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Guest

Storytelling Learned from Ann Romney

By: Guest | September 10, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Barbara Sawyers

I’m a Canadian and have no vested interest in the Republican National Convention.

But as a speechwriter and storyteller, I watched. And I learned a lot by listening to the personal stories told from the podium.

Storytelling is a smart tactic to win the hearts of audiences, and therefore, their votes.

The strategy during the Convention was to humanize Mitt Romney and to show undecided voters the Romneys are real people, just like them.

At the convention, Ann Romney was under heavy pressure to deliver results. She was to build trust, win votes, and to identify with a more down-to-earth image than the Cadillac Queen.

I first heard Ann speak during the primaries, around the time Newt Gingrich was condemned for allegedly asking his wife for a divorce while she was undergoing cancer treatment. Mitt’s support for his wife during her breast cancer and multiple sclerosis persuaded me that a heart beat exists under that shiny robot exterior. Ann’s story mattered so I was interested to hear what she would say.

In order to cast her glow on Mitt, I’ll bet the strategists and her speechwriter told her to paint a picture with her stories, and add as much physical detail as possible.

This is where the claim that Ann and Mitt ate off an ironing board in their early days comes in.

I’ll bet neither Ann nor the strategists have ironed much. If they did, they’d realize how rickety ironing boards are. A light tap would have sent the ironing board, dishes, and food clattering to the floor.

Besides, a smart couple would have found a more stable table at a thrift shop or Woolworths. Or orange crates. As poor newlyweds, my parents ate off a card table.

Of course, Ann Romney isn’t the first person to exaggerate to attempt to improve a story. How often have you raised your eyebrows when someone was telling a supposedly true tale? Usually we let them get away with it because the story is so entertaining.

But when people who are supposed to always tell the truth start to embellish, we lose trust – the very thing you’re attempting to gain.

Many of the podium stories generated excitement in Tampa and goodwill outside. But once some of these stories are scrutinized, doubts will surface. People caught up in the moment will go back to being undecided voters. A sound strategy poorly executed can backfire on you.

We may put up with Uncle Harry exaggerating about the size of the fish he caught; but not with politicians, business leaders, or anyone else we expect to tell the truth.

Speechwriters and marketing strategists, remember this the next time you’re tempted to spin a story, even a little. Details have the power to bring your story to life–or to kill it.

Barbara Sawyers helps people pull ideas out of their heads and onto the page through her writing, training, and book Write Like You Talk Only Better.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] story to life–or kill it. That’s why Ann Romney lost me at “ironing board.” Learn more from my guest post at Spin [...]

  2. [...] was surprised by the flack I received about my guest post on Spin Sucks about how Ann Romney’s claim of eating off an ironing board in her young married days undermined [...]

  3. [...] Storytelling Learned from Ann Romney (spinsucks.com) [...]