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The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

If there was ever a time in human existence where the truth is more elusive, please fill me in. Everyone today has the opportunity to appear like someone else. Everyone and everything can create a persona that may have little to do with who or what they really are. As a result, it is becoming harder and harder to tell fact from fiction and truth from lies. This is the new culture we are living in, so what does it mean for marketers?

Good question. It depends on what kind of marketer you are. If you are one that is not opposed to stretching the truth (or completely avoiding it), the time has never been better to convince people you’re something that you’re not. Of course, this is a true short-term strategy because once you are revealed for your true character, you are done. This is how it should be in this case. It appears that many people are more gullible than ever but once it has been discovered that they were duped, then the indignant backlash is swift and intense.
So where does the real opportunity lie in this environment where the ability to lie and to get away with it has never been greater? It can be found in telling the truth and having complete transparency around your products, services, and offerings. Many people who come from marketing before the days of the Internet fear this concept, because it used to be that spin control could actually be controlled. Now, in the era of connectedness we all live in, you really have little control over your messaging. That’s a scary prospect unless you have the right point of view.
So what exactly is that point of view? It’s one of telling the truth and being accountable. While we are more gullible than ever before, we are also very forgiving for those who are truly repentant when business goes bad. The logical outflow of that is being able to tell someone that you screwed up and then doing your best to right the wrong. It’s actually very refreshing.
Here’s a quick example that comes from the world of sports that I hope will inspire us all to face our mistakes and shortcomings with dignity and class rather than “pulling a BP” and doing whatever it is they are doing.
On June 2, 2010 Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga was one out away from pitching only the 21st perfect game in Major Baseball history. At this point, first base umpire Jim Joyce was about to become both infamous and famous all at once. Joyce’s blown call on what should have been the final out of the game cost Gallaraga his place in history by taking away his perfect game.
What followed, however, showed what life is truly about in the end. Rather than throwing a fit, Gallaraga accepted the call with just a quick smile. It was shown by replay after replay that the call was wrong but it was the call. It couldn’t be reversed. After the game, Joyce, who was just last week voted the best umpire in baseball by the players according to ESPN, faced Gallaraga and apologized.
The next day, they met at home plate for the exchange of lineup cards and Joyce became teary-eyed when he was face-to-face with Gallaraga. Gallaraga’s response to all of this can be summed up in this from the Sports Illustrated article “A Different Kind of Perfect”,
“When I saw him,” says Galarraga, who needed only 88 pitches to complete his gem, “I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ He was red, like a tomato. He hugged me right away. Not even one word.”
Then Joyce managed to say, “Lo siento [I’m sorry].” He started to cry.
“I took something away from him,” Joyce says, “and if I could, I would give it back in a minute. He just looked at me and hugged me, and I couldn’t talk after that. My emotions got away from me.”
Says Galarraga, “He tried to talk. He’d say a couple of words. ‘You were perfect, I was not.’ I felt so bad. I didn’t feel bad for me. I felt bad for him.”

Umpire Jim Joyce’s reaction to everything that has gone on?
“His smile is burned into my memory,” Joyce told SI three days later. “I am absolutely enthralled with the way Armando has handled this.”
What these two men exhibited was grace and humility. These are things that are in short order in the world of social media gurus and experts blowing their own horns more loudly than those silly things from this year’s World Cup soccer matches.
How will you stand out from the din of the masses who just want to make sure they are heard and ultimately sell you something? It looks like being honest and humble will look very different in this new age of marketing. I, for one, am excited by this trend. I sure know that I could use some grace in the things I have screwed up along the way. Let’s face it we all can.
Here’s to marketing with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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