How Tech Titans Weave Stories that Compel Us
In this article, we dive into the communication styles of tech titans, by taking a close look at Bezos's open letters, Musk's dynamic tweets and Jobs's emotionally charged product presentations.
December 28, 2023
Industry leaders grapple with multifaceted challenges in managing communications with the media and the public. Striking a balance between transparency and confidentiality, navigating crises, and addressing diverse stakeholder expectations pose ongoing complexities. In a rapidly evolving media landscape, leaders also require nimbleness and strategic acumen to maintain a public opinion of credibility and trust.
A reflective approach – let every word build trust
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is the ambassador of “clear communication” in the global tech ecosystem. Under his leadership, Amazon has set a high standard for transparency and effectiveness in communication.
This is exemplified by his PR FAQ template, widely adopted by business leaders worldwide for launching new initiatives. An even more significant contribution from Jeff Bezos is his series of open letters, often released during critical times of crisis.
This includes his 10-page letter to Amazon employees in response to an NYT article on an alleged toxic culture at Amazon; his 2019 Medium blog post addressing an attempted extortion by the National Enquirer, and his pledge to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement by 2040, a full ten years ahead of schedule.
Each of his letters forms a template for how business leaders can address scandals or highlight achievements. A close look reveals the following approach:
1.The Crux Comes First: Whether responding to a crisis or unveiling new initiatives, his letters clearly state the central topic in the first 100 words, followed by extensive explanations of the core topic. This helps engage the reader from the get-go.
2 Personal Touch and Authenticity: Known for adding a personal element to his letters, Bezos rarely misses an opportunity to share a personal experience relating to the topic, making his messages more relatable, and creating a strong bid to persuade the reader to adopt his perspective.
3. Visionary and Forward-Looking: The Amazon founder’s communications extend beyond the present, often embodying a visionary outlook. He articulates his future vision, aligning current actions with long-term objectives, and framing challenges as steps towards broader achievements.
4. Call to Action and Positive Framing: Bezos’s messages typically end on a positive note, coupled with a call to action. He encourages participation or understanding, whether from employees, stakeholders, or the public, often inviting them to share in his optimistic vision or the positive aspects of Amazon's initiatives.
An act-now approach – successfully build a counter-narrative
We have business leaders who believe in writing long, well-crafted responses, and then there's Elon Musk.
Throughout his tenure as the founder of PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and even post the Twitter acquisition, Musk has consistently believed in the power of social media, especially Twitter (now X), as his primary communication platform.
A look at his most engaged Tweets over the years reveals a simple formula for how he has changed the narrative:
- Anticipate controversy and tweet about it before the media has a chance to write.
- Respond to any criticism of the controversy as quickly as possible.
- Be unafraid to engage in disputes, even creating threads if necessary.
- Leverage his brand of offering ‘strong macro opinions’.
- Let people debate his reasoning versus the narrative of the original controversy.
In a recent controversy regarding Disney pulling off ad spending from Twitter due to their anti-Semitic views, Elon replied by pointing out how Disney had gotten their data wrong, comparing it to platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
An emotional approach – double down on the evocative power of your vision
Apple has always been renowned for selling a story rather than just electronics, a template that is widely applied in today's tech startup landscape as well.
In 1994, Steve Jobs, Apple Co-Founder & CEO famously remarked ”The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come… and Disney has a monopoly on the storyteller business. You know what? I am tired of that bullshit, I am going to be the next storyteller.”
Analysing his 2007 presentation of the first-ever iPhone and other launch speeches, his formula can be broken down as follows:
- Start with a Premise and a Hook: Jobs began by capturing attention with a statement that something significant was about to be revealed, introducing his premise that occasionally a revolutionary product changes everything, setting the stage for the iPhone.
- Pose a Problem: He identified a problem with existing smartphones, emphasising their limitations and user unfriendliness.
- Create an Antagonist: In his narrative, the clunky existing smartphones and their manufacturers served as the 'antagonists' that hindered progress and user satisfaction.
- Explain the Solution: Jobs presented the iPhone as a multifunctional device (phone, music player, internet browser) that addressed the identified problems.
- Show, Don’t Tell: He utilised humour and extensive demonstrations to showcase the iPhone's features, rather than merely talking about them.
- Reinforce the Main Message: Jobs concluded by personalising the message, sharing his excitement, and reiterating Apple's history of creating revolutionary products
While Jobs, Bezos, and Musk are now universally recognised for their distinct styles of controlling the narrative, it's important to note that they developed these approaches over a longer period than just a few years. Each of their styles was also heavily influenced by their personalities and the industries in which they operated.
For instance, Amazon, being an operationally intensive business, relies on the trust of all its stakeholders. Hence, Bezos's serene approach to countering any controversy with detailed and thoughtful notes is well-suited to this context.
This suggests that most business leaders will likely employ a combination of all three approaches in their initial years and will ultimately develop their unique styles based on the industry, company vision, and personal traits.
articles you may like
The Executive Assistant: A Smart Investment
Founders, you've all been there: crushing 16-hour days only to feel mentally fried when the big calls come in. Imagine offloading the mental drain so you can crush your strategic goals. A brilliant EA clears the runway so you can tackle the stuff only YOU can do. We cover why hiring an EA is a smart investment, what qualities to look for in a top-tier EA, and how to find one who amps up your game.
High Spirits: Navigating India's Booming Alco-Bev Renaissance
India's alco-bev scene is undergoing a vibrant revolution: consumer preferences are evolving, and power dynamics are changing as Indian brands are steadily overtaking foreign brands. We share insights from successful craft beer, gin, and wine brands in India.
India's Drone Symphony: Beyond Gadgets, Beyond Limits
Drones are buzzing beyond pizza deliveries in India. Transforming industries like agriculture, healthcare, and construction, these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) hold immense potential for economic growth and societal impact. We explore the following -- Five key sectors revolutionized by drones: discover how UAVs are optimizing harvests, streamlining workflows, and enhancing safety across diverse industries; unlocking the $4.9 billion drone service market: explore lucrative opportunities in training, data analysis, and more - even without owning a drone; India's drone revolution: Rising high or lagging behind? Compare India's progress to global leaders and learn how to leverage the momentum; how can you contribute: actionable insights and opportunities for budding entrepreneurs to capitalize on.