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A “Stormonter” Will Always Be Obviated by Companies That Deal Strictly in the Truth

by: Geoff Ficke

A “Stormonter” Will Always Be Obviated by Companies That Deal Strictly in the Truth 

Benjamin Franklin is remembered fondly as a Founding Father of the United States, a diplomat, scientist, inventor and founder of the United States Postal Service, among his many other successes. He is also credited with coining a number of words which found their way into wide use around the time of the Revolutionary War. This is a story that also displays the humor, quickness and twinkle that came to always be identified with Franklin and is useful to consider in today’s business world. 

During the Revolutionary War the British Ambassador in Paris was a Lord Stormont. He was a gossip, and took every opportunity to spread tales spun out of whole cloth that served to enhance British prestige and diminish the revolting young Americans. His goal, of course, was to discourage other European countries from aiding the Americans in their quest for freedom from the Crown and King George III. 

Stormont had begun to spread a rumor that six battalions of American soldiers had laid down their weapons and surrendered or run away in the face of a small British platoon. This was a lie made up from whole cloth. Nevertheless, the French were concerned enough to approach Ben Franklin and ask if this supposed act of cowardice had really occurred. 

“Oh no”, replied Franklin in his gravest tone of voice. “It is not the truth, it is merely a Stormont”. Almost instantly the wry, witty response had been whispered throughout the diplomat circles in Paris and the term “stormonter” became a popularly used synonym for lying. 

Stormonters (although the term is virtually unknown in modern English usage) are common in every area of life, especially in commerce. Marketers embellish their products features and benefits while often attempting to subtly, or directly, diminish their competition. I cannot count the number of times that I have experienced salesmen put down their competition by mouthing false statements. 

We all know that once a lie or untruth is spoken, it is ever more difficult to extricate yourself from the damage caused by such misplacement of truth. In sales and marketing, the principal components of every successful business, truth is paramount. Never put your product or business in a compromising position by even skirting facts as they truly are. 

Here are a few tips in how to position and defend your business against an untruth: 

  • Whenever confronted with a distortion of fact regarding your product, always, always compliment the competitor as having a fine product. Kindness kills.
  • Know your competition. When you know direct competitors it is easy to positively point out the difference in features and benefits your product offers, without slamming the competition.
  • Never be negative about another Company, product or management.
  • It is fair to ask for a performance test, market test, or blind consumer test versus another product. Proposed properly this will convey openness and confidence.
  • If you market a service you can gain trust by counseling a prospective to call several of your competitors and pick their brains. This always conveys superior confidence in a positive, reinforcing way.
  • Whenever someone tells you they are an honest person, put your hand on your wallet and run. Honest people carry an aura of trust that they do not need to shout. 

Ben Franklin turned Lord Stormont’s lies to his and his young country’s  advantage. In business we do the same things in many ways. Marketing consumer goods and services is a bit like an arms race. It is rough and competitive. But it should always be conducted truthfully. The chickens always come home to roost.