I just read this article about Andy Dunn and Bonobos--or was it a press release. I'm not completely sure. If you've met Andy Dunn, you'll know why that's going to be a fine line for any reporter, because it's nearly impossible to have a conversation with him without getting wrapped up in a story optimized to share.
And damn, does he have his story and the ability to perform inception with it down cold.
That's what should be pretty obvious about getting good press: You can't get other people to tell your story unless you know how to tell it first.
Sometimes, you're obviously the best thing since the last best thing, but those stories are boring, and frankly, few and far between. It sucks being the 20th journalist to write about Pokemon Go.
Most of the time, when something isn't a phenomenon, the media isn't really sure what to think about you between fundraisings and product launches. They're more interested to know if that company that raised all that money is falling apart at the seams. Startup failure comes quick and often messy--great for storytelling.
Most success, however, is like watching paint dry and isn't particularly interesting to write about--unless you know how to frame it.
The Coveteur article featuring Andy and Bonobos encapsulated exactly how a founder worth writing about will act:
"...He speaks in sound bites and buzzwords as though he’s about to step onstage at a TED Talk (which, honestly, makes for a lot of valuable takeaways when you’re talking to him one-on-one); he’s brimming with advice (you don’t even need to ask); and he remembers just about every moment of his story in minute detail (which is full of fortuitous “accidents”)."
If anyone is ever going to write about you, you have to give them something to take away.
Otherwise, who cares?
Telling your story isn't just about conveying information about your company--it's about giving someone a framework that makes them feel like they know how to be successful as well. The audience will relate to you better.
What do you think people want to hear? "Here's how we did it" or "It's actually really simple, and here's how anyone could do this in their own life."
The former is bragging and the latter is inspiring--or if nothing else, enlightening.
That's why it's not surprising that you could take this whole article, which is mostly Andy telling his story, and use it to craft your narrative. I took the article, pasted it, and made it a little bit like Madlibs, making all the Bonobos parts [INSERT YOUR THING HERE] sections.
Here's what I would suggest you do:
1) Copy it and try to fill it in with your story. It will be a great exercise to make sure you've reviewed your complete narrative.
2) Pay careful attention to the gaps. Can't answer the one about how you want your customers to feel when using your product? Can't answer what your whole team is obsessed with? These are problems around mission and focus that need to be addressed.
3) Chop this up and distribute it. If you want to get press, or speak at a conference, or just get your content strategy going, bite sized chunks of this narrative can be turned into posts of their own, slides, white papers, video interviews, etc., to share.
4) Thank Andy Dunn for showing us the way to be one of the best storytelling founders ever.
This was the structure I found in the article:
[FOUNDER] might be the ultimate [HOW WOULD SOMEONE DESCRIBE YOU SUPERLATIVELY--SURFER, MOM, DAD, SCIENTIST] entrepreneur: [WHAT'S NOTICABLE ABOUT BEING IN YOUR PRESENCE?] ([WHAT AFFECT WOULD THAT HAVE ON OTHERS?]); he’s brimming with [WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE KNOWN FOR?]; and [HE/SHE] remembers just about every moment of [HIS/HER] story in minute detail (which is full of fortuitous “accidents”). And it’s true: [FOUNDER] is wildly successful. In [FOUNDING YEAR] [HE/SHE] launched [HIS/HER] company [WHAT INTERESTING CIRCUMSTANCES DID YOU LAUNCH YOUR COPMANY]—it doesn’t get more [WHAT KIND OF STARTUP DO YOU WANT TO BE KNOWN FOR] than an origin story like that. Thing is, at face value, [NAME OF COMPANY] is a [WHAT'S THE OBVIOUS NATURE OF YOUR COMPANY] company—it’s a [SHORT DESCRIPTION OF YOUR COMPANY] (in other words, [LAYPERSON'S DESCRIPTION OF YOUR COMPANY]).
Why should we care?
Because it’s [COMPANY NAME]’s model ([WHAT MAKES YOUR MODEL DIFFERENT]) that sets them apart. Like most entrepreneurs, [HE/SHE]s best at explaining it—suffice it to say we wish we thought of it first. The thing is, all [NAME WHAT'S MAYBE A BIT PLAYED OUT ABOUT YOUR COMPANY OR SECTOR] ribbing aside for a second, talking to [FOUNDER] about [COMPANY NAME] and how it revolutionized [YOUR SECTOR] is fascinating. Evidently, [HE/SHE]’s a good case for why the [YOUR SECTOR] industry should be taking cards from [TECH SECTOR OR WHATEVER YOUR UNIQUE ANGLE IS]’s deck where risk (and big change) equals major, [WHAT HAVE YOU ACHIEVED SO FAR--REVENUES, CUSTOMERS, ETC] rewards. And honestly, if you ever get a chance to see [FOUNDER] talk at a conference or anywhere, you should totally go. [CAN SOMEONE SAY THIS ABOUT YOU? WHERE ARE YOU SPEAKING AND IS YOUR TALK ANY GOOD? IF NOT, GET ON THAT SHIT.]
