In a post-truth era, how can your message stand out?


After two bruising political campaigns in the US and the UK in 2016, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to watch leaders and aspiring leaders in action as they tried to win public approval. The most successful political campaigns have been built on short, easily understood messages. But a message doesn’t work in a vacuum. We’ve been hearing lots about post-truth tactics, where showmanship and grandstanding have been the order of the day.

Does ‘post-truth’ really  just mean ‘truth+’

Watch this fiery exchange between alt-right journalist Milo Yiannopoulos and Cathy Newman of Channel Four, to understand how Yiannopoulos understands post-truth.  In his own words ‘Just telling the facts is no longer enough. You now have to be persuasive and charismatic and interesting.’

post-truth Milo Yiannapoulos Cathy Newman

Milo Yiannapoulos during his Channel 4 interview with Cathy Newman

What can you learn from post-truth tactics?

So how can you beat the post-truth brigade at their own game?  What if you’ve got an idea that you want to share, and it’s falling on deaf ears?  Without resorting to fabrication and falsehoods, how can you make sure that what you have to say gets listened to? Is there something to be learnt from the post-truth approach?

A persuasive presentation appeals to your audience’s needs and wants. Trump’s ‘Make America great again’ campaign slogan was aspirational, appealed to patriotism and tripped off the tongue. As ego-centric as Trump is, he made the voter the hero of his campaign.  He made sure to put his message in a context that resonated. Too many presenters just brain dump a series of facts, and forget about why the audience gave their time to turn up in the first place.

And do make sure to tell the audience why you’re there – what qualifies you to speak on this topic – but don’t labour the point. Give them just enough references that they understand your authority. We’re the selfie-obsessed generation, this presentation has to be all about the audience! Aristotle had it right when he talked about ethos, pathos and logos in a persuasive presentation.

post truth Hillary Clinton with selfie takers

Hillary Clinton with selfie takers during her US presidential campaign

In the immortal words of Albert Einstein – ‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.’  In a noisy world, only concise, clear messages are heard. When you frame them in a way that resonates, your message will stick with your audiences.