Over the past few weeks, my company EasySeat has been working on obtaining some major, national publicity. In conjunction with these efforts, I have had to tell our “story” repeatedly to many different people.
In order to get publicity, the tale of the business needs to be something that is compelling and engaging. But in an established industry, or one that simply seems mundane, storytelling can be a difficult task. Not every company can be a Facebook which, by sheer impact on people’s day to day lives, creates its own story. In fact, most businesses, according to the e-Myth by Michael Gerber, are started by people that are really good at what they do and suffer an “entrepreneurial seizure.” That is, they’re not entrepreneurs who set out to change the world, but just regular people that struck out on their own for a better opportunity.
If your business falls into this category, it’s easy to feel like just another pizza joint or dry cleaner. But even if it feels that way, there is a story that can be told: your genesis story. In the initial decision to strike out on your own, there was a catalyst, something that pushed you over the edge to start on your own. In the case of Geode Software, our genesis story was rooted in the failure of a dot-com company that flamed out when the internet bubble burst. Even though custom software development, Geode’s core service, is pretty pedestrian, dot-com flameout to successful startup makes for a good story. What you do may not be all that interesting, but how you got there usually is.
Even without a great company genesis story, there are other places to find a story to tell. In some cases, you are the most interesting thing about the company. As founders, we find our businesses enthralling but ourselves, not so much. However, the media loves a great human story. From my very first business, David Evans Painting, I was always a sizeable portion of the company back-story. Back then, I was a fresh-faced entrepreneur running a business from his sister’s spare bedroom. Today, I’m the serial entrepreneur that has his hands in everything from software, to tickets, to real estate. The commonality is that there has been a way to get publicity for the company simply by telling my personal story. Even though the company may not be a superstar, you always have the potential to be one.
Even if you are convinced that neither your genesis story nor your personal story are worthy of attention, there is always a way to tell the story to make it interesting. This is the point that requires becoming a bit more of a storyteller. For example, Pinkberry’s launch was more of a last resort than a genesis. However, the long lines that led to thousands of parking tickets led to a feature store in the LA Times. A busy yogurt shop is not a story; a yogurt shop so busy that it spawned thousands of parking tickets and a city hearing is a story. Find the right way to tell your story, and you’ll get a lot more attention.
Whether telling your genesis story or your own personal tale, what really matters is that you have something interesting to tell. Find that interesting story about you and your business. Polish and embellish it for effect. Tell it early and tell it often so that it becomes part of the fabric of your company’s identity. Storytelling is an art that, when mastered, can lead to lots of free publicity.