Do people like to hear the truth, even when it isn’t pretty?
I went to a press luncheon this week and heard something surprising from the head of an international travel company, casually mentioned over the most exquisite slice of strawberry mascarpone cake.
“I’ve found that people like to hear the truth,” he said, “even if it’s not always pretty.”
On the surface, a casual remark, but it surprised me given the context: a “brand” talking to a “media outlet.”
It was remarkable because in our world of non-stop media messaging, we’ve all become “advertisers” — whether running a huge billion-dollar company or writing our online dating profile.
Everyone is trying to persuade us that their product, their service — even who they are — is better than all the rest. Even if it’s not complete fabrication, the flaws are tucked away while virtues are expounded.
It’s the message you get when you read a brochure, watch a TV commercial, even read a Facebook stream. Unfortunately, and most egregiously, these sugar-coated messages have crept off advertising pages and have found a much too comfortable place on what is supposed to be the editorial pages of a “free press,” what our founding fathers called the Fourth Estate — the place where “truth” was supposed to live.
Why? Because advertisers forgot, in their concern to sell their product, and publishers forgot in their concern to keep their business alive, that people want to hear the truth. In that process, editorial pages started sounding like press releases and readers decided to search for the truth in other places — like blogs — that now too are often infiltrated with marketing agendas.
But as P.T. Barnum supposedly said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
Yes, truth is valuable even when it’s not always comfortable – and is desired, appreciated and most importantly, needed. Perhaps, it might even be coming back. I have faith that could happen. As long as people begin to realize, like the businessman who shared that comment with me over lunch, that people like to hear the truth, even when it’s not always pretty.