In 1918, Laurence Jones was delivering a sermon to the congregation at St. John’s Baptist Church in Mississippi.
He said: “Life is a battle, every negro must gird on his armour and fight to succeed.”
But a bunch of white men were outside listening.
This was during World War One, and they had heard that the Germans were trying to get American blacks to rise up and revolt.
This must be one of those blacks, he was preaching revolution and treason.
They barged into the Church and dragged him outside.
This was a clear case for a lynching and a large white crowd gathered.
With the noose round his neck and the rope already over the tree, Laurence Jones didn’t have time for a long speech.
He just said: “My speech in Church was all about how hard every negro must work.
I run the Piney Woods Country School for coloured children: the children of poor black farmers and former slaves.
We teach them carpentry, dairy farming, and construction.
We teach them to be mechanics, and cooks, and housekeepers so they’ll grow up to be good, hard-working people.
You don’t know me, but you know some of the white folks who’ve given us lumber to build the school, also land, and pigs and cows, and even money.
Because what we’re doing is good for everyone.”
And he mentioned the names of the local white people who’d helped him.
And one of the lynch-mob said: “Hold on boys, I know those people he’s talking about.
I’ve heard them tell about this school, we’ve made a mistake.
We shouldn’t be lynching him, we should be helping him.”
And he took off his hat and began passing it around the crowd.
By the time he was finished they’d collected $52 (that’s $891 in today’s money).
That’s quite a shift, from being nearly lynched to being given nearly $1,000.
But look at the short speech Laurence Jones gave.
Advertising ‘experts’ will tell you that the only thing that works is emotion.
So every advertisement must be full of emotion.
But there wasn’t a single word of emotion in his short speech, just facts.
Facts which created emotion.
The point is, if the speech had been all about emotion: how he didn’t want to die, how he loved his family, how scared he was, if he’d broken down and started crying and begging, he would have been hanged.
Those emotions wouldn’t have moved anyone, because they wouldn’t have changed anyone’s mind that he was a traitor.
And that’s the difference: we don’t want to fill an advertisement with lots of emotion that won’t do anything.
But, done properly, facts provoke emotion better than emotion provokes emotion.
Because facts are believable, whereas a display of emotion feels like manipulation.
And the first emotion we want to provoke is believability.
Laurence Jones knew how well facts work in stimulating emotion.
In 1954 he was the subject of the TV programme This Is Your Life.
He spoke about how he grew his little school from just a few children into a huge influential educational establishment.
He asked everyone watching to help by sending just one dollar.
His school received $800,000 (that’s nearly $7.5 million in today’s money).
Laurence Jones knew that facts can create emotion better than emotion can.