite to this method is the method of seduction, “If you wear this fragrance you’ll attract your desired partner(s)”. Or “You will have the most beautiful home if only you use our paints”.

We can all think of many more examples that we’ve probably bought into. The power of Story is that it can incorporate all of these things. And most importantly, Story deals in the currency of emotions. That’s exactly why Plato wanted all the storytellers thrown out of Athens – they’re irrational.

With great power comes great responsibility

Storytelling is in itself not good or bad, it is a tool. To be used well it has to be understood and practised, but it is still a tool. Many great storytellers have talked about what it is to tell a story, and a common theme emerges: That storytelling is striving to communicate some truth about what it is to be alive. However the opposite is also true, that story is used to convey lies.  I think we’re all a little bit cynical these days and will suspiciously assess marketing looking for the lie behind the attractive message. Perhaps we’ve been told too many lies by marketing over the years. And there is the responsibility.

Story rooted in Values

This is why we at Tin-Can Telephone place values at the heart of good communications. We are only interested in authenticity and responsible storytelling. If your aim is to con the public, we’re not for you. There are plenty of companies out there that would like to hoodwink you, to sell you a narrative that will part you with your money for the only their benefit. There are the Bell Pottinger’s of this world that will take money from anyone, no questions asked, and set about rewriting their narratives – selling lies.  We’re not interested in them and we’re not interested in vacuous communications.

Equally, there are many more companies that are looking to tell your story for you, but without caring what that story really is. If you have the competence you can produce striking graphics, you can produce compelling text or an entertaining film. However, the sensation those products produce will be short-lived and shallow unless you care about the story and understand the values behind the story.

If your aim is to convey your genuine values to the public, and your aims are for the benefit of that public, then we are definitely for you. We aim to leave this world a better place than we found it, and if you share that aim then we’ll work well together.

Posted in General Communications, Storytelling.

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