Monday, March 27, 2017

Jesus Lied

If you believe Seth Godin, all marketers are storytellers and all storytellers, liars.

History's most famous storyteller, perhaps, is Jesus Christ, which would also make him history's most famous liar. Jesus told parables, allegorical stories that aim to teach.

Among his best-known is "The Good Samaritan." The parable teaches neighborliness and goes like this:

A man was traveling when he fell among robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and left him half dead. A priest who was also traveling the road saw the man and passed by him. So did a Levite. But when a Samaritan came upon the man, he took pity and stopped; he bound his wounds after pouring oil and wine on them, and set the man on his own beast and brought him to an inn. The next day, the Samaritan gave two denarii to the innkeeper and said, "Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back." Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?

Well-told, the parable can be a powerful way to put across a lesson, as contemporary storytellers like Malcolm Gladwell know. Perhaps every salesperson's favorite parable is "The Stingy Customer." It warns against false economy and goes like this:

A rep received a call from a prospect. He told her he wasn't going to hire her company, but instead pay three college students to build his company's shopping cart. He also told her he was nobody's fool: her fees were too extravagant. Four months later, the man called again and asked the rep to look over the students' code, which worried him. The rep saw the students had taken shortcuts, making the application sluggish and easy to hack. With little experience a hacker could steal all the customers' names, passwords, credit card numbers and CCIDs. The rep wished she'd told him four months earlier, "If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur."

TED organizer Chris Anderson says the parable "can entertain, inform and inspire all in one." But he cautions parable-tellers to avoid preaching. "You don’t want to insult the intelligence of the audience by force-feeding exactly the conclusion they must draw from the tale you’ve told," Anderson says. "It’s important to test your material on someone who knows the audience to see if it lands with clarity, but without clumsiness."
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