What’s More Important: The Story or the Facts?

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

3 July 2019

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, otherwise known as Independence Day. It’s the day on which our forefathers declared our independence from the British government. Or is it?

You’ve likely seen the famous painting by John Trumbull, commissioned in 1817. It showcases the signing of the Declaration of Independence, from the perspective of an artist more than forty years after the United States declared itself free from British rule. But the picture is a fictional part of our country’s story, a complete fabrication of the actual history. The Declaration of Independence was voted on July 2, 1776, made into copies on July 4, 1776, finished being signed on August 2, 1776, and the British weren’t informed until August 30, 1776. So why do we look at that painting and picture our founding fathers to be so organized and well-put together?

The Story

Facts are important when you’re looking at your bank statement or if you happen to be a lawyer. But when you’re trying to influence the way people think and feel, the story is always more important than the facts. Have you ever watched a documentary that was slanted in such a way that you felt empowered to change (e.g., to become a vegetarian, to donate to charity, or to avenge a victim’s misfortune)? A wise man once told me, “Before you watch any documentary, look into who produced it and why.”

What’s Your Story?

Humans are natural storytellers. We love to write stories, read stories, hear stories, and watch stories. Stories can even help us be more empathetic to the way others feel, as well as to the way others treat us. If we can understand the perspectives of others, it’s easier to understand their plight or their reasoning. Companies with great stories flourish because they seem more human. A great story will always appeal to a broader audience than a great product or service will. The magic comes in when you have both.

I hope you enjoy your holiday weekend, and while you’re at it, think about your story. The day you were born, the amount of time you’ve been sober, where you work, how much you weigh, or the number of heartbreaks you’ve had don’t define you. The way you pull those things together and present your truth does.

So, think carefully, and tell your story effectively. It’s the only thing that matters.