The Importance of Story Telling for Startup Entrepreneurs

If I had a buck for every time an entrepreneur asked me how to get media attention, I’d be as wealthy as a venture capitalist.
Ok, that may be a bit of stretch. I’d probably have enough money to run my own bar, which I’d call “The Story Distillery.”
But I’ve got to say the startup entrepreneurs who ask me that question are smart. Because what they really want to know is how do they tell a story good enough to reach the widest audience possible. The key is to have a good story to tell. One that resonates with people. One that they want to share with their friends and family.

Here’s my five tips on story telling for entrepreneurs:

1. WAIT: Have a great story to tell. Sometimes this means waiting until you’ve landed a great big contract or found a major investor willing to back your idea or hit $1 million in revenue or sold the company or any significant material event in the company’s life. A bad story is “Hey, we’re launching a new version of our product” will you write about us so that we can attract new customers? Reporters are not PR agents.

2. BE UNIQUE: Make sure that your story is unique and interesting. Try it out on friends. Get feedback. Pretend like you’re writing a novel and when you publish it you want it to be the best possible version. It’s Ok to tell a bad story. I’ve told plenty. Just learn from the experience and refine the story until it flows like a real-life fairy tale with a beginning, middle and end and some exciting climaxes throughout to keep the reader engaged. Also, you can think like a reporter and include the 5 Ws and H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

3. BE HUMAN: Make sure your story has plenty of characters in it. People like to read about people and their lives and their experiences. People who create the products are the innovators. Think about Steve Jobs. If people just talked about his products and not the person behind the ideas, then Apple wouldn’t have nearly as great a cult-like following.

4. BE AWARE OF YOUR AUDIENCE: Whole Foods’ social media director says Pinterest drives more traffic to its website than Twitter. That’s because Whole Foods crafts stories with compelling visuals especially for Pinterest. It doesn’t tell the same stories on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. The company understands the different audiences. Just because your company created a special story doesn’t mean you should blast the same story on different social media channels.

5. BE HELPFUL: Help tell other people’s stories. Dell is really good at this. The computer company tells its story through its customers and partners. This creates new narratives that keeps the stories fresh and interesting.

And if a reporter tells your story and it’s a good one, be sure to thank that person. Reporters remember people who say thank you. I’ve been a reporter for two decades and I keep a collection of all of the letters, e-mails and cards I’ve received throughout the years from people who were kind of enough to say thanks. They mean a lot to me.

And for more on story telling, I would recommend reading this post on Lyn Graft of Austin. He did this presentation last year at SXSW Interactive on Story telling for Entrepreneurs.
Alan Weinkrantz, a public relations professional in San Antonio, who I have known for a long time, recently gave this Slideshare presentation on the importance of story telling to some startups in Israel. He originally posted this on his blog.

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