05/28/2010 08:29 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Get It Right - Facts Matter

CEA's Shapiro Tells Press Club PR audience to provide just the facts

by Mike Smith

Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA, told an audience of PR professionals and Public Affairs Officers that "Facts Matter." In a keynote address this week, Shapiro "outted" mistruths, propaganda and just plain wrong-headed factoids spun to support a position.

In today's political debate, facts seem to fall by the wayside. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, Shapiro dispelled myth and mistruth around what he perceives as misinformation and bias. His talk was at the PR NEWS national public affairs conference co-sponsored by Mike Smith Public Affairs ( my own company here in Washington, DC.

Later on, Rick Shenkman who is a history professor at George Mason University, and a Vice President with Vote iQ (, told the same audience that open conversation and putting voters above politics is one means to get at the truth. Shenkman is also the author of Just How Stupid Are We: the truth about the American Voter. It's his argument that Americans need to become better informed citizens. That transparency in government and an open web-based platform of voter education and engagement, will begin to quiet the forces of propaganda in society.

Shapiro said: "Have the courage to state the facts that don't support your cause, and then explain why they don't suffice. By acknowledging them, you treat not only your opponents with respect; you treat your audience with respect as well." He added, "whether it is a new product or service, an industry event or a public policy cause, the treatment is the same: Hard facts, a well-defined issue and a forceful argument focusing on your strengths and countering your weaknesses."

An elegant argument and properly researched proposition can elevate our national debate. Too much political vitriol and "poison pens" tend to undermine the speaker or writer. Witness the tea party movement with over the top commentary on Obama's lineage. Or, the health town halls wherein hard core dems seemed to ignore real concerns about nationalized health care. Both extremes serve to polarize and not harmonize our national and collective intellectual debate.

Shapiro notes that one must "share the stage" with opponents. He lamented the fact that something is wrong with our discourse.

Something has changed.

The CEA president note he could not "say when exactly it happened, but in the last few years we have shifted as a nation. We have gone from a nation debating what to do-- given the facts we have --to a nation whose elected leaders present a different reality on the facts they choose to share!"

"And let me say, what Washington is selling these days is a loser. The American people aren't buying it."

Shapiro and his CEA team provided hard evidence on several policy "discussions" about competitiveness, health care reform, and other sharp-edged issues.

With apologies to Joe Friday on the crime drama Dragnet, Just the Facts, Man!

Mike Smith is a Washington-based Public Affairs consultant and CEO of his own firm, Mike Smith Public Affairs ( Vote iQ is his client and will launch a new voter engagement platform next week. James Carville and Frank Luntz are advisory board members of Vote iQ