Q&A: The Ethics of Fabricated Stories

Q: I’m an internet marketer, and during your recent webinar with Andre Chaperon, I heard you say that it’s OK to make things up in a speech or a story for a sales presentation or email. Isn’t that highly unethical?

A: I understand your concern, but listen again to the recording of that presentation. What I said – and what I always tell marketers and public speakers – is that stories must be TRUE, but they don’t have to be FACTUAL. Fabricating information about the quality of a product, its proven success rate, its testimonials, or about one’s own achievements, accolades and background as they relate to that person’s credibility and expertise — to do any of these things is unethical and unprofessional. It’s also pretty dumb, because a reputation for being untrustworthy can spread very quickly.

But to consolidate characters when telling a story about true events, or to shorten or rearrange timelines, or change settings, or to make up characters to illustrate a typical person who might benefit from a product, a process or a message, or to do anything else to make a story more emotionally involving is fine — as long as you don’t misrepresent whatever it is you’re illustrating or recommending. This is what I believe, anyway.