The Only Way to Beat a Story is with a Better Story

Presumptive presidential candidate Mitt Romney is on the ropes, with the Obama camp pummeling him on his record as an “outsourcing pioneer” and a rich man “out of touch” with working America.


Romney’s response? To be defensive, demand apologies and throw desperation punches like “This is Chicago-style politics at its worst.” And that strategy will fail, just as it did in his 1994 run for Massachusetts senator.

Here’s some advice for the Romney camp, and it applies to business communicators as well:

The only way to beat a story is with a better story.

The Obama camp is painting a story of an anti-hero (a greedy out-of-touch Romney) with a goal (to protect his rich friends) and an enemy (the working class voters). Romney can’t erase that story by whining “no fairs!”. He has to come up with a better story, where he is the hero and champion for the American people.

Even telling the truth would be better than just denying Obama’s story. He could say:

It’s true my companies increased profits by outsourcing jobs. But that’s the point. American manufacturing has become non-competitive with the rest of the world. That’s why we face a serious problem in this country: how to make our manufacturing sector competitive again. We can’t expect business owners to keep jobs in this country based on patriotism alone. That isn’t sustainable. We can’t just add taxes to businesses that outsource jobs. That just drives up the cost of goods and services for Americans and makes us less competitive with foreign companies. We need radically new thinking about how to keep manufacturing jobs in America, or retrain displaced workers.

This creates a new story: the hero (reformed villain Romney who is now on our side) with a goal (to fix the outsourcing problem) and a new enemy (policies that make America’s manufacturing sector non-competitive). Americans love a reformed sinner.

Throwing up your arms to cover your face is no defense. Romney’s camp needs a better story. Keep this principle in mind if you’re arguing your case in the face of opposition.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.


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