[INSERT SOME PHOTOS OF WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED THE COMPANY IN SOME WAY THAT SEEMS VERY DUCT-TAPED TOGETHER AND STARTUP-Y.]
[COMPANY] actually started as [SOMETHING SIMPLE THAT MAYBE WASN'T MEANT TO BE A COMPANY]:
“[[COMPANY] started as] [WHATEVER IT WAS AT THE BEGINNING]. For [SOME PERIOD OF TIME BEFORE YOU GOT SERIOUS], [WE WERE THINKING/TALKING/WORKING ON] how [PROBLEM EXISTED] and [WE/I] had this crazy idea that [SOLUTION]. [WE/I] was [WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON IN YOUR LIFE], and right before, [WE/I] was like, ‘Should I [DO LIFE THING] or should I [SIMPLE VERSION OF FIRST THING YOU DID TO START COMPANY]?’ [SOMETHING YOU KEPT HEARING FROM POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS.] [WHY WAS IT A PROBLEM?] [WHAT CRAPPY SOLUTION TO PEOPLE TURN TO, OR DO THEY JUST FAIL ON IT?] [OUR] insight was that if [SOME SIMPLE WAY OF DESCRIBING KEY INSIGHT INTO THE COMPANY.]
“[SO WE STARTED THE COMPANY AND HERE'S THE FIRST DUCT-TAPEY SOLUTION WE CAME UP WITH--ISN'T THAT A CRAZY START?].”
[CONTEXT FOR WHY YOU MAKE A GREAT ENTREPRENEUR]:
“[HERE'S SOME BACKGROUND AS TO WHY THE TIMING WAS SO RIGHT FOR THIS COMPANY.]
“[HERE'S WHY I WAS THE RIGHT FOUNDER/WE WERE THE RIGHT TEAM.] Not to be self-aggrandizing, but in [FOUNDING YEAR] that was a very contrarian and new idea. This was pre–[ALL THIS STUFF THAT IS OBVIOUS NOW... UNLESS IT STILL ISN'T OBVIOUS]. [HERE'S WHY THIS IDEA IS/WAS UNIQUE."
And then came the investors:
“[HERE'S THE LOOSE RANDOM CONNECTION I HAD TO THE FIRST PERSON TO WRITE A CHECK]. [ALL I WAS DOING WAS LOOKING FOR SOME FEEDBACK.] [AT THE TIME, I WAS DOING THIS OTHER THING.] [IN THE MEETING, THEY SAID IT WAS JUST LIKE THIS OTHER REALLY BIG THING, AND NOW I'M TELLING YOU IN THEIR WORDS.] [HE/SHE] said, ‘I’d love to invest.’ [AND NOW I'LL PRETEND THAT I WASN'T REALLY PITCHING AND I'LL BE ALL MODEST ABOUT IT.... BUT SHUCKS, HERE I WAS WITH A REAL LIVE COMPANY NOW.].’
“[AND THEN HERE'S WHAT THE SECOND INVESTOR SAID, AND THEN HERE'S A MOMENTUM STORY.] [HERE'S THE OBVIOUS THING THESE PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD.] It just sounds dumb. But it’s a really innovative idea. So I [DESCRIBE HOW YOU SET UP SHOP AT YOUR FIRST LOCATION], just with the sense that the company should be built here. This was the dream! Let’s not just prove [HOW YOU'RE DISRUPTING AN INDUSTRY], but reinvent [OBVIOUS THING YOU'RE REALLY DOING].”
[INSERT SOME PICTURES OF PRODUCTS OR PEOPLE USING YOUR PRODUCTS]
What [COMPANY] does differently (and why old [COMPETITORS] can’t catch up):
“[IF YOU WANT TO BE GOOD AT X, YOU CAN'T DO THIS THING THAT MOST OTHER PEOPLE DO]. [HERE'S HOW WE GOT THE INSIGHT INTO THAT.]. [WHAT WE DO IS THIS ONE SIMPLE THING DIFFERENTLY.]. [BUT IN REALITY, IT'S ACTUALLY REALLY REALLY COMPLICATED BECAUSE WE DO ALL THIS STUFF.]—it’s really a [THING THAT NO ONE ELSE HAS BUT EVERYONE ASPIRES TO]. [HERE'S THE REASON WHY EXISTING PEOPLE CAN'T DO THIS--BECAUSE THEY'RE STRUCTURED ALL WRONG WHICH I WILL EXPLAIN HERE]. New players could, which is why we are trying to move so quickly. We want to be [THE BEST WHATEVER]. Great [WHAT WE DO] are a way of building a sustainable business: I think of [REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT COMPANIES THAT ARE LOOSELY KIND OF LIKE WHAT WE ASPIRE TO BE]. If you build a great [WHAT WE DO], other people can knock you off, but [IT'S INCREDIBLY HARD TO DO FOR THIS REASON]. So we have to be known as the best [AT DOING THIS REALLY HARD THING].”
