But again, how do you describe something to investors? She had to go out and get investors. This was a Princeton project. Okay, it was a dissertation. She had to go out and get investors excited about her idea, but they needed to see the big picture first. What was she trying to accomplish?
Here in the Bay area when Sergey Brin and Larry Page walked into Sequoia Capital, they had one sentence. One sentence and the investor said they got it immediately. Google provides access to the world’s information in one click. An investor from Sequoia Capital told me that in one sentence, we got it. Big picture before details, and that was about 10 words. Before Twitter, an investor told me that he wants a ten-word summary of what you do. He said, if you can’t describe what you do in ten words, I’m not interested in investing. That was before Twitter.
Now, I think it’s more relevant to keep it to about 140 characters. You should probably get to know this guy. He’s changed all of your lives. His name is Eli Harari. That’s me and Eli when we were on a conference room working on some messaging. Harari is the pioneer of Flash. He created Flash memory, so the memory that enables all of your iPads to work, your MP3s to work now and your laptops. You guys use digital cameras? All of you have him to thank for those digital cameras because he invented the Flash memory cards that go inside those digital cameras.
I bring this up because people at the highest levels of corporate business today, people who are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars, are constantly thinking about how do I communicate the vision behind my company more effectively. Getting back to Twitter friendly headlines, this was a workshop. We were working on it. He had to give a huge conference in front of all, the analysts. It’s called the Analyst Days. So every year public companies give one day where they talk to all the analysts. And we were going around the room, and I asked everyone for a Twitter friendly headline. And, of course, some of the engineers were pushing back. You know, they said now we’ve got way too much, way too much information. We can’t just distill it into 140 characters.
And Eli said no, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The analysts in the room that day don’t realize that Flash will be bigger than they think. This was 2009 before the iPad came out. Now Flash is in the iPad. He was absolutely right. The stock has gone straight up over the last few years. Eli was right, but the analysts in the room didn’t quite appreciate that at the time. So that was his Twitter friendly headline. In the coming decade Flash will be bigger than you think.
Guess what happened? Within three hours, as the rest of the analysts conference was going on, there were actually analysts tweeting. They were tweeting this. Flash will be bigger than you think. What was the headline on a lot of the blogs? Flash will be bigger than you think.
What did we do? We controlled the message. We reframed the message, but you can’t control the message if it’s confusing and convoluted.
So how do you make it clear? How do you make it understandable? Big picture before details.
Apple and Steve Jobs, they do this all the time. And I still like to talk about Apple because I believe that as far as the corporations are concerned, they get communications. They understand creating compelling messages.
What was the iPod in 2001? It was an ultra-portable MP3 music player that put a thousand songs in your pocket. In one sentence I got it immediately. 2007, Apple reinvented the phone. In 2008 Apple introduced MacBook Air. In a sentence, the world’s thinnest Notebook. The worlds thinnest notebook, what a great headline! It was consistent on all of their press releases, on the in-store signage. Steve Jobs said this during a presentation. That’s all you need to know. It’s the world’s thinnest notebook. If you want to learn more, go to the website, but in one sentence, you get it immediately.
Every time you, you introduce an initiative, an idea, a product, what’s the one sentence description for it? What’s the big picture before the details?
Last year for Forbes, I had this really fun opportunity to interview Richard Branson. And we talked about communications, and he said, Carmine, when I get pitched. And, you know, I guess I didn’t fully appreciate that Virgin Group is made up of, like, 300 companies. He gets pitched all the time. He said when someone pitches me, it better be clear and concise and easy to grasp. And then he gave me the sentence that became the headline for my article. He said, Carmine, if it can’t fit on the back of an envelope, it’s rubbish.
If your message can’t fit on the back of an envelope, it’s rubbish. So don’t be rubbish. Create that headline. Ask yourself, how do I explain my idea in 140 characters or less. Takes a lot of discipline to do that. A lot of discipline. But think about how would my audience actually tweet it? So that’s one method to make your message understandable.
After that though you need to flush it out, don’t you? You need to sell the benefit. You need to actually be specific and tell me, why should I care? Now this is another question that I learned to answer in journalism school. The one question that your audience is going to have, why should I care? How is it going to improve my life? Steve Jobs was brilliant at this, and that’s what initially gave me the idea to start writing about Steve Jobs. Nobody did it better than Steve Jobs, and the beauty is that a lot of his presentations are still on YouTube so we can learn from him to this day.