The special part of their [SECRET SAUCE]:
“The [SPECIAL THING THAT WE DO] is [DESCRIPTION OF SPECIAL THING THAT WE DO]. The greatest [SPACE WE'RE IN] innovator of the last 15 to 20 years was [SOME PERSON OR COMPANY THAT EVERYONE WOULD ASPIRE TO BE LIKE]. [WHEN THEY HAD MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT X, EVERYONE KNEW THEY WERE GAMECHANGING BECAUSE...]. Part of what was so cool was [THING THAT MADE THEM SUCCESSFUL]. [WHAT THAT REALLY IS IS THIS]. Our whole [SPECIAL SAUCE] model is built on that. [WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE OUR COMPANY, HERE'S HOW YOU EXPERIENCE OUR SPECIAL SAUCE]. We can do something that I don’t think any [SPACE WE'RE IN] company does, which is instead of [THING OTHER PEOPLE DO] we [THING WE DO] That’s the concept behind [COMPANY NAME]. We [SAY THIS THING ABOUT OURSELVES]. That is the way we think about [WAY THAT WE INTERACT WITH OUR CUSTOMERS].
“[HERE'S A LESSON WE LEARNED ABOUT OUR OFFERING KIND OF BY ACCIDENT.]
“Two insights: one brain-dead simple and one totally revolutionary. [THIS IS THE BRAINDEAD PART]. The part that was revolutionary was that [THING YOU WOULDN'T EXPECT]. Everyone in our industry had told us [THING THAT IS A COUNTERARGUMENT TO THING YOU WOULDN'T EXPECT]. [HERE'S WHAT FLIPPED THE MODEL FOR THE CUSTOMER AND HOW WE THINK ABOUT IT]. Why do you want [OLD WAY] when [OUR WAY]? [LIST A FEW WAYS YOUR WAY IS OBVIOUSLY BETTER THAT YOU REALLY CAN'T ARGUE WITH.] That was a radical insight because all of a sudden we could [WAY THAT WE DO OUR BUSINESS SO MUCH BETTER]. We can be the first [WHAT WE DO] in human history that doesn’t [OLD WAY THINGS ARE DONE]. And paradoxically, in doing so, deliver a better experience [DOING THIS THING]. [THAT MAKES US THIS THING OR MAKES OUR OFFERING THIS THING]”
On “[WAY WE THINK ABOUT CUSTOMERS WHO USE US]” and [CATCHY WAY WE DESCRIBE USING OUR THING]:
“Over time we would love [FOR CUSTOMERS TO BECOME THIS REALLY GREAT ASPIRATIONAL THING THEY COULD BE IF THEY USED US, BECAUSE WE LIKE WHEN THEY'RE THE BEST THEY COULD BE]. [WE THINK THAT CUSTOMERS THAT HAVE ACHIEVED THIS MASLOW'S TRIANGLE PEAK ARE THE BEST, AND WE HELP THEM GET THERE]. [OUR TEAM WORKS REALLY HARD AT ENSURING THIS ONE THING IN OUR CUSTOMERS AND WE FOCUS ON IT EVERYDAY].”
The future of [OUR SPACE]:
"Sometimes the future is rooted in the past, which is sort of counter-intuitive. If you think about old school [OUR INDUSTRY], it was about [THIS THING THAT WE CAN ALL THINK ABOUT WISTFULLY]. We are bringing that back. We do believe it’s the future, but we would prefer people to not think that for a while [laughs]! But it’s too late—the cat is out of the bag. For a while people were like, ‘What the hell are they doing?’ Now, from what I understand, there is a lot of folks trying to figure out, ‘Okay, what does the future of [OUR SPACE] look like for us? How do we evolve what we are doing?’ Or ‘How do we think about going back to the past via a technology-enabled model?’ We are a technology-enabled [WHAT WE DO]. The core product that we are selling isn’t a tech product. The core product that we’re selling is an amazing customer experience that is a bundle of [THING CUSTOMERS WANT] and great service. But we wouldn’t be able to do it without being technology-enabled. We had to be [WAY THAT WE ARE TECH ENABLED] so we could build this [THING THAT WE DO WELL]. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be able to think about building a great [WHAT WE DO WELL]. We wouldn’t be able to reinvent [OUR SPACE] with [NEW CONCEPT IN THE MARKET]. The whole experience is enabled by technology. But at the core of what we do, we are [THIS SIMPLE WAY WE CAN DESCRIBE WHAT WE REALLY ARE THAT SEEMS NOT SO SPECIAL BUT REALLY HAS A LOT GOING ON BEHIND IT, AS YOU CAN SEE FROM THE WAY I JUST DICTATED THE WHOLE STORY TO YOU.]”